Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) recently released two reports authored by Partners for Our Children detailing the results of a statewide survey of kinship care providers. 

Eight hundred and sixty-eight kinship caregivers responded to the survey. Participants were primarily white, generally over the age of 55, and typically identified as grandparents. Their greatest challenges were finances, the child’s emotional health, and the child’s behavior. They also indicated unmet needs related to financial support, recreational and social activities for the child in their care, managing the child’s behavioral and emotional health, and respite care.

Survey results indicated that kinship caregivers in Washington have average incomes between $30,000-$39,999 (the median income in Washington state is $70,116). Caregivers of color were more likely to live in poverty, with median incomes between $20,000-$29,000. 

Caregivers of color were more likely to have an informal caregiving arrangement with no child welfare system involvement. Caregivers of color also were more likely to experience difficulties accessing child care and medical care for their child, as well as managing the child’s emotional health and their relationship with the child’s parents. 

Informal kinship caregivers who did not have child welfare system involvement were more likely to report their finances as their biggest challenge. This finding is not surprising given that unlicensed caregivers are not eligible to receive monthly foster care payments from the state. Washington Senate Bill 5151, which becomes effective July 25th, 2021, has the potential to help more informal caregivers access child welfare system benefits in the future by helping kinship families attain a child-specific license. 

The reports recommend that policymakers consider increases in financial aid resources for kinship caregivers, including increasing the amount of KCSP funds families are eligible to receive annually, as well as making investments in mental health services for children in kinship care arrangements. 

You can read more about the results from the statewide survey here