Why kinship care families need specialised and consistent support

It is estimated that there are 200,000 children being brought up by family members or friends – that’s three times the number of children in foster care - and it is increasing.

  • Typically, kinship carers are older, in poor health, live in poverty and feel judged and isolated from mainstream parent groups.

  • Three quarters of children growing up in kinship care are growing up in deprived households.

  • Over half of children in kinship care have special needs, 82% of these behavioural or emotional issues.

  • 66% of the children have experienced abuse or neglect, 68% experienced parental drug or alcohol misuse and others a parents mental illness or death.

  • Often there are significant tensions within the family particularly in relation to managing contact between the children and their parents.

  • Kinship families’ lives are subject to lots of change – often carers take on more children, relationships with the parents can improve or worsen and legal and financial support takes time to implement.

In spite of these considerable challenges, the support available to kinship carers is very often much more limited than that given to people becoming foster or adopted carers.

Kinship carers tell us that they feel isolated, abandoned and ‘hung out to dry’ compared to the support foster and adopted parents receive.

Many kinship carers tell us that without proper, ongoing and consistent support to bring up the children in their care, they feel unable to continue. They may be forced to consider putting the children they are raising into care. They don’t want to do this but unsupported, this is a reality.

Yet keeping children in kinship care has better outcomes for children and better social impact

Stability is a proven factor that contributes to better outcomes for children and children growing up in kinship care are likely to have more stability. They are more likely to remain for longer in one home and change school less. Kinship carers also have higher aspirations for the children they raise and all of these things result in better educational outcomes for young people. This in turn can mean longer-term benefits such as reduced homelessness, crime, anti-social behavior and better health – all substantial cost savings to the state longer term. (Sebba et al 2015.)

Stable kinship care families mean less children going into state care. However, given the multiple challenges they face, they can’t do it without consistent support.

For more information about commissioning our programmes for your own local authority, please complete this short form and we will contact you.