4527. Kinship Care: Searching for, Placing with, and Supporting Relatives and Suitable Other Persons

Original Date:  April 15, 2008

Revised Date: June 9, 2022

Sunset Review Date: June 30, 2026

Approved by: Frank Ordway, Chief of Staff

Policy Update Memo Effective July 1, 2023 - Initial License

Policy Update Memo Effective July 1, 2023


This policy provides direction for Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) child welfare employees in searching for, notifying, placing, and supporting children when they are placed in out-of-home care with kinship caregivers. Federal and state laws give priority to placing with kinship caregivers absent child safety and welfare concerns.


This policy applies to child welfare employees.


RCW 13.34.060 Shelter care-Placement-Custody-Duties of Parties

RCW 13.34.065 Shelter care-Notice of Custody and Rights

RCW 13.34.130 Order of disposition for a dependent child, alternatives-Petition seeking termination of parent-child relationship-Placement with relatives, foster family home, group care facility, or other suitable persons-Placement of an Indian child in out-of-home care-Contact with siblings.

RCW 13.38.030 Findings and Intent

RCW 26.44.240 Out-of-home care-Emergency Placement-Criminal History Check

RCW 74.15.020 Definition of Relative

PL 110-351  Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act


Kinship caregivers are relatives or suitable other persons.

A relative is defined as any of the following:

  1. A blood relative, including those of half-blood and including first cousins, second cousins, nephews or nieces, and persons of preceding generations as defined by prefixes of grand, great, or great-great. Also included are presumed parents, stepparents, stepbrothers or stepsisters.
  2. A person who legally adopts a child or the child's parent as well as the natural and adopted children of such persons, and other relatives of the adoptive parents in accordance with law.
  3. A spouse of any relative, even after a divorce.
  4. A relative of any half sibling of the child.
  5. An “Indian child’s family” or “extended family member” is defined as follows: an individual, defined by the law or custom of the child’s tribe, as a relative of the child. If the child’s tribe does not identify such individuals by law or custom, the term means an adult who is the Indian child’s grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, first or second cousin, or stepparent, even following termination of the marriage.”

A suitable person is a person:

  1. Who has a preexisting relationship with the child or family;
  2. With whom the child is comfortable;
  3. Who is available and willing to safely care for and nurture the child; and
  4. Who has passed all the required background and Child Protective Services checks.


  1. Efforts to search for relatives must occur when:
    1. A child:
      1. Is placed in out-of-home care
      2. Disrupts from placement or re-enters out-of-home care
    2. Twelve months have passed since the previous relative search and the child is not currently placed in kinship care.
    3. Paternity has been established or is presumed.
  2. Searching for Relatives
    1. The Relative Search Unit (RSU) must:
      1. Review new placements in FamLink, and initiate relative search letters to identified relatives.
      2. Contact the caseworker when the initial placement is with a kinship caregiver to learn if the relative placement is stable, or if a relative search is still needed.
      3. Complete the Relative Search Tracking DCYF 10-544 form with all relatives identified through the relative search activities.
    2. The assigned caseworker or designee must:
      1. Review relative search results from RSU to identify and engage relatives for placement, support, and connections for the children throughout the life of the case, including legally-free children.
      2. Contact the RSU whenever a relative search is needed.
      3. Conduct an ongoing search for relatives when a child is not placed with a relative.
      4. Discontinue relative search only when a permanent plan for the child has been completed.
      5. Confirm paternity via the birth certificate, the office of Child Support Enforcement, or a paternity affidavit entered into court. Ensure proof of paternity is uploaded in the case file.
      6. Contact or review the following resources to identify relatives:
        1. Parent, child, and known relatives.
        2. School employees, medical providers, faith-based community members, Guardians ad Litem (GAL), etc.
        3. Databases accessible to DCYF including Automated Client Eligibility System (ACES), Department of Licensing, Client Registry and Barcode, and Department of Health.
        4. Other divisions within the Department of Social and Health Services agencies, e.g., Support Enforcement and Community Service Office.
        5. For cases that have paternity established at a later date, send a completed Extended Relative Search Referral DCYF 15-457 form to the RSU within five calendar days of learning that paternity was established.
      7. When a child is an Indian child, follow Indian Child Welfare Manual Chapter 7 Indian Child Placement Preferences and Relative Search
      8. When a child is legally free, consult an adoption worker before searching for relatives, and follow 4350 Status of Relatives of Specified Degree with Legally Free Children policy.
  3. Notifying Relatives
    1. The RSU must:
      1. Send the Relative Inquiry DCYF 09-134 form to all relatives identified on the Relative Search Tracking DCYF 10-544 form. The letter must be sent within 30 days of the child being placed in out-of-home care, absent known restraining orders which are documented in FamLink.
      2. Track and document the relative’s response to the letter on the Placement/Relative Screen tab in FamLink.
      3. Notify the caseworker with the names of relatives who have been identified as a potential placement or support resource.
    2. The caseworker or designee must:
      1. Notify known relatives when a child is initially placed in out-of-home care within 30 days absent a verified No Contact Order.
      2. Notify known relatives assessed as suitable and competent per Placement Out-of-Home and Conditions for Return Home policy and continue relative search when a child disrupts from placement, re-enters out-of-home care, or requires a higher level of care.
      3. The initial notification must include the following information:
        1. The child has been or is being removed from the custody of the parent.
        2. The relative has the option per federal and state law to participate in the care and placement of the child. Their options may be lost due to failure to respond to the notice.
        3. How to become a licensed foster family home and the additional services and supports available for the child placed in licensed care.
        4. The Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (R-GAP), the R-GAP Agreement DCYF 15-391 form and possible R-GAP subsidy if the relative is licensed prior to the establishment of the guardianship.
      4. Track and document the relative’s response to the letter on the Placement/Relative Screen tab in FamLink.
      5. Update the Relative Search screen in FamLink when new information is received.
  4. Documenting Relative Search Activities
    1. The assigned caseworker or designee must document the following activities on the Relative Search Screen or in a case note:
      1. Each kinship caregiver’s decision to be a placement option, or to provide support, e.g., respite, transportation or help with family time or sibling and relative visitation.
      2. Any other relatives identified as placement or support resources.
      3. Reasons for decisions to not place with identified and willing kinship caregivers.
    2. During monthly case review, the assigned supervisor will review and assess:
      1. The status of the relative search.
      2. Relative Search documentation in FamLink.
  5. Placing with Kinship Caregivers (Relatives and Suitable Others)
    The caseworker must:
    1. Prioritize kinship placements as long as there are no safety concerns. Make placement decisions according to the best interest of the child per Placement Out-of-Home and Conditions for Return Home policy.
    2. Follow the Interstate Compact Placement (ICPC) policy if a kinship caregiver resides outside of Washington State.
    3. Verify the completion of required activities per the Placements with Unlicensed Relatives or Suitable Persons policy, including: 
      1. Background Check Authorization DCYF 09-653 form for all household members age 16 and older per Background Checks policy. 
      2. Child Protective Services (CPS) history checks for each household member.
      3. Character, competence and suitability assessment per the Background Checks policy for each kinship caregiver who want to be a placement resource.
      4. Kinship caregiver’s ability and willingness to:
        1. Provide a safe home and safe sleep environment for the child.
        2. Meet the child’s on-going basic and special needs.
        3. Meet the cultural needs of the child.
        4. Cooperate with the case plan and make the child available for court ordered family time and visitation with siblings.
      5. Walkthrough of the kinship caregiver’s home and property and complete the Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DCYF 10-453 form.  
      6. Home Study referral before placement, or within 30 calendar days of the start of an emergent placement. A referral must be made regardless of whether the kinship caregiver wishes to be licensed, and is completed by submitting the following to Licensing Division (LD):
        1. Completed Family Home Study Application DCYF 10-354 form.
        2. Background check results.
    4. Invite each kinship caregiver or prospective kinship caregiver to Family Team Decision Making Meetings (FTDM’s) per the Shared Planning Meetings policy.  
  6. Supporting Kinship Care Placements.
    The assigned caseworker must:
    1. Provide the following resource information at placement, or within three calendar days of an emergent placement:
      1. The completed Relative Placement Packet, Child Information and Placement Referral (CHIPR) DCYF 15-300 form, and other requirements per the Notification of Court Hearings, Providing Reports to Court, and Information Sharing with Out-of-Home Caregivers policy.
      2. Available Financial Resources
        1. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits through the Community Services Office (CSO) that include child only grants.
        2. Foster care payments for kinship caregivers who become licensed.
        3. RGAP subsidy.
        4. Social Security Income and Social Security Assistance.
        5. Federal funding, for proper eligibility determination
        6. Kinship care support funds available to assist with placement of the child in kinship care.
        7. Clothing vouchers
        8. Caregiver transportation and mileage reimbursement
      3. Training
        1. Kinship 101: Supports and Resources for Kinship Caregivers available through the Alliance for Child Welfare.
        2. Other trainings focused on behavioral interventions and more at www.allianceforchildwelfare.org
    2. Use Kinship Care Support funds per the Concrete Goods policy to provide goods and services to meet the needs of children in unlicensed kinship care or assist kin with removing barriers to home study or foster care license.
    3. Continue to assess the kinship caregiver’s ability to provide safe care and permanency to the child, as well as their need for services on an on-going basis.


Application for Benefits DSHS 14-001

Background Check Authorization DCYF 09-653

Child Information and Placement Referral (CHIPR) DCYF 15-300

Extended Relative Search Referral DCYF 15-457 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

Family Home Study Application DCYF 10-354

Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DCYF 10-453

Relative Inquiry DCYF 09-134 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

Relative Search Tracking DCYF 10-544 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

R-GAP Agreement DCYF 15-391 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)


Placement Packet (located on the DCYF intranet)