About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Kinship Assessments

New research reported on Community Care concludes that kinship care is an under-explored option in care cases. Community Care links to a summary of the findings. The full report is to be published soon on the BAAF website .

The summary of findings is set out below. In an astonishing 55% of cases studied there was no indication of any consideration of kinship care. Essentially the research concluded that for children under 5 kinship care was less likely to break down than long-term foster care but more likely than adoption. For children between 5 & 12 kinship care was more susceptible to breakdown than either foster care or adoption but there were a number of factors influencing this including the lack of support for kinship placements and the level of damage sustained by children before they moved to a kinship placement. Financial support was an issue and inconsistent support was offered by local authorities. General support was insufficient and inconsistent. Social work predictions of problems and the potential for disruption were not reliable. Parental contact was not generally found to pose a risk to children though it was problematic in a significant minority of cases. Anticipated contact difficulties were not accurately predicted. Kinship carers also reported a high level of dissatisfaction with social workers (25%) with frequency of change of social worker being the biggest source of complaint.

Finding 1: There is scope for a more systematic exploration of the kinship option for all children prior to proceedings. This could lead to more/earlier placements for
some children.
Finding 2: Kinship care can deliver Quality Protects Objective 1 for many children but it does not work for all.
Finding 3: Better or poorer outcomes are not solely dependent on individual
Finding 4: Pre-placement assessment is important but problematic
Finding 5: The support needs of kinship placements need to be more adequately
Finding 6: Kinship care facilitates the maintenance of some family links and
contact is usually safe but it is often difficult.

Our conclusions can be simply stated: kinship care can be a positive option for many abused and neglected children but it is not straightforward and requires careful assessment and adequate support. Therefore, if the full potential of kinship
care is to be realised, there must be clear central and local policies, appropriate infrastructures and adequate resourcing. These are not new conclusions and were highlighted by, amongst others, Hunt herself in the Scoping Paper for the
Department of Health in 2001. Since then, some progress has been made and there is now stronger research evidence on some aspects of the subject. It is to be hoped that the inclusion of kinship care in the White Paper Care Matters:
Time for Change (DfES, 2007), brief as it is, may result, at last, in this form of care getting the more concentrated attention it so clearly deserves

The summary report makes a number of specific recommendations which make interesting reading.

The report picks up on a number of social work hostilities / indifference to kinship care which certainly seem to chime with my experience. I have reservations about what I see as the expectation by social services that kinship carers should be able to pass through the same hoops as non-family foster placements and a too ready dismissal of the not so perfect grandparent. Kinship carers are perhaps far more likely to put up with behaviour from a damaged child than non-family foster carers and therefore not to withdraw readily when the going gets tough. It will be interesting to see whether the emphasis in the PLO on Family Group Conferences & kinship assessments pre-proceedings might make a difference.

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