Protective Factors as Mediators and Moderators of Risk Effects on Perceptions of Child Well-Being in Kinship Care

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Child Welfare





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Much has been written about the tremendous risks faced by children who do not live with or who are not cared for by their parents. Similarly, existing literature warns of the less than optimal child outcomes associated with kinship care, given that caregivers themselves can be vulnerable because of their advanced age, health difficulties, lack of resources and fragile living conditions. Still, research has demonstrated the beneficial effect of kinship care on children. However, little is known about what produces these observed positive effects. In this empirical analysis of kinship caregivers (N = 747) and children (N = 1301), researchers sought to determine the protective factors that mediate against risks and produce optimal levels of child well-being for children being cared for by kinship caregivers. Although the findings are preliminary, such aspects as low income, high stress, caring for children who have special needs and caring for multiple children, long thought to place children at risk for poor outcomes while under the care of relatives, can be mediated by protective factors (e.g., readiness/capacity, childrearing/parenting skills, motivation/sustainability and family involvement/support) that kinship caregivers may inherently possess. This finding supports a strengths-based orientation associated with the contextual distinctions of kinship care. Based on the findings, direct practice and clinical support strategies designed to assess and enhance caregiver's protective factors are discussed. Moreover, policy and research implications are offered that can stimulate investigation of kinship care's restorative benefit.



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