Kinship care refers to the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin). Relatives are the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents because it helps maintain the children's connections with their families, increases stability, and overall minimizes the trauma of family separation. Kinship caregivers may be referred to as formal or informal kinship families based on whether they are officially involved with the child welfare system.
Kinship caregivers and families may be faced with needs, questions, and constraints that are different than those of resource foster care families. Child welfare agencies continue to address these unique needs through kinship navigator programs that help caregivers manage the foster care licensing process; connect families to available supports and services; and understand legal, medical, or other systems and requirements.
As jurisdictions place higher emphasis on placing children and youth in relative or familiar settings, some are expanding and advancing the support provided to kinship caregivers. The podcast series, Advances in Supporting Kinship Caregivers, comprises of episodes featuring the advances created and implemented by child welfare agencies and their partners to strengthen kinship families and meet the unique needs faced by these caregivers.
Part 5 explores a series of changes within New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) to improve the engagement and support of kinship families. These changes include internal workforce shifts, such as changes in supervisory practices and internal communications to improve how relatives and caregivers are viewed; programs to keep families engaged and involved in children’s lives even if they are unable to serve as primary caregivers; and streamlining the licensing process to be less invasive and more supportive of families facing the abrupt changes and challenges of raising children.
The discussion also explores the public-private partnership CYFD has with the Southwest Family Guidance Center as a one-stop shop for kinship navigator services and connections to additional supports, resources, and guidance for families and caregivers.
The following individuals are featured in this episode:
- Anthony Beltran, acting bureau chief, Placement and Adoption Resources Bureau, New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department
- Nicholas Njua, kinship supervisor, New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department
Topics discussed include the following:
- Which methods increase involvement of other, noncaregiver kin and families in children’s lives and build strength and support caregivers
- How CYFD changed caseworkers’ and staff perception to improve how relatives and kinship families are viewed and supported within the child welfare system
- How direct feedback from community organizations and families improved how CYFD delivers services and supports families
- How processes and policies changed to make CYFD more “family-friendly”