Kinship Care

Older woman sitting on couch and reading a book to two children



Kinship care in the foster care system refers to the care of children by relatives and is also referred to as formal kinship care. In California’s foster care system, kinship care also includes nonrelative extended family members (NREFMs), often referred to as “fictive kin.” Relatives are the preferred resource for children who are unable to reside with their birth parents because it maintains the children's connections with their families.

A "relative" means an adult who is related to the child by blood, adoption, or affinity within the fifth degree of kinship, including stepparents, stepsiblings, and all relatives whose status is preceded by the words "great," "great-great," or "grand," or the spouse of any of these persons, even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution.

In California, a relative could also be a "nonrelative extended family member" (NREFM), which is defined as an adult caregiver who has an established familial relationship with a relative of the child or a familial or mentoring relationship with the child. The county welfare department verifies the existence of a relationship through interviews with the parent and child or with one or more third parties. The parties may include relatives of the child, teachers, medical professionals, clergy, neighbors, and family friends.

Stick figure family of four holding hands

Placement with Relatives

If a child is removed from the care of his or her parent(s), the social worker must conduct, within 30 days, an investigation in order to identify and locate all grandparents, parents of a sibling of the child (if the parent has legal custody of the sibling), adult siblings, and other adult relatives of the child, including any other adult relatives suggested by the parents. Counties must provide all identified relatives with written and oral notification unless notification is inappropriate due to the relative’s history of family or domestic violence.

In any case in which a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents, preferential consideration is required to be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child with the relative, regardless of the relative’s immigration status.

Emergency Placement

If a relative or NREFM is available and requests emergency placement of a child who is removed from the custody of his or her parents, the county welfare department is required to initiate an assessment of the relative’s or NREFM’s suitability for emergency placement.

If the relative or NREFM meets the criteria for placement prior to approval, the child may be placed in the home on an emergency basis upon completion of the assessment. This allows children to be placed with family members pending approval as a Resource Family. If an emergency placement occurs, the relative or NREFM is required to submit a Resource Family Approval (RFA) application and initiate the home environment assessment no later than five business days after the placement. (Please refer to the RFA webpage for more information on the approval process and requirements.)

It is important to remember the following:

  • Placement determinations are separate from approval as a Resource Family. If a relative or NREFM home is approved as a Resource Family, the social worker and court must consider specific factors when determining whether the relative is the best placement option for the child.
  • Approval of a resource family does not guarantee an initial, continued, or adoptive placement of a child.
  • Assessment of relatives are not limited to a particular timeframe prior to the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).

Resources and Information

For more information, please refer to the following All County Letters (ACLs):

ACL 18-42: Family Finding and Engagement (FFE)

ACL 17-65: Juvenile Court Findings of Due Diligence by Social Workers in Identifying, Locating and Notifying a Dependent Child’s Relatives; Assessing Relatives for Placement of a Dependent Child

ACL 09-86: Notification of Relatives

You may also refer to the Kinship Support Resources webpage for information on available supports and resources.

These resources also provide various types of non-financial support to those relative caregivers and children who are not dependents of the juvenile court (e.g. not in foster care), also referred to as “informal kinship care.” Informal relative caregivers can also refer to the CalWORKs site for more information on financial assistance through CalWORKs payments (TANF) as a non-needy relative. Relatives may be able to apply online at Benefitscal.org or contact the social services agency within their county.

To obtain in person or online assistance for Kinship Caregivers or Previous and Current Foster Youth, please visit: California Kinship Navigator.

For Additional Information:

Foster Caregiver Policy and Support Unit
744 P Street, MS 8-13-78
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-7465
CaregiversForYouth@dss.ca.gov

Contact Us

Foster Caregiver Policy and Support Unit
744 P Street, MS 8-13-78
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-7465
Contact Your County