Under the roof of every family home, there are ways of going about the day that family members understand without ever having to talk about. Who gets the comfy chair. Who gets first shot at the bathroom in the morning. Who to go to when there’s a dispute. What to say to get another family member’s goat … and what never to say if you want to keep the peace.
Good or bad, house rules are familiar. And kids, regardless of whether they always follow those rules, are keenly attuned to the habits and moods of other members of the home. It’s through this lens that kids take in the world.
Unfortunately, we know that the family home isn’t always safe for kids, and sometimes that means the kids are removed from home. On top of whatever trauma caused the removal, kids have to adapt to living in a strange new place – which can be traumatic enough in its own right. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, passed by the federal government in 2008, aimed to reduce some of the trauma kids face when placed in out-of-home care. One strategy is to increase kinship care placements, or placements with family members.
Research indicates that kin care mitigates some of the problems normally associated with out-of-home care. For example, relative placements:
- Are more stable and more likely to result in legal guardianship with the relative;
- Are less likely to lead to system re-entry after children are reunified with their parents;
- Promote more feelings of being loved and fewer feelings of stigma among children.
In general, Nebraska has increased its number of kinship care placements over the past decade. However, following a dip that occurred between 2005 and 2008, we haven’t again reached the numbers experienced in the mid-2000s.
It is our hope that if out-of-home care is absolutely necessary for a child, authorities first look to relatives who can potentially provide care. Staying with extended family members is less likely to feel completely foreign to a child. And while the house rules may not be exactly the same as before, kids are more likely to feel connected to their family and loved – even in a time of crisis.