Adoption Triad: Kinship Care and Adoption

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May 2023   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Kinship Care and Adoption

Permanent placement with relatives, or kin, is often the first option considered when children cannot safely remain in their parents’ home or be reunited with them. The emphasis on kin-first cultures has strengthened because of the Family First Prevention Services Act. The term "kin" encompasses both relatives (those related by blood or marriage) and fictive kin (those who are unrelated but are close to the family and are considered like family). There are many benefits to placing children with relatives or other kin caregivers. These may include minimized trauma, increased stability and safety, maintained family and community connections, and ties to cultural traditions. Children in kinship care are often better able to adjust to their new home environment and less likely to experience school disruptions or other disturbances to their routines. For these reasons, kinship care is the preferred resource for children who cannot remain with their birth parents for any reason.

Kinship adoption, also called relative adoption or family adoption, refers to the formal, legal adoption of a child by grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, siblings, extended family members, or other kin. Kinship adoption is different from kin caregiving in that a final, legally recognized adoption takes place. The adopted child becomes a legal member of the adoptive family and, like any other adoptive parents, adopting relatives gain full parental rights to the child they adopt. This means the adopting family members will be able to make medical decisions and obtain medical records for the child, ensure inheritance rights and insurance benefits for the child, enroll the child in school, and more. Adoption is permanent, and in a kinship adoption there are permanent changes that impact all family members.

When kinship families adopt, they may have different needs or face different challenges than families who adopt children unrelated to them. There are benefits to having an established relationship when adopting a child, but addressing the trauma that led to their adoption may be complex. Additionally, it may be difficult navigating challenging relationships with birth parents or other family members. Kinship families may also need more support, as they may not have planned for the adoption. It is imperative that kinship families have access to the supports and services they need when a child is placed in their care. Child welfare agencies often provide services, or they may refer families to other organizations for help. Children may benefit from counseling to address their trauma or any additional concerns. Kinship families may also benefit from financial assistance, respite care, and support groups. In addition, kinship navigator programs are often available to help kin identify and access the services and other help they need to raise children.

Use the following resources to explore more in-depth information on kinship care and adoption:


Adopting A Family Member From Foster Care



By Considering Adoption


The Hidden Hurdles and Benefits of Kinship Care and Adoption



By Tangel (2022)
Adoption Advocate, 164



Kinship Care and the Child Welfare System



   By Child Welfare
Information Gateway (2022)


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