What is Kinship Care?

Kinship care is when a child or young person lives full-time with a relative or family friend because they are not able to live with their parents. It allows children to remain among family and retain a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, and close friends have always been there, to keep children in the family, when there is a crisis, or breakdown of relationships, or care.  Thousands of people look after children, when their parents are unable to do so.

Children and young people in Kinship Care

Most children are in kinship care, because their parents are unable, or unavailable, to care for them. Reasons for this include parental drug or alcohol misuse, imprisonment, abuse or neglect, and parental physical or mental health issues. Kinship care can also arise from the death of a parent. Many children in kinship care may have additional issues and needs, such as emotional and behavioural difficulties, as they have often experienced early trauma, chaos, crisis and loss.

Types of kinship care

Kinship care includes children and young people who may be:

  • Living in an informal kinship arrangement, made between parents and relatives.
  • Living in an informal kinship arrangement made between parents and close friends of the family.
  • In the care of the state and placed with relative foster carers. This is formal kinship care.

Benefits of Kinship Care

Kinship care is regarded as the preferred option, for children who cannot live with parents, because it enables family, community, and cultural connections to continue, for children and young people.

Some of the known benefits are:

  • Children’s sense of identity is maintained.
  • Children and young people can live with people they already know and trust.
  • There is a greater chance of siblings being kept together.
  • It helps to create stability and continuity in a child’s life.
  • Children may experience less stigma, being cared for by extended family members, than if they are placed with a new family.
  • There is less risk of ‘placement breakdown’ so greater continuity of care.