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Throughout this website and our resources, we use the terms “kinship/grandfamilies,” “grandfamilies,” and “kinship families” to refer to all families in which grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends are raising children whose parents are unable to do so.

To refer to the people who raise children in kinship/grandfamilies – whether they are grandparents, other family members, close family friends, or other individuals with a preexisting relationship with the family or the child – we use the terms “kin/grandfamily caregivers,” “grandfamily caregivers,” and “kin caregivers.”

From our perspective, the three terms for the families are all interchangeable, as are the three terms for the caregivers. We respect and understand that different families and professionals have different preferences, levels of familiarity, and feelings regarding the various terms, and that these preferences and feelings may be extremely personal and deeply held and/or based on cultural traditions. We also understand that different states, agencies, and organizations may use different terms. There is no easy, one-size-fits-all term that is accepted nationally, and we strive to be consistent while remaining open and flexible enough to meet and reflect the values of different cultural communities.

In most of our work, we do not use the term “relative caregiver” to refer to all kin/grandfamily caregivers, as some caregivers (such as godparents, other close family friends, coaches, and teachers who step up to raise children) are not relatives in the mainstream understanding of the word “relative.” Our decisions regarding terminology come out of an effort to ensure that all caregivers and kinship/grandfamilies are seen and included in our work. That same effort led to a different result for our work that is geared specifically towards Native communities and the professionals who work with Native families. In Native communities, the most widely recognized and appropriate term for the caregivers in these families is “relative caregivers,” because the term “relative” applies to everyone in their community and is a meaningful part of community life. As a result, we primarily use the term “relative caregivers” in resources that are focused on Native communities and families. When the term “relative caregiver” appears in our work outside of Native contexts, it indicates that the specific program, service, or policy under discussion is only for families that are led by a relative in the mainstream understanding of that term.

To promote clarity and understanding, all of our resources, with the exception of our monthly two-pagers and our write-ups of programs receiving our Exemplary Kinship Program designation, include a brief explanation of the terms used within them.