Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model
About This Program
Target Population: Kinship caregivers, such as grandparents, other relatives (aunts/uncles, older siblings, etc.), and “fictive kin,” who are raising children (from birth to age 18) because the children's biological parents are unable to do so
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 18
The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model provides staff positions (Kinship Navigators) to assist kinship caregivers with understanding, navigating, and accessing the system of out-of-home care supports and services for children. Kinship navigators provide flexible and responsive services to kinship families based on family needs. Kinship navigators initially provide caregivers with information, referrals, and advocacy services. Navigators also assist caregivers in identifying and removing barriers to service receipt; accessing benefits for which they are eligible; accessing legal services; and utilizing existing community resources and support systems (such as health, financial, legal services, support groups, training, and emergency funds). The program model is designed to empower families to support and advocate for one another and therefore, foster interdependence and a natural support system. Through kinship navigation services, the program model seeks to support kinship families and contribute to the increased safety, permanency, and well-being of youth in formal (i.e., placed in legal custody of government and placed into kinship care by the child welfare system) and informal (i.e., arrangements made by parents and other family members without child welfare or juvenile court involvement) kinship care.
The goals of the Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model are:
- Provide caregivers with information, referrals, and advocacy services
- Assist caregivers in identifying and removing barriers to service receipt
- Ensure kinship families have access to benefits for which they are eligible, including the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) child only grants and respite care services
- Provide linkages to needed legal services and legal informational factsheets on whether the state has health, educational consent laws, or other legal assistance for kinship caregivers accessing government programs
- Assist caregivers in utilizing existing community resources and support systems, including educational, health, mental health systems
- Improve caregivers’ social support systems (e.g., professional agencies, support groups, parent groups, professional helpers, etc.)
- Improve family resources (e.g., basic needs items, money to pay for bills, tutoring resources, recreational activities, scholarships, etc.)
- Promote child safety, permanency, and well-being
- Develop strong collaborative working relationships with groups and agencies that work with kinship caregivers, such as local and state child welfare offices; and promote effective partnerships among public and private agencies to ensure kinship caregiver families are served
- Educate the community, including service providers and faith-based organizations about the needs of kinship care families and available resources and services
The essential components of the Kinship Navigators Program - Family Connections Grantee Model include:
- Recruiting Kinship Families through a variety of methods:
- Toll-free Caregiver Resource Line staffed by program staff, volunteers, and/or community partners
- Program website or online resource portal connecting kinship caregivers to government and community resources
- Caregiver self-referral/walk-in to the program
- Referrals from external agencies and advocacy networks
- Outreach events and activities
- Promotional materials and fliers
- A “Permission to Contact” written release signed by caregiver
- Intake, Screening, and Assessment
- At intake, Kinship Navigators and/or intake staff work with the caregiver to complete an intake form that collects information from the primary caregiver(s), such as: contact information; gender; date of birth; race/ethnicity; Tribal affiliation; employment status; annual household income; benefits received; and spouse/partner information. Information collected on kinship children may include: familial and legal relationship with caregiver; reasons biological parent(s) are not primary caregivers; child welfare involvement; education; health insurance; special needs; date of birth; gender; race/ethnicity; and Tribal affiliation.
- Kinship Navigators utilizes assessment tools to assess caregiver needs (e.g., Family Needs Scale; Family Support Scale; Strengths, Needs, and Cultural Discovery). Assessment tools should follow a family-centered and strengths-based framework, which encourages building upon the strengths of families and individualizing services to meet the needs of the family.
- If the client is seeking to care for kinship children, the caregiver’s readiness, capacity, and commitment to providing full-time care may be assessed. If issues are identified that affect permanency, other family resources and natural supports will be sought to ensure maximum family stability and caretaker’s willingness and ability to facilitate an ongoing relationship with the parents, as appropriate.
- Kinship families are screened promptly and responsively to determine their needs and inform them of services available at the program and/or through other community resources.
- Respectful listening ensures that the family’s immediate needs are understood, families receive equitable treatment, and Navigators and families build successful relationships.
- Priority for services is given to urgent needs and emergency situations. Kinship families with emergency situations are encouraged to call 911, law enforcement, Child Protective Services, or a Crisis Hotline.
- Kinship families who cannot be served by the program, or cannot be served promptly, are referred or connected to appropriate resources.
- Navigation Services
- Upon completion of screening, the Kinship Navigator assists caregivers in identifying community resources. The Navigator may provide caregivers with relevant agency pamphlets and/or brochures, and facilitate the initial contact and subsequent appointments with resource agencies. The Navigator may also assist with transportation.
- At a minimum, Kinship Navigators provide caregivers with information, referral, and connection (IRC) services to meet immediate needs. Types of Navigation services include:
- Providing caregivers with donated goods (e.g., diapers, other household goods)
- Finding and connecting families to existing resources (e.g., food assistance, utility assistance, childcare, mental health services)
- Arranging for immediate transportation to connect families with services and assist families in identifying longer term solutions
- Assisting caregivers in interacting with the school system (e.g., Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process)
- Assisting caregivers in understanding the local dependency court process for establishing a legal relationship with the child
- Assisting caregivers in working with child welfare/protective services and their processes
- Connecting caregivers to access TANF/TANF-Child Only benefits, health insurance, or other assistance/benefits available
- Connecting caregivers to or providing caregivers with advocacy and support services (e.g., attending court, child and family team, and school IEP meetings)
- Kinship Navigators refer eligible families to federal and/or state health benefits, and/or provide information about other care options when insurance coverage is not available. Navigators may also support families in accessing health and dental care, as well as services for mental/behavioral health, substance abuse, and/or domestic violence.
- Caregivers presenting a higher level of need may be offered more intensive navigation services through an open case. In an open case, the Kinship Navigator and caregiver create a Navigation Plan to meet identified needs. The Navigator and caregiver then work to implement this plan. Navigation plans are reviewed and updated regularly, at a minimum of every 90 days. When the caregiver and Navigator determine that the goals of the plan have been met, they can develop another plan to address additional goals or close the case.
- Other Services - The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model also offers these other types of services to caregivers, individually or in a group setting, either directly or in collaboration with local community service providers and government agencies that interact with kinship families.
- Legal Services - Through collaboration with a local Legal Aid office or law firm, caregivers receive pro bono assistance from a lawyer in completing court documentation. Legal information is provided to caregivers by a lawyer in a group setting (e.g., legal clinic) or individually (e.g., office or home visit).
- Permanency Options Services - The Kinship Navigator Program – Family Connections Grantee Model offers/hosts/facilitates training to help formal and informal families understand permanency options. Training is often conducted in collaboration with a program partner(s), such as child welfare, TANF, the courts system, and local foster care licensing. Formal kinship families are provided with a basic orientation of the dependency process, home evaluation, option of becoming a licensed foster care provider, and orientation to other kinship support services.
- Support Groups - The Kinship Navigator Program – Family Connections Grantee Model offers/hosts/facilitates peer-led caregiver support groups. Aside from facilitated discussion, sessions may include an education component or activity. Support groups may be developed for specific populations (e.g., grandparents raising grandchildren, children of incarcerated parents).
- Topical Education - The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model offers/hosts/facilitates periodic classes that cover topics driven by caregiver interests (e.g., tax preparation, creating a will, and trauma-informed care). Classes are facilitated by staff and/or community experts in group settings.
- Respite and Recreation Services – Kinship Navigators connect families to community-based services (e.g., hot meals, respite, after school program, teen mentorship, adult education, and gardening). Navigation Programs may also provide supervised activities for children and youth and/or on-site childcare, while caregivers receive on-site services.
- Education and Academic Services - Through collaboration with state and local education agencies, Kinship Navigators assist families in navigating the educational system, connecting them to appropriate resources, and ensuring that children are enrolled in school. Navigators may accompany caregivers to school meetings, such as IEPs. Kinship Navigators may also connect families to academic resources (e.g., tutoring, GED programs, credit recovery programs, college preparatory programs, and educational summer programs).
- Special Events - The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model offers/hosts/facilitates special events that celebrate kinship families (e.g., Grandparent's Day, Kinship Care Month, Back to School, and holiday events)
- Collaboration and Systems Level Efforts - Kinship Navigation Program staff, supervisors, and directors collaborate with local and state agency staff and/or service providers to promote cross-agency training on issues related to kinship families, and ensure that caregivers receive services for which they are eligible.
- Management of Program Data
- Kinship Navigators and support staff collect and enter program and service data, to ensure that reports are completed in an accurate manner and on a timely basis including:
- Services or resources requested and utilized
- Resources and referrals made
- Navigation assessment, plan, and open case record
- Client satisfaction with the assistance provided
- Identification of gaps and barriers to services
- Client outcomes
- Other program reporting requirements
- The Kinship Navigator Program –Family Connections Grantee Model has established Data Sharing Agreements with government agencies and other collaborators in order to obtain client outcome information, such as child maltreatment reports and substantiation rates, access to TANF Child-only, establishment of a legal kinship relationship, etc.
- The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model has hired an external evaluator to support the local evaluation and reporting of the program.
Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Primary caregiver of a relative’s child(ren) who may need referral to additional services and resources
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:
This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model engages other family members, including biological parents, family friends, and community members, as appropriate to support kinship caregivers in maintaining strong family, community, and cultural connections, as well as relationship permanency with important support persons for children in kinship care.
The intensity of services depends on the needs of the kinship family. Typical contact consists of communication with or on behalf of client via telephone, text, or email as needed, a brief office visit with Kinship Navigator (average of 30 minutes), a home visit with Kinship Navigator (average of 1 hour), and the Kinship Navigation Case Opening (average of 1.5 hours). Caregivers can also attend support groups (1-2 hours per session) and education classes (1-2 hours per class), receive legal assistance (30 minutes to 2 hours), and access an online resource portal which is available 24/7 for finding resources. Events, such as Support Groups, Education, and Training Classes may be held weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly, depending on client interest, availability, and program resources.
Duration of services also depends on the needs of the kinship family. An open navigation case can range from 3 months to 2 years.
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Adoptive Home
- Birth Family Home
- Community Agency
- Foster/Kinship Care
- Online via Website
- Kinship Navigator Program office location
- State or local government office location
- Teleconference communication
This program does not include a homework component.
Kinship Navigator Program - Family Connections Grantee Model has materials available in a language other than English:
For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
- Kinship Navigators as well as other designated staff, including program director, coordinators, supervisors, administrative support, and on-site child care providers
- Collaboration with government, public, nonprofit, and private community agencies serving kinship families, through either informal or formal (through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or data sharing agreement)
- Office space, classroom or training space, and childcare space
- Access to interpreters/translation services
- Trainers (subject-matter experts)
- Access to phones, computer, printer, the Internet, and a data management and reporting system
- Access to vehicle(s)
- Recruitment and outreach methods and materials (e.g., flyers or brochures, toll-free caregiver resource line, website, or online resource portal)
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Kinship Navigators should have a Bachelor's-level degree (preferably in social work, human services, or related field) or five years of related experience as a substitute, and two years paid or volunteer experience with families in kinship or foster care placements. Supervisors should have an advanced degree in social services and 2 years related experience.
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to implement this program ; but there is not training available for this program.
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Feldman, L. H., & Fertig, A. (2013). Measuring the impact of enhanced kinship navigator services for informal kinship caregivers using an experimental design. Child Welfare, 92(6), 41-62.
Type of Study:
Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 437
- Age — Caregivers: 30-75 years (Median=51.4-51.7 years), Children: 3-16 years (Median=10.2-10.9 years)
- Race/Ethnicity — Caregiver: 61% African-American, 37% Caucasian, and 2% Multiracial/Other; Children: 60% African-American, 37% Caucasian, and 3% Multiracial/Other
- Gender — Caregiver: 97% Female and 3% Male, Children: 97% Female and 3% Male
- Status — Participants were youth and their foster parent, guardian, or extended family member in the child welfare system.
Location/Institution: Mercer and Ocean County, New Jersey
Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study was designed to test whether more intensive services better met caregiver needs and improved outcomes for the caregiver and their child relative (kin) to the traditional kinship navigator program. Participant families were randomly assigned to either the more intensive, enhanced services group [now called Kinship Navigator Program-Family Connections Grantee Model] or to the traditional brief navigator intervention. Measures utilized include the Family Needs Scale (FNS), the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI), the Stress Index for Parents of Adolescents (SIPA), the Client Satisfaction Question, and the Rand Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey. Administrative data listed referrals involving children after the kinship cases were closed. Results indicate the relative effect of the more intensive intervention was mixed. Caregivers had many of their expressed needs met. Yet, the enhanced services group did not demonstrate: an increase in perceived social support, a reduction in caregiver stress, or an improvement in child behavior compared to the families receiving brief, traditional navigator services. Little difference was found in postintervention involvement in the child welfare system. Limitations included the artificial six-month service window that may be unrealistically short, the failure to capture 14% of the postintervention survey data despite repeated efforts on the part of staff, the lack of direct input from the kin children limiting an understanding of how they were directly impacted, minimal access to administrative data limiting an understanding of referral or placement events, and a short three-year project time frame that did not allow a sufficient interval to track the project families.
Length of postintervention follow-up: 4-6 months.
Littlewood, K. (2015). Kinship Services Network Program: Five-year evaluation of family support and case management for informal kinship families. Children and Youth Services Review, 52, 184-191. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.10.008
Type of Study:
One-group pretest-posttest study
Number of Participants: 2956
- Age — 1-18 years
- Race/Ethnicity — 51% White, 43% Black, African-American, 6% Other
- Gender — 64% Female and 36% Male
- Status — Participants were youth and foster parent, guardian or extended family member in the child welfare system
Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The purpose of the present study is to seek to better understand if a community-based family support program, Kinship Services Network (KSN) [now called Kinship Navigator Program-Family Connections Grantee Model], can improve the social support and family resource needs for kinship families and promote safety and permanence for children in informal kinship placements at a low cost. Measures utilized include the Family Support Scale (FSS) and the Family Resource Scale (FRS). Administrative data was used to determine whether children of all participants remained in the care of a relative twelve months after program completion. Cost estimates were used to compare the costs for several placement options for children. Additionally, a case example is used to illustrate program implementation. Results indicate participants in the program improved their adequacy of social support and improved family resource needs. Ninety-nine percent of participants' children did not enter the child welfare system at twelve-month follow-up, showing placement stability and child safety. KSN cost of service is less than half the costs associated with adjudicating a child dependent. Nonrelative foster care is 6× (six times) and residential group care is more than 21× (twenty-one times) as expensive as the KSN Program. Limitations included lack of control group and results may not be generalizable to other population of youth in foster care.
Length of postintervention follow-up: 12 months.
The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey. (2012). Kinship Cares final report. Trenton, NJ: Author.
LeCroy & Milligan Associates. (2015). Arizona Kinship Support Services final progress report. Tucson, AZ: LeCroy & Milligan Associates and Arizona’s Children Association.
New York State Kinship Navigator. (2016). NYS Kinship Navigator Federal Demonstration Project. Albany, NY: Author.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: August 2018
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2018
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2018