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.
Kinship care has always been with us. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, and close friends have always come forward to keep children in the family when there is a crisis or breakdown of relationships. Thousands of people care for children because their parents are unable to do so. There are growing numbers of people who are becoming kinship carers – with an estimated 10,000 children in the care of relatives in Ireland.
Why are children in Kinship Care?
Most children are in kinship care because their parents are unable to care for them. Research shows that many children are in kinship care because of parental drug or alcohol misuse, although other reasons include death of a parent, imprisonment, parental abuse or neglect and parental ill health.
Many children in kinship care have additional needs, most commonly emotional and behavioural difficulties as they have often experienced trauma, bereavement, and loss.
Types of kinship care
There are many types of kinship care. Some are temporary or permanent arrangements.
As a kinship carer, you might find that as circumstances change the type of kinship carer you are changes too.
Kinship care includes children 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 kinship/ relative foster carers
The benefits of Kinship Care
Kinship care is often the preferred care option for children who cannot live
with parents as it helps protect children and maintains strong family,
community, and cultural connections.
There are clear benefits to children if they are kept within their family network.
- Children’s sense of identity is preserved
- Allows children to live with people they already know and trust
- Greater chance of siblings being kept together
- Creates stability and continuity in a child’s life
- Children living with relatives experience less stigma
- Ensures long-term permanency for children unable to return to their own homes.