Supporting Kin-first Culture in the Courtroom
What we know:
A Kin-first approach is best. Research continues to show that kinship care can lead to fewer placements, greater stability for children, and more contact with parents, siblings, and other kin. Children in kinship care generally have better mental and physical health, fewer behavior problems, higher levels of competence, higher levels of placement satisfaction and better outcomes as adults (i). Barriers to kinship can happen in the judicial process when the child welfare system focuses on meeting the system’s needs and not on the child/youth or families’ needs. This effort seeks to leverage champions in the judicial community to help.
The shift: a message from the Children's Bureau (ii)
Emphasizing a child’s attachments and connections while ensuring safety, rather than solely prioritizing timeframes in efforts to achieve permanency will serve to strengthen and preserve families; prevent future maltreatment from occurring after permanency is achieved, and significantly improve a child’s foster care experience. Focus on family connections is imperative in the work done by agencies and courts because it can mitigate the effects of trauma that children and youth in foster care have already experienced and can also reduce further trauma. To improve permanency outcomes and preserve connections for children, it is critical that courts provide active judicial oversight over agency efforts to:
• Thoroughly explore existing familial relationships and maternal and paternal relatives as possible placements
• Safely place children with relatives or fictive kin and people who they know, when determining a placement for a child, provided that the relative meets state child protection standards.
Kin-first advocates and champions are working together to develop and plan for judicial supports that can provide issue-specific resources and offerings on an as-needed basis for all judicial stakeholders (Judges/Magistrates, Attorneys, GALs, CASA). The components will include a resource library, applicable training, and direct contact with thought leaders. Our hope is to reduce judicial barriers to kin and relative caregiving through a collaborative space for professionals to seek support when obstacles arise.
Vision for this work
- Explore how the judicial process and roles support or hinder kin-first approaches
- Develop a plan for this Judicial Support Project
- Share information and brainstorm ideas to build on existing resources and bench cards
- Engage in large group discussions and breakout sessions to discuss:
- Where and when support and resources are needed for judicial stakeholders
- Advisory and training opportunities that would be impactful
- How to build unity amongst champions and sites leading this work in Ohio
- Draft objectives and strategies for accomplishing them
i 2022 American Bar Association. Litigation Section, Benefits of Kinship Placement
ii US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, ACYF-CB-IM-21-01; Title IV-B, Title IV-E, Court Improvement Program