From Research to Practice: Study on Economic Well-Being of Kin Caregivers Helps Inform Practice and Policy Change in California

A recent study published by the University of California Berkeley School of Social Welfare surveyed the economic well-being of kin and non-kin caregivers in order to better understand the similarities and differences of these two groups of caregivers and the impacts of those characteristics on their caregiving. The study examined characteristics of kin and non-kin caregivers in select California counties both before and after the implementation of the Approved Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program, which was implemented in 2014 and allowed kin caregivers who had previously been denied foster care benefits to receive funding equal to the basic foster care rate.

While the study found that the differences between kin and non-kin are less prevalent than past decades, there were stark differences between the subsidies provided to kin and non-kin caregivers. Further, the caregivers who have received no funding or relied on funding through CalWORKs, which provides a fraction of the benefit as compared to a foster care payment, were found to have poorer health, receive less services, and to be caring for children with more challenging peer relationships.

Although the ARC program reduced the disparities between subsidies for kin and non-kin families, inequities between the two subsidies remain and both groups need greater access to services. We are hopeful that the new rate structure that was proposed in the Governor’s May Revision to the budget will be enacted into law, ending the financial disparities and ensuring that each family receives a subsidy based on the needs of the child.

The Alliance is committed to continuing to work to ensure that families also have access to the services and supports they need, regardless of whether they are connected to a Foster Family Agency or the county child welfare agency. Earlier this month we hosted a webinar which detailed the findings of the study, the new reforms that address the remaining inequities and barriers to accessing services, and gave an overview of promising practices for better serving all caregivers.