Does Your Child Welfare Agency Divert Children to Kin? Guide to using the Kinship Diversion Estimation Tool

Research BriefChild WelfareJun 28 2019

Child welfare agencies across the country rely on grandparents and other relatives to care for children who cannot remain safely with their parents. In many jurisdictions, agencies facilitate arrangements by which children are placed with relatives as an alternative to foster care. We use the term “kinship diversion” to refer to situations in which a child comes to the attention of a child welfare agency and is placed with relatives as an alternative to foster care. Other terms include informal or voluntary kinship care or safety plans.

While the incidence of kin diversion differs widely from one jurisdiction to another, this kinship care scenario is the most common out-of-home placement for children removed from their homes. Perspectives on the practice vary, but one thing is certain: Without understanding the key aspects of kin diversion—such as when, why, how often, and with whom it is used—we cannot recognize its benefits and shortcomings for children and their families.

The Kinship Diversion Estimation Tool, developed by Child Trends with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is an online survey to help agencies understand their kinship diversion practices. The survey tool gathers information from staff members who work directly with children and families. The online survey takes very little time to complete and helps jurisdictions:

  • Examine the extent to which caseworkers are facilitating or participating in making kin diversion arrangements for children who otherwise would
    enter foster care.
  • Understand the following:
    • Which units or geographic regions of a jurisdiction use kinship diversion arrangements
    • Workers’ opinions about kinship diversion practice
    • The characteristics of children involved in diversions (e.g., age, gender, and race/ethnicity)
    • Casework practices that follow the decision to divert
  • Make more informed decisions about practices and policies that affect kinship diversion and children’s and families’ experiences and outcomes.

After administering the Kinship Diversion Estimation Tool, agencies can use the findings to inform discussions about possible adjustments in agency policy and practice. Insights generated can be even more powerful when this process includes an exploration of where diversion fits within an agency’s kinship care continuum and use of Kinship Process Mapping (KPM), which identifies barriers to locating, engaging, and supporting kin, and provides strategies for overcoming those barriers.

The guide is divided into four sections, each of which provides users with step-by-step instructions for using the tool:
Section 1: Preparing to Administer the Survey
Section 2: Administering the Survey
Section 3: Analyzing Results
Section 4: Identifying Policy and Practice Improvements