Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Anna Zajicek

Committee Member

Jennifer Henk

Second Committee Member

Yvette Murphy-Erby

Keywords

Social sciences; Kinship care families; Relative caregivers

Abstract

Only 12 children of the 45,000 of children being raised by guardians in Arkansas have become participants in the Arkansas Subsidized Guardianship Program. The program, enacted by the Arkansas Legislature in 2011, could potentially help low-income grandparents meet the financial burdens of raising a child, thus creating another avenue of permanency for children within the Arkansas Department of Family Services (DCFS). This research sought to identify what barriers may exist to dissuade participation in the subsidized guardianship program in Arkansas using the theoretical base of Intersectionality. To answer this question the investigator conducted in person interviews with DCFS administrators, and nonprofit leaders, two focus groups with kinship care grandmothers in two areas of the state, and two online surveys with licensed Social workers and DCFS staff members. For relative caregivers as well as the leaders of the nonprofit groups serving them, the largest obstacle was lack of knowledge of the program. However, despite the relative caregivers’ lack of knowledge of this program, they all reported they were completely unwilling to participate in the formal foster care system. The exploratory findings suggest a need for the child welfare system to (a) hear the voices and concerns of kinship care families, (b) better educate all stakeholders about the program, and (c) investigate the origin of distrust expressed about DCFS by kinship caregivers. Further investigation should be done to determine whether three of the associations found can be generalizable to a wider population: (a) for these grandparents, the experience of raising a grandchild created a bond that appeared to superseded racial labels, location, and other identity categories, (b) African American grandmothers did not work within the Social welfare system as often as did the Caucasian grandparents, and (c) African American kinship care grandmothers were more likely than Caucasian grandparents to experience structural institutional barriers when turning to schools and doctors as trusted professionals. Of the DCFS caseworkers and Social workers participating in surveys, only 23% said they were familiar with the program. This points to a lack of Social worker awareness of the program.

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