Amara's Kinship Program - Amara

Amara’s Kinship Program

Kids thrive when they can be with family.

Families thrive when they have support.

At Amara, we believe in the power of family. When kids who cannot live at home with their parents, it is often best for them to stay with extended family members, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or with close family friends. Staying with kin often means that kids don’t have to leave their friends, schools, and communities when they enter the foster care system. 

Kinship families in King and Pierce counties can find support in our Kin Connections program.

Kinship Care Can Help Transform The Child Welfare System

Trey Rabun, Amara’s Associate Director of Kinship and Community Services, writes about his professional and personal journey which led him to centering kinship care. He asks the question, “Why weren’t we truly prioritizing these families as placement options and then supporting them at the same level as foster parents?” Read more about why supporting kinship caregivers can transform the child welfare system and how Amara is shifting to meet this need.

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Kinship Services

In addition to our Kin Connections program, Amara will soon launch KinPLUS, a collaborative pilot program in King County that will assist kinship caregivers in the foster care licensing process and provide intensive wraparound placement supports to kinship families. Our key collaborators on this grant are the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), the University of Washington School of Social Work (UWSSW), the Children’s Bureau, and individuals with lived experience. We are currently in the program design phase and look forward to serving our first families in November 2022!

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FAQs

When children enter foster care, State and Federal law requires social workers to look for relatives first to care for them (kinship caregiver). If a relative or “fictive kin” (e.g., coach, teacher, family friend) is not found, children are cared for by a foster family whom they did not previously know. In Washington, nearly half of youth in foster care are cared for by relatives.

Kinship care is best for kids entering foster care because it maintains family connections and cultural identity, minimizes trauma, and improves children’s well-being. Children who are cared for by family members are more likely to return home with their parents and have better lifelong outcomes. Relatives are also more likely to care for siblings, reducing separation and increasing feelings of safety and connection for youth in foster care.

In order to quickly provide kids with stability when they enter foster care, there are fewer requirements for relatives to be approved as kinship caregivers. Unlike foster parents, kinship caregivers do not have to be licensed by the State to care for children and most are not. However, this means they do not have access to many of the resources that the State offers foster parents. 

There hasn’t been a program to provide kinship caregivers with wraparound supports to navigate the complicated foster care process and assist in finding childcare, parenting supports, and other needed resources, like Amara and so many other private agencies do for foster parents. Having developed a quality foster care program to license and support community members willing to open their homes and hearts to children in foster care, Amara is well-equipped to support kinship caregivers who are licensed through providing placement support services and support groups. By making it easier for relatives to be caregivers, we can support safety and stability for kids. 

In line with our continued goal of positive, long-term outcomes for children, research shows that children who spent time in kinship care have lower risks of re-entry into foster care once they exit the child welfare system. Research also shows that youth fare better in kinship care in key areas including mental health and educational outcomes.

71% of children placed in formal kinship care in King County are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). As Amara focuses squarely on centering equity and best outcomes for children, we recognize that continuing to place children of color with white families is not in their best interest. Keeping children with their families and with adults whose identities reflect their own is critical for their sense of belonging. This is an opportunity for Amara to strengthen extended families, so children have the best outcomes possible.

It’s also important because of the inequities that exist between kinship caregivers who are caring for kids, outside of the formal child welfare system, and foster parents. The financial support the state provides traditional foster parents, who have no prior connection to the youth and who are more often than not White, is much greater than the support provided to relative and kin placements who are more often lower income and BIPOC.

Related Stories

Meet the Amara Kinship & LGBTQIA+ Support Team!

Meet the team providing support to caregivers across the state of Washington who identify as LGBTQIA+, are caring for a youth who identifies as LGBTQIA+, or are caring for a relative or someone they had a close relationship with before entering foster care. 

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They’re raising grandkids with little help, and during a pandemic. Can’t we lend them a hand?

Seattle Times columnist Marcus Harrison Green shines light on the many formal and informal kinship caregivers across Washington state in need of support.

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