“This chair is just right,” the little girl sighed. But just as she settled down into the chair to rest, it broke into pieces!
I love how the simplest of stories can drive home an important point. Child welfare is about finding the care that is “just right” for the safety, well-being and permanency of children. Although it has made some strides, the reliance on traditional foster care is typically forced and many times “breaks into pieces”. We can never question or doubt the fact that placing a child with an unknown adult will add to their trauma.
Kinship care is not simple, but its foundations are stronger. The fit of kinship care is a more natural way for a traumatized child to begin to recover from abuse and/or neglect.
Yes, kinship care challenges the very notions of responsibility on part of the family and government. Yes, it completely defies the usual route of permanency. But, when a child is attempting to “settle down,” kinship care is the best way home.
My experiences of growing up in the system have enabled me to craft better experiences for kinship care families. We must strive on a daily basis to make it easier for children to “settle down” into kinship care families. It begins with making it easier for kinship caregivers to get foster-home licenses. When we get a driver’s license we gain sense of freedom that is empowering – the same is true with a foster-home license.
That license demonstrate a commitment to broadening the scope of services to truly allow kinship families, not just access to community-supports, but a sense of welcome into services that are proactive in providing things like child health care and supports for the relatives that are entrusted to their care.
In my book, I stated:
We should guard against making kinship care look like a traditional foster care model. It is not. The uniqueness and strengths of kinship care should be celebrated by and taught across the child welfare system at large.
We all have a need for “settling down”. We’ve all sat in many chairs and asked ourselves, “Is this one just right for me?” Children who are abused or neglected should not be constantly testing out a place to settle down when there are kin who are ready and able to make it “just right”!