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What is Kinship Care?

It was a Monday afternoon.  My daughter was home from school, sick with the last of a strep infection.  I was getting as much work done as I could while she watched cartoons on the couch. 

The phone rang, and I answered it.  From the voice on the other end, I thought it was regarding work.  Instead, in a few brief sentences, I was asked if we would be willing to care for a child who had just been apprehended by Children’s Aid.   The child’s mother was a friend, and her little one had spent a few nights with us in the past.  They thought it would be better for this child to be with someone familiar.


We had been approved as adoptive parents, but we had never considered foster care, or even foster to adopt.  It involved court-ordered visits with parents, constant contact with the CAS, and rules.  So many rules.  We didn’t feel like we could handle that.

But when that phone call came, I didn’t even ask if I could discuss it with my husband.  I just said yes.

I texted my husband to let him know that we’d have an extra child for a few nights.

Within a couple of hours, the doorbell rang.  A social worker stood there with a confused-looking child in one arm, and a box of banana bread cookies in the other.  No diaper bag, no bottles, no blankie, stuffie or extra clothes.  Just the cookies.

As I took the little one from her, she asked if we had a crib.  I said no, but we had a playpen that was in great shape.  She said that we weren’t allowed to use a playpen.  “How about a carseat?  Diapers?  Wipes?” she asked.

We had nothing.  We weren’t prepared for this at all. 

She said she’d go shopping and be back in a couple of hours.  While she was gone, the three of us – my daughter, the little one, and I – rearranged my daughter’s room in preparation for the crib.

I was starting to think that this little one might be with us for more than a few nights.

When my husband came home that night, he found a brand new crib, still in the box, in our front hall.  Our sons came home from school to discover a new housemate.

Those few nights turned into a full year.  And we learned more in that year than we ever could have in all of our hours of PRIDE training.

You’ve heard of adoption, and you know about foster care.  But how much do you know about kinship care?

Kinship care isn’t usually one of those things that you aspire to.  People may feel led to build their family through adoption, or they may want to give back by becoming foster parents.  They go through lengthy application processes, criminal record checks, financial and medical checks, training and more, just to become a foster or adoptive parent.  But generally speaking, kinship care is one of those things that comes to you, rather than the other way around.

When a child is apprehended by the Children’s Aid, the workers inquire about family members or friends that may be able to care for the children, in addition to considering suitable foster homes.

Years ago, family members would naturally step up to care for children if the need arose.  Now, this process is overseen by Children’s Aid.

In most cases, kinship care enables the child to stay connected with his or her community, friends, school, church and culture.  It reduces the amount of change for them, and they don’t need to move into a completely new house and family.  It’s much less stressful for the child.

Whether it’s a family friend (like us) or actual family (like grandparents or aunts and uncles), kinship carers often have personal contact with the child’s family.

That is the hardest part.  The rules suddenly change.  Your relationship with that family member or friend changes immediately.

And it’s hard.

For the sake of a child, it’s all worth it.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.

In practice, kinship care works a lot like foster care.  There are specific appointments, access visits, and meetings that the child must be taken to.  Your home starts to feel like it has a revolving door, and your schedule is not your own.

Juggling your own children’s activities with the court-ordered visits (not even a broken-down vehicle and -40 weather can trump those), making sure that the paperwork is completed for every appointment, and never really being free to make your own plans … it’s familiar territory to foster parents, but it comes a surprise when you suddenly become a kinship care family.

Our few nights turned into a few months, which then turned into a year, and we loved spending that time our extra little one.

We saw so many milestones reached, so many goals surpassed, so much growth, and that was an amazing thing.  We are so glad and blessed to have been a part of that.

It stretched us in many ways, we learned so much and we gained a much clearer idea of how hard the Children’s Aid Society works to reunite children with their families.

Have you heard of kinship care before?  What has your experience been with it?

Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!


  1. Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    I have never heard of ‘kinship care ‘ before. I guess much like you mention I am just used to extended family, god parents or friends just automatically stepping up to the plate, it is so sad that an agency has to arrange this nowadays! It sounds like your family had a ton of love to share , but what I’m not sure I saw mentioned was the outcome, do you still have custody of this child? Did you opt to eventually adopt?
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    • Megan Elford

      There’s not alot I’m actually allowed to say about it, but I can say that we didn’t adopt this little one. We’re still waiting for a permanent addition to our family :-).

  2. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I could never do it. I could never foster a child, either. I would get too attached and end up devastated when the time came for them to leave.

  3. Christy Maurer

    I haven’t really heard of kinship care. My cousin has fostered to adopt twice now. It is challenging but rewarding too! I feel for these little ones!
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  4. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    I think this is a great idea for those people who can do it. There are kids out there who really need something like this. I love it!
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  5. Breanna

    What an amazing story! I have not heard of Kinship care, but I have heard of Foster to Adopt. I think that anyone that is wiling to open their homes to a child or children in need is truly an angel on Earth!

  6. rika

    Amazing story ! I never heard of Kinship care, sounds like they’re offering great program/services. I’ll definitely pass along this info to others
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  7. Liz Leiro

    You’re doing such an amazing thing for a child. It must be so hard to have to open your home to strangers/visitations and to tackle paperwork, too. My mom’s friend recently had to take in her nephews when things got bad between their parents and I know it was really hectic and life-altering for them. I’m so happy that you were kind enough to help and are able to juggle it all 🙂
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  8. Alli

    I’ve never heard of Kinship Care before. People ready and willing to open their homes to these displaced children are saints in my book! What a great program and what a great story!
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  9. Cara (@StylishGeek)

    Thank you for the information you provided on kinship care. I didn’t really know much about it but it’s good to know there is such a program and how the logistics work.
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  10. Jeannette

    I have a friend who did Kinship care with two different children and it made such a huge difference in their lives. I know it was hard for her when the children left but it also was such a great way for her to provide stability for a while for a child who didn’t have much. I think it’s such a great thing!
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  11. Liz Mays

    I don’t have any experience with kinship care but it does sound like a challenge with all of the appointments. the child must have benefited in so many ways from your hard work and love.
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  12. Katie

    I have never hear of Kinship Care but you and your family are truly amazing for caring so much for others. Thank you for sharing your story, you have forever touched that child’s life.
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  13. Joanne T Ferguson

    I have never heard of kinship before, but sounds like a wonderful challenge with great rewards! I admire you for trying to make a difference in a child’s life!

  14. Annemarie LeBlanc

    First time I’ve heard of kinship care. It must be challenging, however, I would be more than willing to welcome a little one in our home. It feels good to do my share in giving back and paying forward.
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  15. Ourfamilyworld

    I have never heard of kinship care until now. This is even harder than adoption and I admire you for being able to care for the little one.

  16. lisa

    I have never heard of Kinship Care. It sounds like an amazing thing for the child as hard as it is on everyone. What a wonderful year you and your family gave to this child.
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  17. Ann Bacciaglia

    I have often thought of being a foster parent. I have never gone threw with it because i think i would get to attached to the child and would be devastated if they left. It takes a special person to be a foster parent.

  18. CourtneyLynne

    I have never heard of kinship care! Sounds great for those that could do it. I get way too attached to people so I would never be able to do it :-/

  19. Rebecca Swenor

    This Kinship care sounds amazing and it would be so much easier on the children. I had not done this but I took custody of two of my sister kids because they couldn’t do it at that time in their lives . My niece lived with my for 4 yrs throughout high school and graduated. It is a beautiful thing to do for the children.

  20. Jesica H

    I have pondered many times if I could handle being a foster. I would love to help out any child, but the stress it puts on oneself and the entire family. It is such a hard decision to make. Thank you so much for this article!
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  21. Tiany - Social Savvy Mom

    Wow, I have never heard of kinship before. I can only imagine what a year that must have been for you all, I now your family was a gift a and a blessing to the child and I can only imagine that the child made a huge impact on your family as well. Thanks for sharing this touching aspect of your lives with us!

  22. Tatanisha Pitts-Worthey

    Oh wow. I’m not sure if I could handle that or if I would have said yes right away. What a year it must have been for your, with all the adjustments and appointments but it sounds like you’ve done an amazing job in handling it all. The child is blessed to be in your home.
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  23. aly mashrah

    I’ve never heard of kinship care before, but I think it’s so great of people who can do it! In my culture like you mentioned the extended family usually steps in, but this is a great option.

  24. Tiffany

    I have never heard of Kinship care, but it seems like something that I would love! I have 2 little ones and would love a house full of children. Knowing that I’m helping a child, and filling my house with the joy of more children would be amazing!
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  25. Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies

    I had never heard of kinship care before this. I think this sounds like a great thing for people to do for kids.

  26. Chubskulit Rose

    Hubby and I have talked about foing foster parenting but when we talked to our ki-ds about, they were not open for it so we scraped the idea.
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  27. Krystal

    I had not heard about this. I wonder if we have it in our country. I would be so willing to help if I could.
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  28. Crystal

    My husband and I received a call from our local children services to be kinship providers. It was for three children (12, 7 & 6) of a cousin of mine. For a “few weeks” is what was requested. There were no available foster homes and no appropriate family members. We had never met the children but immediately said yes. They have been with us for 1.5 years and we now have full legal custody, meaning we are their home and family! We went from 3 to 6 kids in a matter of a phone call. It has been most difficult trying to work with relatives who still see no issue with how they were living and what they were exposing the kids to. The kids are so amazing and have grown so much in the past year and a half. One day we hope to adopt and give them security that this is their forever home!

    • Megan Elford

      That’s an amazing story! Three children is a huge commitment, and in addition to the 3 you already had? Wow!!
      You are a wonderful family for opening your home like that. Not everyone is a place to do that, but I’m so glad you were. And I’m sure your new children are too!

  29. Angie

    My husband & I have no children. We’ve been TTC for 4 years now with no success. A couple of months ago my husband’s cousin came to town with a new girlfriend & 2 month old baby. They needed a place to stay for a few days until the found a place, which we were happy to help with. We offered to help with the baby until they got on their feet, if needed. They ended up leaving to stay with family & we kept in touch here & there. Last week I got a phone call from the mother asking if we were still willing to keep the baby for a while. We agreed. I found out later that day that the baby was taken away from the parents by CPS (the agency in Texas) & needed to be placed. Court is set for Tuesday & I am a nervous wreck. I hope we can give him a home as long as he needs it, I just don’t know the protocol for selection. I’m nervous that we won’t be selected because we do not have children. I’m not sure that would happen, but paranoia is setting in. We already have the baby’s room ready. Kinship care wasn’t something we ever imagined taking on, but we couldn’t say no.

    • Megan Elford

      The way it works here is that the kinship home is designated as a place of safety after a quick check. Then the parents go through PRIDE while the child is in their care. You already know this baby and the family – you’re the perfect placement! You’ll likely need to do a Home Study, fire inspection, medical – the works. And there may be some changes you need to make, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider you. Unless something huge pops up, you’ll be able to care for the baby through the process. In our case, they actually “bent” one of the rules to allow our little one to stay with us, so there is wiggle room :-). Good luck! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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