‘Kinship’ care on the rise for foster kids in N.J.

More children in New Jersey’s foster care system are living with relatives, according to a new survey.

More than a third of foster care kids in the Garden State who have been taken out of their homes because of abuse or neglect are being cared for by extended family members.

Cecilia Zalkind, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says the number of “kinship caregivers” has been increasing since the state began allowing relatives to become licensed foster parents seven years ago.

“So if a relative caregiver steps in and says I’ll take of a child who needs to be in foster care placement, they can be approved to become a foster parent and receive both financial assistance and services the same way a non-related foster home would,” she said.

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Zalkind says living with a relative is less traumatic for children then going to a foster family of strangers. 

“This is a way to use an extended family member who the child may know and have a relationship with,” she said. “It’s helpful. It helps that child adjust to placement, and it’s also been shown to ensure that families are reunified more quickly in the future.”

The state provides financial support and services to help those relatives provide care, but Zalkind says more can be done.

Housing costs become an issue for grandparents who are faced with providing foster care for young relatives and need to move to a larger home or apartment, she said.

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