In 2016, 13,132 children were taken away from their homes in Arizona alone due to abuse or neglect allegations. Thankfully, just about half of these children were able to move in with aunts, uncles, adult siblings, cousins, grandparents and other “kinship caregivers” who were able to step in an help out.
Congresswoman Karen Bass said it right when advancing the resolution for a national kinship care month: “Grandparents and other relatives all over our nation step forward every day to provide a home and care for children when their biological parents are unable to do so. These family member play a vital role in our child welfare system….”
Senator Ron Wyden, when cosponsoring the resolution for Kinship Care Month, stated that there is a “core belief that whenever it’s in the best interest of children, every possibility must be explored to keep their children connected to their families.”In Arizona, this belief is reflected in our laws. ARS §8-514 establishes a statutory preference for grandparent and kinship placements when a child is removed from home. The legislative goal is pretty clear: if a child must be removed, then the child should be placed with “another member of the child’s extended family.”
The courts have backed this preference for kinship placement and stated that the definition of kinship is broad. This makes sense. After all, who better to care for a child than the people who already have a relationship with the child and can meet his or her needs? Also, this “kin” need not be a blood relative, allowing for more positive outcomes for the child.
At the end of the day, the best interests of the child is key. In a child welfare lawsuit, whether that be due to dependency, severance, adoption, or guardianship, the child is the only party we can truly say is innocent. Kinship placement preferences are there to protect that child and I know I have been so thankful when an appropriate kinship placement shows up to help out in a case; they can be a great help us gaining a positive outcome for the child.
If a child relative or child who you are not related to but have a substantial relationship with is being taken into care, please consider offering up your home as a kinship placement. In Arizona you can do this by contacting the Department of Child Safety or through a lawyer who works in child welfare. Kinship caregivers truly do make a difference.
If you liked this article please feel free to share. My next article will discuss the ways Arizona can improve kinship care programs.
Ortega, Arizona’s DCS: Why are Kids Taken Away? Too Often the Answer is Unknown, The Arizona Republic, Jan. 22, 2017. Available at https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/01/22/arizona-department-child-safety-why-kids-taken-away-too-often-answer-unknown/96539080/
44% per the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Kinship Care Program Biannual Report, 2016 available at https://dcs.az.gov/sites/default/files/DCS-Reports/BIANNUAL%20KINSHIP%20REPORT%202016%20FINAL_020217.pdf
Sciammanna, On Kinship Care Month, undated post on Child Welfare League of America website available at https://www.cwla.org/resolution-on-kinship-care-month-introduced/
Ariz. Rev. State §8-514(B).
Jeff D. v. Dept. of Child Safety, 239 Ariz. 205, 210, 367 P.3d 109, 114 (Div 1, 2016).