The effect of kinship care on mental health of foster care alumni

Margaret DeLancey Ober (2008)

Kinship foster care is emerging into the dominant placement type for out-of-home care, exceeding traditional non-related foster care and group care in many larger urban areas. The push towards kinship foster care, fueled in part by legislative and fiscal reasons, has brought up the questions as to whether kinship foster care can better provide for the emotional needs of foster children and thus results in adults with fewer mental health issues. This study examined the effects of kinship foster care on adult mental health outcomes of former foster children. Data used were originally collected as part of the Casey National Alumni Study. Logistic regression was used to compare several patterns of placements in kinship care with children placed only in non-kinship placements. The study addressed whether placements patterns that include placements in long-term kinship care result in better adult mental health outcomes when compared to children with no kinship placements. Results indicate that long-term kinship care alone does not result in more positive adult mental health as measured by ten specific mental health outcomes when demographics, risk factors, and foster care experiences are controlled. This study shows how child welfare legislation and services should focus on the best fit for the child regardless of placement type taking into account factors such as placement stability, consistency in educational, mental health, and extra curricular activities, goodness of fit of the caregiver and child, including prevention of maltreatment and runaways, and providing the child with adequate preparation for leaving care.