Kinship care is when a child lives full-time or most of the time with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent, usually because their parents aren’t able to care for them. That relative or friend is called a ‘kinship carer’, and it’s estimated that around half of kinship carers are grandparents, but many other relatives including older siblings, aunts, uncles, as well as family friends and neighbours can also be kinship carers.
There are lots of different types of kinship care, and if you’re a kinship carer, you might find that as circumstances change the type of kinship carer you are changes too. Kinship care includes children who may be:
- living in an informal arrangement made by their parents
- ‘looked after’ by the local authority and placed with kinship foster carers
- on a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order.
Kinship carers are also often referred to as ‘family and friends carers’ or ‘connected people’ by local authorities and in official documents.
Why are children in kinship care?
Most children are in kinship care because their parents aren’t able to care for them. Our research shows that around half of children (52%) are in kinship care as a result of parental drug or alcohol misuse, although other reasons include bereavement, imprisonment, parental abuse or neglect and parental ill health.
Almost half of children in kinship care have some kind of special needs (49%), most commonly emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Is kinship care better for children?
There are clear benefits to children if they’re kept within their family network. Research shows that children in kinship care benefit from increased placement stability compared to children in local authority care, and are able to maintain family relationships. Even so, many children who go to live with kinship carers have had a very difficult start in life, and their behaviour is often greatly affected by past experiences.
What support is available for kinship carers?
The support available to kinship carers from local authorities and statutory services varies enormously. A good place to start is here, or you can contact our advice service on 0300 123 7015 to find out what might be available in your situation.