It takes a village: Kinship Care Month

Generally speaking, a child with or without disabilities may be raised by one or both parents. However, there may be life circumstances such as the death of one or both parents, or if one or both parents are either financially, physically, and/or emotionally incapable to care for their child due to addiction, physical or mental health disorders, and/or substance abuse disorders, among others. In these cases, the child’s relatives or kin, perhaps along with those with close nonfamilial relationships such as God parents, step parents, and/or close family friends, may take an informal, voluntary, or formal role full-time care, nurturing, and protection, as well as maintaining family connections and cultural traditions.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are approximately 2.6 million children are in kinship care. Generally, kinship care arrangements fall into roughly three categories: informal, voluntary, and formal kinship:

  • Informal kinship arrangements are between kin without the involvement of a child welfare agency or the court system, and legal custody remains with the parents (unless deceased). The kin retain physical custody of the child/children.

  • Voluntary kinship arrangements are similar to the informal arrangements with the exception that a child welfare agency is involved, and the State does not take legal custody. In some cases, the child may be place with kin by the court. In other cases, an arrangement is made by the child welfare agency with no court involvement.

  • Formal kinship care arrangements closely mirror nonrelative foster care, where the child is placed in the legal custody of the State by a judge, the child welfare agency then places the child or children with their kin. In these situations, the child welfare agency, acting on behalf of the State, has legal custody of the children and the kin have physical custody. Child welfare is responsible for ensuring that the child is receiving health care and attending school. The court approves visitation with parents or siblings, the child welfare agency is responsible for making sure these visits occur.

It should be noted that disability, in and of itself, does not disqualify a person from being a parent and being the primary caregiver for their child. Studies have shown that parents with disabilities may face stigma and prejudice within the medical and child welfare system, calling their parenting abilities into question. Parents with disabilities and their advocates may wish to learn more about parental rights and resources in their state.

In celebration of Kinship Care Month, the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) is hosting a webinar, Kinship Families Affected by Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders, September 14th from 1-2 pm ET. Learn more and register for this FREE webinar at


The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2022). Topics – Kinship care.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2022). Kinship care and the child welfare system. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.

Child Welfare Information Gateway (2022). Topics – Kinship care.

About cgraves34

Media Specialist for the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) through Administration for Community Living (ACL) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
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