Variations in the use of kinship diversion among child welfare agencies: Early Answers to Important Questions

Research BriefChild WelfareJun 28 2019

This brief has been updated to correct an inaccurate interpretation of a reference citing the proportion of children placed with kin following removal from their home. The brief previously indicated on page 3 that “approximately half of children involved in investigations are diverted to kin.” This is incorrect. Instead, “kinship diversion is the most common out-of-home placement, with approximately half of children removed from their homes ending up in a diversion arrangement.”

Kinship diversion, an alternative to foster care, is a common response to allegations of child abuse and neglect, yet little research has been conducted on this practice. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children are diverted from foster care to live with relatives each year. However, few jurisdictions collect data on the practice, making it challenging to understand these children’s experiences—and to decide whether kinship diversion is beneficial. For several years, with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Child Trends has sought answers to key questions about kinship diversion. This brief presents what we learned from studies that explored opinions about the practice through interviews with more than two dozen stakeholders across the country, including agency administrators, advocates, and researchers; explored one state’s practice through extensive field work in six local communities involving over 150 staff and kin caregivers; provided estimates of the incidence of kin diversion through administering an online survey of workers, the Kinship Diversion Estimation Tool; and examined administrative data from two states that recently captured information on diversion. As shown in the sections that follow, answers to the questions vary based on the information source. Our work answers many questions about kinship diversion, yet much remains unknown.