Why is this needed?
As the number of Special Guardianship Order (SGO) placements increases, the need to evaluate the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of assessment and support services becomes more urgent.
Research perspective (See also section one)
“What is the stability of special guardianship placements and their disruption rates?
“Special guardianship is a stable option when measured by return of the child to local authority care or by being made subject to further care proceedings. Within five years of the making of the Order:
- For every 100 children placed, approximately five children are at risk of being subject to return to local authority care or further care proceedings.
- The disruption rate is lower than for Child Arrangement Orders (approximately 15 children per 100) but higher than for adoption (7 per 1,000). (Note – as measured over the first 5 years of placement)
Risk and protective factors in promoting stability
- Children aged four or above when the Order is made are at greater risk of re-entering local authority care and/or returning to court for further care proceedings than children who are aged under four.
- Emotional and behavioural difficulties increase the risk of SGO disruption.
- The risk of return to local authority care increases for children placed with unrelated carers and the number of moves the child experienced prior to the making of the SGO.
- The risk of return to court for further care proceedings increases for children who are placed on an SGO and have a Supervision Order made at the same time. It is unclear whether this is because the placement is more vulnerable in the first place or because it is monitored more closely, or whether it is a combination of both factors.
- Poor integration of the child into the family is associated with disruption.”
“Children scored more highly for family integration where:
- They had fewer emotional and behavioural difficulties;
- Guardians felt they had been well prepared for their role;
- Greater support was available from the guardian’s immediate birth family;
- And where frequency of contact with birth mothers was lower.”
“The presence of more serious emotional and behavioural difficulties was an important predictor of all three outcomes. These children were tending to fare worse across the board and guardians coping with the highly challenging behaviour of some children were amongst those experiencing most overall strain and anxiety. One-quarter of children scored above the threshold for clinical symptoms on the SDQ. While this is lower than one recent study of long-term fostered and adopted children (Biehal et al., 2010), it is almost 2.5 times higher than the child population at large (Goodman, 1997).”
Examples of approaches currently being taken (See also section one)
A number of programmes and services delivered by Grandparents Plus have been independently evaluated:
- An interim external evaluation of the Kinship Connected Programme showed a positive shift in kinship carers’ confidence in their parenting role ‘all of the time’ from 38% to 60%. This is part of an ongoing programme.
- A small-scale evaluation of the Kinship Connected Programme in North London showed that all of the special guardians reported the quality of the support they received was either excellent or good
- The Kinship Ready programme, which has been piloted, has also received a small-scale evaluation. 85% of attendees would recommend the event to other special guardians or prospective special guardians. An internal survey of clients who had used their advice line was undertaken in 2018-19. 91% of clients found the advice they had been given was helpful with 66% rating it 5/5
Kinship Carers Liverpool (2018) have had their services externally evaluated by an independent evaluation consultant Jane Hobson (Kinship Carers Liverpool 2018, unpublished)
“When asked about their perceptions of the outcomes of involvement on their own health and wellbeing – very high levels of impact were recorded. Many commented on the positive impact involvement with the residential trips and diversionary activities, the Intergenerational Activities and Family Support has had on how their family communicates and gets on together.
“In the evaluation focus groups and arts-based work, many carers described Kinship Carers as providing a vital life-line to them through a very wide range of activities. A key issue for most carers is the lack of awareness of most people of the complexities of being a kinship carer. Kinship Carers Liverpool brought them into contact with support workers and peers – other carers – who do understand and who have experienced it for themselves – and this trust and acceptance of their situations was the starting point for working with Kinship Carers. In turn, this enabled them to move forward and to survive as a family unit.”
Kirklees – All carers complete a feedback form when they have attended the support group, and this is being expanded to include feedback at case closure.
- Uses a Goal Based Outcomes approach to measure the impact of interventions from the child’s perspective
- Complete SDQ’s (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires) & PSOC’s (Parenting Scales of Competence) as measures pre, midway and post engagement.
- PSI (Parenting Stress Index) and TSCC (Trauma Symptom Checklist for children) are also used
- Feedback is gathered from support groups.
“The most marked gaps in knowledge relate to children’s developmental outcomes and experiences and how to effectively manage contact.” (Nuffield 2019 p16)
This is also true in the international context; “the majority of evaluative studies do not consider intervention effects separately for kinship and non-kinship foster carers, hence it is difficult to ascertain the impact on different types of carers or placements. Where interventions specific to kinship care have been developed, evaluative evidence is far less well advanced than for foster care. In addition, more interventions have been evaluated regarding younger children than for children aged 10 to 15, despite the fact that this latter group comprises the largest proportion of children who stay in care in many international contexts.” (Nuffield 2019c)
For SG children (as with adopted children) there is a lack of agreement on how to measure success and almost no data is collected at national level to demonstrate outcomes. A national data set for children with an SGO is overdue. This would greatly assist monitoring and evaluation at a local level and contribute to the case for investment in support services. However, at a practice and service level, the needs of special guardians, kinship carers and children are becoming increasingly clear and are consistently stated across a number of studies cited in this document. Local monitoring of services should be enough to demonstrate whether their basic needs and requirements are being met or not.