Kinship care refers to caregiving of children by relatives, godparents, or others who have strong bonds with the children when biological parents are unable or unwilling to provide care. Over 2.7 million children are currently in kinship care. Twenty percent of African American children will reside in kinship care during their lives; and they are among the nation?s most vulnerable populations. Often the kinship arrangement is in response to conditions of risk, including child maltreatment, socioeconomic hardship, parental substance abuse, incarceration, and mental illness. Kinship care families also face unique challenges as they parent for an uncertain period of time, often with scarce financial resources, while balancing their relationships and potential conflicts with the child?s biological parents. The conditions faced prior to and while living in kinship care place children at risk of social and behavioral problems and academic difficulties. Kinship care has the potential to ameliorate these risks, but despite the trend toward kinship care as a preferred option for out-of-home placement, there is insufficient knowledge about the influence of these families? attributes on children?s social and academic competence, and their behavioral problems. Studies suggest that many children in kinship care have issues in all three areas. Over the long term, many children who experience kinship care incur a host of negative outcomes related to social skill deficits, academic underachievement, and behavioral issues including mental health problems, substance use, and contact with the criminal justice system. These negative outcomes point to the urgent need for research focused on kinship families? impact on children to identify targets for intervention and prevention services. The goal of this two-phase mixed methods study is to better understand the impact of kinship care families on children?s social, academic, and behavior outcomes (ages 5- 12).
The first aim will use quantitative methods to identify specific family-level factors that mitigate risk to children?s social and academic competence and behavioral problems (Quantitative Phase I; N=200).
The second aim will use qualitative methods to explore and interpret the results obtained in phase I (Qualitative Phase 2; N=30). Our long-term goal is to apply this knowledge to develop culturally relevant interventions targeted at kinship care families and children that will address risks to social and academic competence and behavioral issues. The proposed research will inform better prevention and intervention services to interrupt the negative trajectories of these areas that are typically experienced by children in kinship care. As an R15- supported project, students are integrated into every step of the project, from data collection, analyses, to dissemination at conferences, which will provide them with an unparalleled opportunity to solidify their career trajectories.
African American children are at risk for social skills deficits, academic underachievement, and behavior problems. This is a public health concern because these problems have been linked to mental health, substance use, and delinquency problems. Understanding the strengths and resources of kinship care families that contribute to children?s social, academic, and behavioral outcomes will lead to development of prevention and intervention services that can have a positive effect on children?s present and future lives.