September 21, 2023

While kinship care is a relatively new and evolving area of practice in contemporary child welfare, family caring for family has historically been the foundation of child safety in Indigenous communities. When children cannot be safely raised by their parents either temporarily or permanently, kinship care has been the custom in tribal communities since time immemorial. Today, relative caregivers remain the most important resource for child safety in Indian Country, both as support to the child’s parents and as a placement resource for the child when safety becomes a concern. Despite relative caregivers being central to child safety and well-being, little attention has been paid to child welfare policies that honor and support the integrity of extended family systems.

The Kinship Services in Child Welfare Policy Toolkit Policy Issues Overview and Guidance for Policy Language examines issues for consideration in policies and procedures with trauma-informed policy guidance to support the development of tribally specific child welfare policy. NICWA developed this new resource for tribal child welfare programs as part of the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network.

Part one of the two-part toolkit examines several issues that tribal child welfare programs might want to consider in drafting policies and procedures to support relatives and kin caregivers. For the purpose of this policy overview, “relative caregivers” will be used to refer to the adults in families in which grandparents, other extended family and relatives, or close family friends are raising children whose parents, either temporarily or permanently, are unable to safely do so. Tribal communities may use many different terms to describe this relationship. Here are a few other terms that might be used interchangeably to refer to these families: “kinship care,” “extended family,” “relatives,” “kinship caregivers,” and “kinship families.” Part two of the toolkit provides policy guidance and sample trauma-informed language to support the development of tribally specific child welfare policy to address the identified issues outlined in part one.

Find this two-part toolkit along with other kinship and relative care resources under NICWA’s resources for service providers.

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