Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Jean East, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lynn Parker

Third Advisor

Kathleen Ohman

Fourth Advisor

Shelly Smith-Acuna


Informal kinship care, Kinship care, Child custody


Informal kinship caregivers take on the responsibility of raising a relative's children in situations where those children cannot remain with their parents and are not in the custody of child welfare. The phenomenon is increasing; however it is difficult to obtain information from these families because of the difficulty locating them. As a result, there is limited research on this specific group of kinship care families. The purpose of this study was exploratory, using qualitative methods to gather information from informal kinship caregivers about their experiences caring for a relative's children, with a focus on the rewards and challenges within those experiences. A second purpose was to enable participants to tell their stories so that information could be used by practitioners and policymakers. The 14 participants in this study described a path to informal kinship care that began with precipitating events that resulted in the children’s not being able to live with their parents, followed by the decision to provide care, and then the quest to obtain legal custody of them. The caregivers next began a journey through the experiences of being informal kinship caregivers, which included both rewards and challenges. Four themes emerged to characterize those rewards and challenges: experiences with family, experiences with systems, financial experiences, and emotional experiences. Participants provided recommendations for both practitioners and policymakers, which included requests for more recognition and respect as well as more emotional, social, legal, and financial support. Despite all the difficulties, none of the participants regretted their decision to care for their relative's children.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Betsy Hay


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

183 p.


Social work

Included in

Social Work Commons