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Kinship Diversion Qualitative Research Virginia Findings. Tiffany Allen Karin Malm. Presented to Virginia Department of Social Services September 22, 2011. With Funding from :.  Twitter/ childtrends  :. Study Impetus.

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kinship diversion qualitative research virginia findings

Kinship Diversion Qualitative ResearchVirginia Findings

Tiffany Allen

Karin Malm

Presented to Virginia Department of Social Services

September 22, 2011

With Funding from: Twitter/childtrends

study impetus
Study Impetus
  • VDSS interested in kin diversion practices
  • VDSS quantitative study findings showed variation across state
  • Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation
purpose of the research
Purpose of the Research
  • Learn current practices and philosophies around using kin as prevention from custody
  • Inform development of kin diversion practice model
study definition
Study Definition
  • Kin diversion is defined as the child welfare agency facilitating the placement of children with relatives when the child cannot remain safely at home with their parents. Without the presence of an appropriate relative to care for the child, the child would be brought into the agency’s custody.
assumptions to guide the research
Assumptions to Guide the Research
  • Assessing safety and stability
  • Services and supports for children, birth parents, and kin
  • Family awareness of options
  • Birth parent rights
  • Data tracking
  • Cultural sensitivity
site selection
Site Selection
  • First priority was to develop a diverse pool of sites with regard to:
    • Percentage of children in out-of-home placement with relatives
    • Reasons for placement
    • Age of children coming into care
    • Geographic distribution and county/city designation

Diverse Localities:

Arlington, Charlottesville, Henrico, Portsmouth, Washington, Wise

Interviews and focus groups with:

  • Child welfare administrators (8)
  • Kinship caregivers (21)
  • Investigative/CPS caseworkers (53)
  • Prevention and family preservation workers (6)
  • Foster care caseworkers (37)
  • Supervisors (23)
  • Judges or judicial personnel, attorneys, CASAs (14)

Total participants: 162

kinship diversion prevalence
Kinship Diversion Prevalence
  • In all localities, kin diversion practice is always considered first (if appropriate relative available) and does not differ due to the severity of abuse/neglect, age of the child, or any other factors.
  • Localities range from kin diversion/no licensure of relatives to kin diversion/some licensure of relatives (up to ~30% relative foster parents).
  • Kin diversion does not appear to be a tactic to avoid the provision of in-home services for the birth parent before removal. Primary goal is most always reunification.
  • Diversion terms used by localities:
    • parental placement, relative placement, prevention, kinship, voluntary placement
other types of kin diversions
Other Types of Kin Diversions

Agencies may work with families who come to DSS attention for reasons other than abuse/neglect:

  • Parent entrustments
  • Relinquishment of custody (from relatives)
  • Adoption disruptions
  • Referrals from juvenile court (including truancy cases)
  • CHINS cases
first decision is to divert
First Decision is to Divert

“In instances where they cannot remain with the biological parent or the current guardian, we tend to seek out other family members, and we try to work with them to maintain connection with their

communities and family member so they [kids] won’t have to come into care.”– Public Agency Staff

in home services
In-Home Services

“Our first goal before diversion is to provide services to the family to keep the child in the home. We

would try to divert from foster care but before we look at placing with other relatives, we look at providing services to parent to resolve issue.” – Public Agency Staff

underlying values behind kin diversion
Underlying Values Behind Kin Diversion
  • Prevention services should be first option presented to families
  • Agencies should support families staying together
  • Foster care seen as last resort and not good for families
    • In some localities, foster care not offered as option to some kin because workers cannot conceptualize kin as foster parents.
    • Foster care appropriate only after all other preventive options sought
    • Child feels the difference between foster care involvement and no foster care involvement
    • Public agency is intrusive
  • Families should have some type of support from the agency (if needed) if they step up to care for their relatives
    • Workers support the idea of approving kin as foster parents but often don’t think it’s a possibility
changing agency practices influence diversion
Changing Agency Practices Influence Diversion
  • Family-based practice. Increased acceptance of working with relatives and increased use of relative foster parents. Agencies are searching for family earlier.
  • Prevention services. Agencies focusing more on prevention services; creating new units/staff positions.
directives from leadership influence diversion
Directives from Leadership Influence Diversion
  • Permanency goals. Change in permanency goals presents dilemma for timelines for relative foster parents
  • Decrease numbers in care. Push to decrease the number of children in foster care has influenced the frequency of kin diversion
  • Family partnership meetings. Implementation of meetings facilitates kin diversion decision-making
  • Subsidized guardianship. News of guardianship payment may impact kin diversion practice
  • Structured decision-making (SDM). Determination of risk in relative’s home may impact whether services are or are not continued in their homes
public agency is intrusive
Public Agency is Intrusive

“I think that the role of government is to be involved with the lives of families to the smallest extent possible. We are a statutory and intrusive agency.” – Public Agency Staff

foster care is last resort
Foster Care is Last Resort

“We don’t want the kids to come into foster care. We would do anything to keep them out of care. [Even] If we find a relative who wouldn’t make a great foster parent – we just want to keep [child] out of care and with family.” – Public Agency Staff

agency responsibility
Agency Responsibility

“I think it’s the agency responsibility to provide resources. I know that it’s hard right now as it relates to money, however, we should always give whatever we can give-support, resources, information, telephone numbers or whatever. I do think it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can.”– Public Agency Staff

why divert why not divert
Why divert? Why not divert?
  • Keep foster care numbers down
  • Foster care not desired outcome
  • Prevent unnecessary court involvement
  • Family autonomy/don’t want to be involved with cps
  • Some families can’t meet licensing requirements
  • Some families do not need agency support
  • Avoid mandatory timelines when parent no longer in picture
  • No relative immediately available (parent cooperation often dictates this)
  • No “appropriate” relative
  • Out-of-state relatives
  • If relative would be out of jurisdiction and no preventive services available
  • Previous prevention /in-home services have been exhausted
reason to divert challenge with court involvement
Reason to Divert - Challenge with Court Involvement

“I think any kind of court involvement causes tremendous stress in families’ lives. Once the court’s involved you lose control of your life. Diverted cases can be resolved without the stress of the overhang of court decisions……. Intrusive both on a regulatory basis as well as just being at the mercy of the judge’s decision making.” – Court Personnel

reason to not divert no appropriate relatives
Reason to Not Divert – No Appropriate Relatives

“Foster care…should be for only extreme, extreme cases. Where child cannot function in that

home and needs a more structured environment. Or family has absolutely no options, nothing to offer.” – Public Agency Staff

  • Parent must agree to the placement for diversion to occur
    • Most DSS workers contend that decision is ultimately with the birth parent to divert. If the birth parent does not agree with the plan to divert, the child is taken into custody.
  • Level of DSS input in decisionmaking varies
    • In some localities, the family makes decision, in others, the decision to divert is done collaboratively with DSS and the family.
  • In some situations, even if parent does not agree to placement, agency may seek protective order from court and order services outside of custody, and/or judge may order placement with relative
units involved in kin diversion decisions
Units Involved in Kin Diversion Decisions
  • Intake/Investigations
  • Ongoing
  • Foster Care Prevention
    • Localities have different criteria for foster care prevention. In some localities, all foster care prevention services have to be ordered through the courts.
  • Foster Care
    • Some cases in which children in agency custody are placed with kin who are not licensed (this practice is not condoned in Virginia code or policy). The court may then transfer custody to the relative. Worker confusion about what services are available to children and relatives while child in this type of placement.
family partnership meetings
Family Partnership Meetings

“We can’t be put in the position. It’s a parental decision to place the children in the relative’s home. That’s what the family partnership meetings are for. We’re there to support but not push the decisions.” – Public Agency Staff

family partnership meetings1
Family Partnership Meetings
  • In use in every locality, not necessarily every case
  • Implemented over the past 18 months
  • Has helped to formalize diversion practice
  • Occurs when child is being removed from home, or before any change in placement is made
benefits of family partnership meetings
Benefits of Family Partnership Meetings
  • Allows options to be laid out consistently for family
  • Creates better opportunities to identify family before removal
  • Encourages partnership among the family/empowers the family
  • Allows agency to better engage family and facilitate better ongoing communication if another meeting is needed
benefits of family partnership meetings1
Benefits of Family Partnership Meetings

“I think the process has helped us engage the family better. Before….the family [parent] was really hostile towards the CPS worker and say they don’t have any relatives. If that’s how your approach is you don’t get as much information. I feel like the approach has helped engage the family a lot better.” - Public Agency Staff

information typically presented to triad
Information Typically Presented to Triad
  • Child’s needs. Discussion of child’s needs and transition into home
  • Maintaining boundaries. Information about maintaining boundaries with birth parent
  • Financial resources available to support placement
    • In some instances, this may include discussion about foster care payment vs. TANF payment/general relief payment
  • Services. Other services and benefits available to support placement
  • Visitation. Between birth parent and child and also siblings
  • Planning. Discussion of possible length of placement
  • Legal custody. Discussion about options available through courts as well as possibility of foster care
    • Foster care not consistently mentioned as option
    • In some instances, families have to request to be foster parents, and this request may not be granted
parent child visitation
Parent-Child Visitation

“The relative has to be aware – sometimes they don’t want the natural parent to see the child – but we stress to them that they will be visiting and we will arrange it with them….We try to make them aware of that right up front. Just because they’re placed there doesn’t mean the mom or dad isn’t going to have any contact.”– Public Agency Staff

option to become a foster parent
Option to Become a Foster Parent

“I don’t ever tell a relative that they can become a foster parent. That comes up later as a last resort when we’re at a loss of how to help the situation.” – Public Agency Staff

  • No formal guidelines for assessment
  • Inconsistent assessments and worker confusion over need for assessment
  • Ranges from basic criminal and CPS background checks so checks similar to foster parent standards, though not as intense
  • Timing of/need for background checks varies:
    • Some workers conduct quick check via local police then follow up with federal check
    • Some report placing child with relative before doing CPS check
    • Some workers report no need for background checks because parent making the placement (depends on reason the child needs to be removed)
type of assessments
Type of Assessments
  • Child Needs. Assess relative’s ability to meet the needs of the child.
  • Long term Planning. Assess relative’s ability to care for child on a long-term basis.
  • Financial. Variety of financial assessments, some indication not level of foster parent.
  • Drugs. Some workers report conducting drug screens on relatives.
  • Home. Conduct a home visit, make sure child has space.
  • Boundaries. Assess boundaries between relative and birth parents.
  • Protective. Assess relative’s ability to protect child.
safety planning
Safety Planning
  • Used to list service recommendations for parent
  • Often details plans for visitation
  • Does not require abuse/neglect finding
  • Signed by parent and other involved parties
  • Not enforceable by the court. If violated, agency may seek a protective order from the court to enforce the plan.
  • Confusion about legal undergirding of safety plan. Parent may think it is legally enforceable, but it is not.
open cases and agency supervision
Open Cases and Agency Supervision
  • Investigation is always completed, workers may have up to 60 days to provide services.
  • Cases may be opened after investigation completed
    • Not formalized. There may be a number of reasons that cases are continued past the investigation.
    • Ongoing cases may range from 30 days up to 2 years.
    • Workers sometimes uneasy about having to step out of cases due to limited staff resources.
  • Diversions may be fluid
    • In-home services are provided to birth parent and relative and child moves back and forth. Not all diversions end in permanent custody.
  • Follow-up after case closure happens only if relative approaches the agency or abuse/neglect report called on relative.
    • A services or prevention case can be opened.
reasons to open case reasons not to open case
Reasons to open case Reasons NOT to open case
  • To provide reunification services for birth parent.
  • To provide support to the kinship caregiver with needed services to care for child. Structured Decision-making (SDM) may be used to determine need for opening case, or to determine whether a case should be closed.
  • The court may order that a relative and/or parent receive monitoring and services.
  • Child moves with relatives who live out of the locality
  • If parent is not involved in the child’s life and reunification not sought
  • Low risk in caregiver’s home
  • Family declines use of agency services
services typically provided with ongoing case
Services Typically Provided with Ongoing Case
  • Range of services. Services provided may be similar to other ongoing (in-home) services.
    • Localities vary greatly on availability of services. In localities with less resources, in-home, prevention services in general were lacking, not just for diversion.
    • Services generally based on the needs of the child, often identified in the assessment when child first moved to home.
  • Payment for services. Medicaid or kin caregiver’s insurance pays for services.Difficult to pay for services if child no longer at risk of coming into foster care by living in safe home with relative. Often a requirement for eligibility for prevention funding streams.
    • CSA Funding. Use of funds not uniform across counties. May be used to fund temporary services to prevent child’s entry into foster care.
  • Financial assistance. TANF child-only for relatives, general relief payment for fictive kin. Some one-time emergency assistance available.
reasons for closing an ongoing case
Reasons for Closing an Ongoing Case
  • Family is self-sustaining and child has settled in home
  • Relative obtains custody
  • Low risk in the relative’s home
  • Once possibility of reunification does not look likely
  • Child returns home to birth parent
  • Family not willing to participate
  • Case moves to another locality
closing a case
Closing a Case

“It depends on how comfortable we are with the placement, sometimes we may keep open to monitor to make sure they maintain the same level of care and that they’re able to support that child financially. It’s a case by case basis, we don’t always close because of court granting guardianship.” – Public Agency Staff

legal custody
Legal Custody
  • Custody options. A range of custody options available, from temporary to permanent custody. Joint legal custody also available. Anyone can petition for custody at any time (even when child is in agency custody). Judge may order a range of assessments of the relative.
  • Assistance provided. Workers may provide information about the process, or may accompany relative to court, assist in filling out paperwork and/or provide testimony or support during custody hearing.
  • Reasons for legal custody. Relatives seek custody to help with school enrollment, access to medical insurance for child, to have feeling of permanency.
  • Regaining custody. Birth parents may not always be clear on process to regain custody. However, they can petition for custody at any time if they provide burden of proof.
current kin diversion practice challenges
Current Kin Diversion Practice Challenges
  • No standard policy on kin diversion practice
  • Inadequate documentation of kin diversion to support appropriate accountability measures
  • Some localities lack services for kinship triad
  • Lack of system funding for kin diversion, prevention services
  • Diversion may hinder reunification efforts due to no mandated timelines
current kin diversion practice challenges cont d
Current Kin Diversion Practice Challenges (cont’d)
  • Nonrelatives not eligible for benefits, e.g., Medicaid, food stamps, day care, financial benefits
  • Family dysfunction and other family issues (i.e. families may need mediation services)
  • Information on custody and service options not consistently available to birth parents and kin
  • Caregivers lack knowledge of, access to adequate services and supports
  • Caregivers lack education and training on how to handle children’s issues
kinship caregiver specific themes
Kinship Caregiver-Specific Themes
  • Need for services. Caregivers generally needed access to benefits and services, and talked less about needing support of the agency in the form of workers or monitoring. Basic needs such as food assistance and monetary assistance was cited as most helpful.
  • Generational issues. Health and age of kin caregivers
  • Transition. Caregivers need support with expenses to prepare home for children
  • Education. Caregivers need training on how to handle children’s behavior and deal with trauma children experienced
  • Emotional well-being. Caregivers lifestyles are taxed and they are in need of emotional support
caregiver experiences
Caregiver Experiences

“I wouldn’t be a foster parent again, I’d ask for no money and I’d take them into my home and care for them. And I’d never give them back.“ - Grandmother

caregiver experiences1
Caregiver Experiences

“I don’t think they understand that we’ve raised our kids and we’re starting from scratch. These are not the children we raised – they all came to us with problems we never had to deal with and we have to learn how to deal with [them].” - Grandmother

caregiver experiences2
Caregiver Experiences

“They say we stepped up to plate, did a wonderful thing. . . but for them [agency] not to accommodate us in any basic way as far as some basic need which is food. I can’t believe that. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in Louisiana either when Katrina hit because that’s what I’m standing here feeling like most of the time – just left behind.”- Grandmother

caregiver experiences3
Caregiver Experiences

“It’s a full time job with the three extra kids. . . having an extra hand, they [private provider] do all the visits. That is so helpful. Don’t get me wrong, the money is great. . . but if I didn’t have somebody to help with the appointments, it doesn’t matter how much money in the world, because when this is over, I still need a job.”-Relative foster parent

resources for kin diversion
Resources for Kin Diversion

“I think that a lot of us have always advocated for investing more in prevention, but the idea of putting more into diversion…that’s the difference. It’s our duty (ethical and legal duty) to try to keep families together. We should try all of the preservation and prevention efforts that we can. But when those fail, that’s where the problem is. There’s no focused amount of resources going into that piece.” - Public Agency Staff

child welfare strategy group recommendations
Child Welfare Strategy Group Recommendations

(1) Develop and adopt clear, written state-level policy guidelines and associated training for kin diversion practice.

  • Develop the guidelines in collaboration with local stakeholders
  • Include minimum standards for assessment, service provision, safety planning, client education, monitoring, case documentation and data tracking
child welfare strategy group recommendations1
Child Welfare Strategy Group Recommendations

(2) Provide caseworkers with written/online tools for clients and training on the tools to inform and advise families on benefits and options including:

  • TANF eligibility
  • Available services
  • Option to become a kinship foster parent
  • Legal options such as how kin can seek legal custody and birth parents can regain custody
child welfare strategy group recommendations2
Child Welfare Strategy Group Recommendations

(3) Build in an accountability process using existing plans to track diversion data statewide through OASIS by including kin diversion in Safe Measures reporting and in the Quality Service Review performance management process.

(4) Provide subsidized guardianship for relatives who obtain custody.

contact information
Contact Information

Karin Malm

Tiffany Allen

Karen Angelici