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October 30, 2023

ABA work and research cited in HHS rule change on kinship care

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2023 — The research and work of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (CCL) was cited in a new rule published by the Department of Health & Human Services’ U.S. Administration for Children and Families granting foster care agencies flexibility to respect the unique circumstances of kin caregivers.

The optional rule, published in late September, allows states and tribes to streamline their licensing or approval for foster home processes for kin and thereby increase the number of children safely cared for by people who know and love them. The rule also paves the way for providing children with the same level of financial assistance when living with relatives and kin caregivers as they would receive when placed in nonrelated foster homes.

The rule was based on years of research, including on kin-first culture and foster care licensing standards conducted by CCL, showing that children placed with kin have better behavioral and mental health outcomes, increased stability, a better sense of belonging, higher rates of permanency and greater success in school.

The final rule explicitly allows child welfare agencies to adopt kin-specific licensing or approval standards for kinship foster family homes to address a longstanding inequity faced by relatives and kin caregivers and the children they care for in foster care.

For example, many states require the same time-consuming and intensive foster parent training classes for relatives and kin as they do for nonrelatives. However, relative and kin caregivers may require a different level or type of foster parent training to take care of their kin, particularly when they already know the child for whom they are going to provide care.  

The rule also recommends a broad interpretation of kin that also includes “individuals who have an emotionally significant relationship with the child or the child’s parents or other family members.”

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