Children in Kinship Care May Fare Better Behaviorally

But their caregivers get fewer support services than foster caregivers; pregnancy risk higher

FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Children placed in kinship homes tend to fare better behaviorally and socially than children placed in foster care, though they may be at greater risk for pregnancy and substance use in adolescence, and their caregivers receive fewer support services, according to research published in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Christina Sakai, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues examined data on the behavioral and mental health and health services use of 1,308 children entering out-of-home care after reported maltreatment to compare kinship care and foster care. They also assessed caregivers' support services.

The researchers found that kinship caregivers were more likely to have lower socioeconomic status than foster care providers, and to use significantly fewer support services, such as caregiver subsidies, parent training, peer support, and respite care. Children in kinship care were less likely to experience continued behavioral problems, to have low social skills, or to use mental health therapy or psychotropic medication (risk ratios [RRs], 0.59, 0.61, 0.45, and 0.46, respectively), but more likely to experience substance abuse and pregnancy (RRs, 1.88 and 4.78, respectively).

"These findings suggest that increased supervision and monitoring of the kinship environment and increased caregiver support services are urgently needed to improve outcomes of children in kinship care," the authors write.

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