Many children in the UK are being brought up by relatives or friends because their parents are unable to care for the children themselves. It is not known how many of these kinship carers there are. All we do know is that 6,900 children are being looked after formally by kin foster carers in England, having been placed there by Children’s Services. A much larger group, however, are the estimated 200-300,000 children and young people across England and Wales who are thought to be living with relatives or friends as a result of a private arrangement made by the family. These kinship care placements can be described as ‘informal’ because they do not involve Children’s Services. Surprisingly, despite the size of this group, hardly any research has been done into how they are getting on.
This project will therefore examine the views of children and kin carers in informal kinship care to ascertain how well their needs are being met and what services or financial support would be needed to reduce the impact of any particular difficulties they face and to optimise children’s development. In the first part of the study an analysis of the 2001 Census returns will provide completely new data on the number and characteristics of children and kin care households. In the second part of the research, a sample of 80 children aged 8-18, who live in informal kinship care will be interviewed, using some standardised measures, to discover their views on the advantages and disadvantages of where they are living and what would make their outcomes better. Interviews with the kin carers will also be undertaken to examine similar issues.
This is a Big Lottery funded project in partnership with ButtleUK, which will use the findings to influence national policy development and local practice in order to improve children’s circumstances and outcomes. This will contribute to the government agenda on improving outcomes for children and should ultimately benefit both children in informal kin care and their carers.