Articles2012

A License to Abuse? The Need for National Policy Reform of Kinship Care Licensing Procedures

 

ABSTRACT

The last 20 to 30 years have seen a significant rise in the use of kinship care as a formal out-of-home placement option for abused or neglected children in the government’s custody. This shift has generated debate concerning the benefits and risks of kinship care, and thus far, research findings are largely inconclusive. Notably, there has not been an accompanying formal and holistic review and reformation of relevant child welfare policies. One particularly critical legislative area that has been over-looked by the existing literature is the process by which states license kinship foster homes. Due to the lack of federal leadership in setting universal safety standards for kinship care licensing procedures, states’ policies may fail to protect children adequately. An overview of current federal policy is presented, and the state of Indiana is used as a case study to provide a basis for understanding the significant gaps in states’ policies that necessitate national policy reform. Federal mandates are necessary to ensure that all states provide a consistent and proper level of safety for vulnerable children. Finally, recommendations for appropriate new policies are made.

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