Positive Self-Care Practices Can Reduce Black Kinship Caregivers’ Stress

While the benefits of kinship care1 for Black children are significant, so can be the costs for Black kinship caregivers. Yet a new study that included 12 Black kinship caregivers—conducted by this blog’s first author, Tyreasa Washington, and her colleagues—points to promising ways to mitigate some of those costs via self-care practices.

Over 3 million adults in the United States are kinship caregivers. A disproportionate number of these caregivers are Black and often older, economically disadvantaged women—typically grandmothers—who provide kinship care that is either formal (supervised by the child welfare system) or informal (not supervised by the child welfare system). Black kinship caregivers play a vital role in Black children’s positive outcomes, including their levels of placement stability, family connection, cultural continuity, and academic achievement.

The study found that several informal kinship caregivers reported higher levels of stress due to their caregiver role and, importantly, that caregivers’ support networks helped them productively manage this stress by encouraging self-care practices. Their family and community members routinely reminded the kinship caregivers to care for themselves (in addition to the children in their care): They promoted caregivers’ efforts to regularly exercise, participate in faith-based activities, and spend quality time alone. The children for whom Black kinship caregivers provided care also played a vital role in promoting their self-care. Caregivers reported taking joy in providing care for their grandchildren and receiving expressions of appreciation from them. These positive activities to cope with stress stood in sharp contrast to activities reported by some caregivers (e.g., smoking and drinking alcohol) that placed them at greater risk for negative health and social outcomes.

Prevention and intervention services that aim to improve caregivers’ stress should include efforts to promote their self-care. Black kinship caregivers deserve resources and services to reduce their stress levels and advance their mental and physical health. Child welfare stakeholders should incorporate the lived experience of Black kinship caregivers (e.g., reported self-care behaviors) and use their social networks to ensure that resources and services are helpful and culturally responsive. Additionally, given that many kinship caregivers face financial challenges, social workers and other practitioners can work with Black caregivers to identify and access stress reduction activities in their communities that are free or have a nominal fee. Social workers and other service providers can also ensure that Black kinship caregivers are aware of—and understand how to access—the financial assistance that is available to them; currently, most kinship caregivers do not receive the full assistance to which they are entitled. Lastly, practitioners and policymakers can work with Black kinship caregivers to identify new and existing resources (e.g., education about health, managing conflicts with birth parents, engaging with school personnel, and other topics of significance) that can promote caregiver and family well-being.

Intentional efforts such as those outlined here can expand opportunities for Black kinship caregivers to engage in self-care practices—offsetting commonly shared feelings among the study’s caregivers of being overwhelmed by their caregiving responsibilities. Additional resources for kinship caregivers and their families, agencies, caseworkers, and policymakers interested in kinship care—including a video series that features Dr. Joseph Crumbley, a pioneer in the field of kinship care—can be found on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the authors of the article that served as the basis for this brief.

The overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system illustrates one of the many ways that systemic racism affects Black children and families. This blog is part of Child Trends’ applied research agenda that seeks to better understand systemic racism’s effects and provide evidence-based solutions to help Black children and families thrive. This research agenda has two priorities: Black family cultural assets and protective community resources. To learn more about our work, visit our webpage and register for our newsletter on Black children and families.


1 Kinship care, or the full-time care of children by relatives or (in some cases) fictive kin (e.g., godparents and church members), is a strategy that has improved outcomes for children who do not live with their birth or adoptive parent(s).

Suggested citation

Washington, T., & Sanders, M. (2024). Positive self-care practices can reduce Black kinship caregivers’ stress. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/4739m5594v.