Op-ed: Kinship caregiving prioritizes wellbeing of Philadelphia children

Summer camp begins in Philadelphia
Children play at Ferko Playground in Philadelphia.
REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Fundamental to our work at the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) is the belief that children deserve to live with their own family and in their own communities. When children cannot safely reside in their own home, it is our driving mission to find “kin” who are able to provide a safe and loving home. At Philadelphia DHS, we use a broad definition of “kin”—this can be grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, or even a sports coach or teacher.

This September, Philadelphia DHS was proud to celebrate Kinship Care Month, recognizing the thousands of current and former kinship caregivers who stepped in when needed during a critical time to care for children in their family and community. We thank you for your selfless choice to care for young, loved ones. Your willingness to care, gives children the opportunity to retain a sense of family, cultural heritage, and community ties. Additionally, the ability to stay with familiar family and community helps to reduce trauma and increases social and emotional well-being.

Federal statistics show that 32 percent of all children in foster care are in kinship care. I am proud to say that Philadelphia is well above the national benchmark, as more than 51 percent of children in foster care live with kin.

Building long term family connections is vital to the well-being of children. I am hopeful that with our continued hard work, outreach, and dedication, we as a system, will continue to increase the number of Philadelphia families willing to be kinship caregivers for our children and youth.

Philadelphia DHS is thrilled to see federal and state legislators, local departments of social services, providers, communities, and families embrace kinship care. We must all work together to truly transform the system.

And making kinship care a higher priority – such as Philadelphia has done – when assessing a child’s options is a great first step. While it is by no means the sole solution to the challenges that the complex child welfare system faces, kinship care holds promise in providing better outcomes for children.

The greatest beneficiary of kinship care is children themselves.

This is our chance to step in to support our Philadelphia Children during their challenging times.

Whether you choose to open your home through kinship care or foster care, you can learn more at phila.gov/fosteringphilly.

Kimberly Ali is commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.