“Kin” family homes are a key placement option for children and youth whose families are struggling.

Here are six ways kin families are changing Ontario’s child welfare system for the better.

1. Kin families help keep families together.

Kinship Service and Kinship Care are child welfare placement options, like fostering, for the small number of children who cannot be cared for safely within their own homes. Kin providers can be other family members or people who are familiar to the child, youth, or parent that are able to provide a safe, nurturing home. Kin family support means that kids stay connected to their communities and, where it is safe, continue to have a relationship with their primary caregiver. Research shows that kin families are also more likely to promote sibling contacts. Ongoing connections make it easier to transition back home when it is safe, and in those rare cases where a child cannot return home, the connections can remain.

2. Kin families keep kids safer and healthier.

Research shows that children living with kin have fewer attachment disorders, experience fewer mental health issues, and need fewer mental health services. Research also suggests that children living with kin are at less risk of further abuse than those in foster placements. Children living with kinship families report a greater sense of overall well-being, with greater emotional, physical, and behavioural stability.

3. Kin families keep kids secure in their cultural identities.

They speak the same language, eat the same food, and have the same traditions as the child they are looking after. The involvement of the Indigenous child’s wider community aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadians recommends care by kin as a key way to improve child welfare services for African Canadian children and youth in Ontario.

4. Children and youth remain with their kin families for longer periods of time.

Research shows that children living with kinship families stay longer in their placement than children in foster placements, and are much less likely to experience multiple placements.

5. Kin families are an important “permanency” pillar in the child welfare system.

Last year, more than 3,700 children found safe, secure, nurturing homes with kin families in Ontario. This is part of Ontario child welfare’s commitment to make it a priority to keep children and youth close to their families and communities.

6. Kin families do it out of love despite the cost.

Bringing a new child into the home is costly. Kin families are often grandparents living on a pension. Research shows that kin families experience a higher rate of poverty than foster and adoptive families. Children’s Aid Societies support kin families by helping to connect them to important resources such as financial and housing supports, daycare and recreational program subsidies, and children’s mental health services