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Kinship Care experiences

State of the nation survey 2019

Annual research from Grandparents Plus to understand the experiences of kinship carers, including kinship foster carers, and kinship carers for children with special guardianship orders, child arrangement orders and informal kinship carers. 

Growing up in Kinship Care: Experiences as Adolescents and Outcomes in Young Adulthood

Led by Professor Elaine Farmer, this the first study on the outcomes in early adulthood of children brought up in kinship care.


There an estimated 200,000 children growing up in kinship care in the UK. This number is based on a Bristol University analysis of 2011 census data, which showed 180,000 children living with a relative, and includes an assumption about the numbers living with non-relatives such as godparents and family friends. Children in kinship care are relatively invisible as a group because the government does not keep up to date data about them. They can have a variety of legal orders, and some may be in informal arrangements, which makes a comprehensive analysis of trends difficult. 

However, through analysing the data for different legal orders we know that the number of children with care orders (ie in family and friends foster care) and special guardianship orders has been rising. 

The prevalence and characteristics of children growing up with relatives in the UK

This paper by Dinithi Wijedasa from the Hadley Centre for Adoption & Foster Care Studies and the University of Bristol looks at the characteristics of children in kinship care, and includes a breakdown of the numbers of children in kinship care by region in Appendix A.

Fostering statistics

Fostering in England statistics for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. These statistics show an increasing number of family and friends foster carers who are 

  • 16% of all fostering households
  • 24% of LA fostering households
  • 58% newly approved LA fostering households

Looked after children

Statistics on children under local authority care at national and local authority level. These statistics show that more children left care on a Special Guardianship Order than an Adoption Order

  • 3,830 SGO (up 11%) – 90% to live with kinship carers
  • 3,570 adoption order (down 7%)


Ombudsman challenges councils to ensure appropriate support provided for special guardians

The advice comes following publication of the Ombudsman’s report, ‘Firm Foundations’ which highlights the variety of problems faced by special guardians in seven out of 10 complaints it upholds about councils on this subject. There is a link to the 'Firm Foundations' report in this story.

Research and evidence 

Rapid Evidence Review on Special Guardianship

New evidence review of special guardianship which calls for reform of special guardianship to protect and support children and their carers. It was commissioned by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory in response to the Court of Appeal’s call for authoritative, evidence-based guidance for the use of SGOs. The review was led by Dr John Simmonds from CoramBAAF and Professor Judith Harwin from Lancaster University. This project was prompted by the judgment of Re P-S handed down by the Court of Appeal in 2018. 

A presentation by Mike King from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Listening to special guardians: priority messages from research for assessments and court

A presentation by Judith Harwin, Professor in Socio-Legal Studies and Co-director at the Centre for Child & Family Justice Research into special guardians views of assessment and court processes 

A brief overview of research by Paul McGrath from the School of Social Work at the University of East Anglia.

The role of Virtual School Heads

A presentation by Sally Kelly, Head of Virtual School for Looked After Children and Care leavers, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, that looks at how virtual school heads can support children in kinship care with their education.

The Adoption Support Fund

Information by Vas Patel from the Department for Education about the adoption support fund and how it can support special guardians. 

What matters to children in kinship care

A presentation by Paul Shuttleworth, a researcher at Sussex University