Spotlight on Kinship Navigator Programs

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Spotlight On...

Kinship Navigator Programs 


Kinship Care Month gives us an opportunity to reflect on the important role that kin (i.e., relatives, members of a Tribe, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child) play in the lives of children and youth and how the child welfare system can better support them. While there is broad understanding that children and youth fare better with their families and loved ones, there are fewer institutionalized supports for kinship caregivers.


  • The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being has found that children placed in kinship care experience fewer behavioral problems[1] [2]and higher placement stability rates[3] compared to children living with nonrelatives in foster care.
  • Native American/Alaskan Native children and youth in kinship care are more likely to maintain cultural connectedness which, in turn, can buffer depressive symptoms.[4] [5]

  • When compared to nonrelative foster parents, kinship caregivers are more than twice as likely to live at or below the federal poverty level and are significantly less likely to receive financial support from the child welfare system.[6]

  • Children placed in voluntary kinship care with cognitive and academic needs are significantly less likely to receive needed early intervention or special education services than children with similar needs in nonrelative foster care.[7]


Kinship Care

Increasing support for kinship caregivers can help agencies in their efforts to preserve families and improve child and family outcomes. Kinship navigator programs help caregivers identify and access resources and support, such as legal help, financial support, health care, child care and respite services. They may also provide group workshops, support groups, parenting classes, and many other learning and enrichment opportunities for kinship families as they navigate their new lives.

Agencies may want to consider innovative approaches that respond to targeted needs that families have identified. For example, what resources are available to provide additional financial support to kinship families? What assistance do families need to connect to services and resources for which they are eligible? How can the agency engage with families to ensure they have what they need to support their own well-being and the well-being of the children in their care? Most important, how has the agency partnered with and learned from kinship families? The real experts here, as always, are the people with the lived experience.

Child Welfare Information Gateway’s 2016 fact sheet Kinship Caregivers and the Child Welfare System provides a comprehensive overview of the different types of kinship care, resources, and supports available, and the role of systems, including child welfare and the courts.

The Capacity Building Center for States has several additional resources to help agencies build capacity for kinship supports, including kinship navigator programs:

Publications, Videos and  Learning Resources

Supporting Families

Related Resources

Related Organizations

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