Relative Caregivers Rock!

Posted: August 18, 2012

International Approaches to Kinship Care: An Interview with Dr. Joseph Crumbley

By Brenda Rich, Turning Points for Children

When asked to provide this column for Relative Caregivers Rock, I mentioned that I had just returned from a trip to Ireland. Whereupon, I got asked to write a column on “What’s Going on with Kinship in the International Realm?!” Well, I could not really speak too much to what’s going on internationally in Ireland with Kinship issues, but I thought then of Dr. Joseph Crumbley, who over the years has traveled and done extensive international training on kinship care issues. Dr Crumbley agreed to a phone interview, which is included below:

Q. What countries other than the US have you visited to learn about kinship care issues?
A. Africa, specifically South Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

Q. What have you learned regarding kinship care practices around the world?
A. That everyone has started to realize that outcomes for children are better when children are with families first, and relatives second, compared to other out of home care practices like foster care, and residential care. The research being conducted in these countries shows that when children are with relatives, there are fewer disruptions in their living arrangements and families are more stable.

Q. What might some differences in practice be in countries other than in the US?
A. There is a differing definition of “kin.” “Kin” is more inclusive of other than blood relatives. For example, some governments respect both religious groups and/or tribal groups being connected with the children. This is true in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, in particular. Additionally, while other countries have looked to the US as a leader in best practices, they are also looking to learn from lessons that we have been learning. Regarding standards for kinship parents, in Canada and the UK for example, foster care standards are not the sole criteria used to assess relatives.

In particular, in the UK, Canada and New Zealand, there has been recognition that kinship families need funds to care for the children, and have proactively included funding in legislative actions for relative caregivers. The United Kingdom and Canada are already considering policies and initiatives that would identify and provide services to children in informal kinship care who are not in the custody of or identified through the child welfare system. These children and kinship families might be identified through the educational/school system, medical/hospital systems, mental health system, housing, daycare or programs for the aging. Once identified, these families would be referred to navigational programs for assessments and services.

Q. Can you provide a story of a kinship family from somewhere across the globe?
A. About 3-4 years ago, in New Zealand, a child came to the attention of the protective services because of a parent being incarcerated, and was subsequently placed in foster care. In New Zealand, the law requires finding family and having a group decision making meeting BEFORE the court can even get involved. Therefore, within 48-72 hours, everything had been arranged! A family finding search had been completed, a Family Group Decision Making meeting set up where critical family members and service providers came together on behalf of the child, a plan was developed, and the child was connected to family, with the following services in place: a social service worker and navigational services connecting them to needed mental health, financial, and educational resources and support systems.

Q. Thank you, Dr Joe!
A. Anytime!

For more information on Dr. Joseph Crumbley, please view his website: Dr. Crumbley has provided training and consultation nationally and internationally. Internationally, he has worked with the New Zealand Ministry of Children and Family Services, the Ministry of Children and Youth in Ontario Canada, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, and the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect in Durban, South Africa. He has been a guest on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), PBS, Geraldo, Montel Williams Show and Nickelodeon. He has consulted with 60 Minutes, The New York Times and The Oprah Winfrey Show on the topics of transracial adoptions and kinship care.