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Kinship care typically involves a relative raising a child when the biological parents are unable or unwilling. North Carolina State University received FRPN funding to conduct a study examining paternal engagement in kinship care through qualitative interviews with fathers, relative caregivers, and social service providers.
The study found that in addition to the usual challenges low-income fathers with criminal justice and substance abuse issues face in their efforts to be engaged with their nonresident children, fathers with children in kinship care were confused about their role and legal standing. They lacked guidance on how to coparent with relative caregivers. Coparenting relationships differed if the caregiver was a maternal versus a paternal relative. Fathers reported deferring to caregivers and caseworkers to maintain peace within the kinship care arrangement. Caregivers noted other problems: the absence of a clear delineation of roles, inconsistent patterns of paternal support and involvement, and lack of material and financial resources. They felt overwhelmed by their caregiving duties and typically were without future plans for the relative child and his or her care. Practitioners said they engage with fathers of children in kinship care like they do with all nonresident fathers. Some referenced the need for additional kinship care training related to fathers' needs, coparenting, and family dynamics.
More research is needed on family dynamics in kinship care, including perspectives of children and adolescents.