Eunju Lee's Research on Kinship Care: Informing a Community-based ACE Response

Eunju Lee, assistant professor at the University at Albany, is a leading contributor to a body of research focusing on kinship care. Kinship care occurs when children cannot safely stay in the care of their parents due to child maltreatment, parental substance abuse, parental mental health issues or other reasons. In these cases, relatives, or family friends in some jurisdictions, take over the care of the children. Kinship care is often utilized by child welfare services as a diversion from foster care (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013). However, while children in kinship care have better well-being outcomes, being outside of the foster care system means that they do not receive the benefits that children in foster care receive (Mauldon, Speiglman, Sogar, & Stagner, 2010). Compared to children in the general population, kinship care children are more likely to have physical or socioemotional problems as well as be in the care of elderly grandparents who often have poor mental health outcomes as well as high levels of stress due to old age, lack of support and recognition, and limited income (Billing, Ehrle, & Kortenkamp, 2002; Gibbons & Jones, 2003; Kelley, Whitley, & Campos, 2011; Leder, Grinstead, Jensen, & Bond, 2003; Okagbue-Reaves, 2005; Park, 2005; Strong, Bean, & Feinauer, 2010).

Lee was instrumental in receiving a 3-year $2.1 million federal grant in 2012 to promote collaboration between child welfare and temporary assistance (Wallace & Lee, 2013). With this grant, she collected data from 303 kinship caregivers and the 455 children in their care with the NYS Kinship Navigator program. Lee’s current study is using data from a survey of kinship caregivers and child welfare records (Lee, Choi, Lee, & Kramer, 2017). This research explores child maltreatment prior to kinship placement and its effect on child psycho-emotional health. The study has found evidence that children are often placed in kinship care after a child maltreatment investigation.

Lee’s research informs a community-based response to adverse childhood experiences (ACE) while extending the ACE research. “Given that children in kinship care have experienced a number of traumas, we need to provide services to kinship families to enhance the well-being of children,” Lee stated. Lee sees a need to recognize the cumulative trauma experience of children who are in kinship care, pointing out that they often “remain invisible” as these populations are hard to identify and track.

Further future directions identified by Lee include providing financial and support services to children and caregivers. “Service providers such as Kinship Navigators can offer services to caregivers in order to receive federal TANF Non Parental Caregiver (NPC) Grant.” She also sees a need for parenting support, an option to become a kinship foster parent, and a recognition at the policy level of kinship care as a parallel system with the child welfare system with proper support as well as policy addressing the use of kinship care as a cost-free alternative to foster care. “A better society would take responsibility for the well-being of all children who have been traumatized,” Lee has a clear passion for this research and its impact on the future.

 

References

Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013). The kinship diversion debate: Policy and practice implications for children, families and child welfare agencies. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter.aspx

Billing, A., Ehrle, J., & Kortenkamp, K. (2002). Children cared for by relatives: What do we know about their well-being? (Series B, No. B-46). Retrieved from http:// www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310486.pdf

Gibbons, C., & Jones, T. C. (2003). Kinship care health profiles of grandparents raising their grandchildren. Journal of Family Social Work, 7(1), 1–14.

Kelley, S. J., Whitley, D. M., & Campos, P. E. (2011). Behavior problems in children raised by grandmothers: The role of caregiver distress, family resources, and the home environment. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 2138–2145.

Leder, S., Grinstead, L. N., Jensen, S., & Bond, L. (2003). Psychotherapeutic treatment outcomes in grandparent-raised children. Journal of Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 16, 5–14.

Lee, E., Choi, M. J., Lee, Y., & Kramer, C. (2017). Placement stability of children in informal kinship care: Age, poverty and involvement in the child welfare system. Child Welfare, 95, 83–106.

Mauldon, J., Speiglman, R., Sogar, C., & Stagner, M. (2010). TANF child-only cases: Who are they? What policies affect them? What is being done? A report submitted to OPRE. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Okagbue-Reaves, J. (2005). Kinship care: Analysis of the health and well-being of grandfathers raising grandchildren using the Grandparent Assessment Tool and 430 G. W. Wallace and E. Lee the Medical Outcomes Trust SF-36 TM Health Survey. Journal of Family Social Work, 9(2), 47–66.

Park, H. O. (2005). Grandmothers raising grandchildren: Family well-being and economic assistance. Focus, 24, 19–27.

Strong, D. D., Bean, R. A., & Feinauer, L. L. (2010). Trauma, attachment, and family therapy with grandfamilies: A model for treatment. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(1), 44–50.

Wallace, G. W., & Lee, E. (2013). Diversion and kinship care: A collaborative approach between child welfare services and NYS’s Kinship Navigator. Journal of Family Social Work, 16(5), 418–430.

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