This guest blog post was written by Clint Mack.
In December 2012, Wilder Research completed a 3 year study on the effectiveness of the Kinship Navigator Project. This project was a collaboration of Minnesota Kinship Caregivers Association (MKCA) and its partners to help support successful caregiving outside the formal child welfare system. The project goals included enhancing stability, which they defined as safety and permanency, and ensuring the wellbeing of children at risk of formal non-relative placement. Their publication, Minnesota Kinship Navigator Project: Final Progress Report, was a synopsis of this study.
This publication was a thorough report of the Kinship Navigator Project. A strength of the report is the detail it went into concerning the project's goals, objectives, interventions, partners, and barriers. This is helpful for anyone who is not familiar with the Kinship Navigator Project. A second strength of the report is its focus on supporting families outside of the formal child welfare system. Of the 2,167 kinship caregivers and families that were served by the Kinship Navigator Project, only 27% had been involved with the formal child protection in the last five years. This population of caregivers may not be included in many past child welfare studies and shows the importance of the findings of the study for the general population.
A limitation of the report is the restricted audience. The only way to access the report is through the MKCA website or through Wilder Research website. With limited dissemination of the report, only individuals looking for this information would likely come across it. Another limitation of the report stems from the limitation of the study itself. The entire study and project hinged on kinship caregivers calling and making contact with MKCA or its partners. Even the control group of this study had to make at least one call to an agency, which arguably could have been an intervention for many families. Also, they may have accessed additional MKCA/partners information on their website on their own.
The entire report emphasized the crucial role kinship caregivers provide in ensuring safety, permanency, and wellbeing in families throughout Minnesota. One common myth concerning kinship caregivers is "the apple does not fall far from the tree," meaning the issues preventing the biological parents from caring for their children are present throughout the entire family. This report dispels this myth by showing improvements in safety, permanency and wellbeing for many families in the Kinship Navigator Project. This report also promoted a common held belief that kinship caregivers were able to support increased relationships between children and their biological parents. This includes providing support to kinship caregivers to work to get the children in their care reunified with their birth parents. A second important objective was increasing the frequency and quality of contact with children's birth parents. Wilder Research found 40% of the caregivers reported the relationship between kinship children and their parents improved, with 18% stating that it improved a lot.
This study may be accessed through Wilder Research at this link.