Standards for private organizations

2021 Edition

Family Foster Care and Kinship Care Definition


Children in Family Foster Care and Kinship Care live in safe, stable, nurturing, and often temporary family settings that best provide the continuity of care to preserve relationships, promote well-being, and ensure permanency.


Family Foster Care and Kinship Care Programs work with parents, children, and caregivers to provide children with safe, stable, nurturing, and often temporary care in family settings, that promotes well-being and ensures strong connections with family, peers, and community. When children are separated from their families due to maltreatment or other family circumstances, services and supports are provided to facilitate reunification and stability, and ensure that all children have permanent living arrangements as well as safe and nurturing relationships that will endure over time.
Family Foster Care is provided by foster parents who volunteer to bring children into their families and give them opportunities for family and community living. Foster parents are recruited, assessed, selected, credentialed, trained, and retained for this voluntary role. Foster parents always care for children in the custody of the local child welfare agency and serve as partners in child protection, well-being, and permanency.

Kinship Care is the full-time care of children by relatives, members of tribes or clans, or anyone to whom a family relationship is ascribed. Kinship caregivers may provide care through arrangements made privately or informally in the family, or through arrangements made with the involvement and oversight of the local child welfare agency. In some jurisdictions or circumstances kin may serve as foster parents. Kinship care builds on the strengths of family relationships and ensures children’s continued connections to their family networks and community supports, while recognizing that the entire family (children, parents, and kinship caregivers) may need an array of services. Their natural role, the dynamics of family relationships, and the strengths and needs of kin requires that organizations form strong collaborations with kinship caregivers in order to best promote permanency and the preservation of families.
Treatment Foster Care provides a therapeutic family environment and intensive clinical services for children whose medical, developmental, or psychiatric needs cannot be met in traditional family foster care, or who may be transitioning from a more intensive care setting, such as residential treatment, the juvenile justice system, or a hospital. With the support of a multidisciplinary treatment team, specially trained resource families provide nurturing care and treatment-based interventions that promote improved functioning. In some jurisdictions, treatment foster parents may be paid professionals, or kin may serve as treatment foster parents. Children may have: severe emotional or behavioral disturbances; physical or intellectual and developmental disabilities; severe or life threatening illnesses; or conditions that require the routine use of a medical device and/or daily ongoing care or monitoring.

Transitional Foster Care programs for unaccompanied minors are short-term, licensed foster care programs housing children under the age of 18.  These programs are an alternative to large shelters and services are provided until children can be reunified with their families, a sponsor is identified, or in some cases, the child is moved to traditional foster care.

Standards Assignment Criteria

The Family Foster Care and Kinship Care Standards accommodate an array of programs that support and empower families when children are in need of temporary care in a family environment, including: 
  • Family Foster Care Services
  • Treatment Foster Care Services
  • Foster to Adoption Services
  • Family Foster Care Case Management Services
  • Family Foster Care Home Services
  • Formal and informal Kinship Care Services
  • Transitional Foster Care for Unaccompanied Minors
The way in which the standards are applied and implemented will depend on the type of service and targeted service recipients, as well as the organization's role and responsibilities as defined by the local child welfare agency. Please refer to the Family Foster Care and Kinship Care (FKC) Standards Assignment Criteria Chart for a list of applicable standards by program model. 


Organizations should be familiar with the relevant legal requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which govern child welfare proceedings involving American Indian and Alaska Native children in state child welfare systems. To ensure compliance with ICWA, organizations must have established procedures for determining if children are members or eligible for membership in a federally recognized-tribe, include tribal representatives throughout all aspects of service delivery in cases to which ICWA applies, and collaborate with local child welfare agencies to determine their role in the context of tribal-state child welfare agreements, ICWA, and any relevant state laws pertaining specifically to Indian child welfare.


Viewing: FKC - Family Foster Care and Kinship Care


Note: The following definitions apply throughout this section of standards:
  • The term “children” includes infants, toddlers, school-age children, and youth, including youth in care after age 18. The term “youth” is used only when standards refer directly to services for older children, generally 14 years old and up. 
  • The terms “parent” and “family” typically refer to a child’s birth parents and/or family of origin, but can also refer to anyone who is the child’s guardian or primary caregiver prior to child welfare involvement. For example, while core concepts addressing “Services for Parents” and “Family Reunification” are typically for birth parents, they can also be applicable to other primary caregivers from whom the child was separated due to maltreatment concerns. “Parent” and “family” are also used to refer to adoptive parents and families and legal guardians in the core concepts that refer to expectations and supports for these families. However, the term “family” is typically not intended to include “resource families,” which are defined separately below, except when referencing the extended family that may include related kinship caregivers. 
  • The terms “resource parent” and “resource family” refer to foster parents, formal and informal kinship caregivers, and treatment foster parents. When standards address practice requirements relevant only to certain sub-groups of resource parents (e.g., kinship caregivers, or treatment foster parents), this is indicated in the language of the standard.
Note: Please see the FKC Reference List for the research that informed the development of these standards. 

Note: For information about changes made in the 2020 Edition, please see the FKC Crosswalk.