When Interacting with Kin for the First Time, Be Gentle
Instead of focusing on whether newfound kin can serve as a placement, and moving right on to the next potential kin if they can’t, use gentler techniques to engage family members from the start.
Who Can Do This?:
The Problem It Solves
Some kinship connections are permanently lost when an initial contact feels too overwhelming or demanding. For some connections, they are learning they have a family member for the first time and simultaneously being asked to serve as their placement - which is a lot to take in.
How To Do This
- Develop a list of guiding questions for workers making contact with kin. Start with smaller asks, especially if the kin is just learning about the child or has not been in touch for some time. One worker suggests asking, “Do you have a family photo you could send?” as an easy initial ask.
- Don’t limit initial contacts to placement discussions. Even if a child urgently needs placement today, in the long-term, they also need a support network. While it’s okay to mention placement if it’s an immediate need, initial contacts should include other ways to engage, such as attending the next planning meeting, sending a letter, or agreeing to a visit. Make a plan to stay in touch.
While we don’t have exact data for this play, anecdotal data from our members suggests that many kin who aren’t placements on day one eventually serve as placements and/or supportive connections later on.
Who’s Doing This?
- Michigan explicitly asks identified kin to commit to staying in touch with youth on their Relative Notification Form