I started at Grandparents Plus a month ago and I must confess, in preparation for the original job interview, I had to google what a kinship carer was. I learnt that they represent anyone that steps in to raise a child when their parent or guardian is unable to do so – from grandparents and siblings, to aunts, uncles and family friends. When I researched further, I was surprised how little I knew about this world, particularly as I’d worked in social work organisations over the last four years.
Since starting, I’ve had inductions with a whole host of incredibly knowledgeable colleagues, who have kindly got me up to speed with the very challenging context behind kinship care. I thought it’d be good to share some of the stats and figures that most surprised me, with a view to helping others understand why charities like Grandparents Plus are so essential in providing the support and guidance that carers and their families need.
- It is estimated that 200,000 children are growing up in kinship care in the UK. This is almost three times the number of children that are in foster care.
- The most common reason for children ending up in kinship care is drug and alcohol misuse among parents. Domestic violence, parental death and parents being sent to prison are also common reasons.
- Kinship carers are generally older, poorer and in worse health than the average parent.
- The legal complexities of kinship care are such that kinship carers often have different legal statuses with each child in their care. One may be under a special guardianship order, another under foster care, another fully adopted and another under an informal arrangement. All of these children will receive different levels of support from the state, despite having the same early childhood experiences.
- Over a quarter of kinship carers are siblings of the children they’re looking after. They have often had to drop out of university, leave jobs and move back to the family home.
- Kinship carers often don’t know what benefits they have access to. This is partly because only 5% receive any preparation training in kinship care before they take over responsibility for the children.
- Kinship carers are often afraid to engage with statutory services, concerned that children may be taken away or the parents will face criminal charges.
- Approximately 1 in 74 children in the UK have a kinship carer as their main guardian. However, prevalence is twice as high among those from BME backgrounds.
If reading this has spurred you into action, please do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Get Involved page to look into further opportunities to volunteer, campaign and fundraise for us.