Department for Children, Schools and Families-commissioned research has found social workers need to be more pro-active in exploring the potential of kinship care.
The Oxford University study, published in summary last week, called for clearer central policies for kinship care, including the consideration of a national carer’s benefit and said local authority support to kinship placements needed to be improved.
Researchers compared 113 cases of children under five removed from their parents under care proceedings and placed with family or friends, against 31 who were placed with strangers. The placements were made by two local authorities from 1995 to 2001 and followed up in 2005.
Kinship care not straightforward
The study found that, although kinship placements were not a straightforward solution, they can be a positive option for abused and neglected children, as long as there is appropriate resourcing and infrastructure for assessment and support of families.
However, the researchers noted a degree of ambivalence among some social workers towards kinship care. In more than half (55%) of the cases where children were placed with strangers there was no indication that a kinship option had been considered.
Need for more positive encouragement
“More positive encouragement for and support of those relatives willing and available to care for the child may be the best way of improving the numbers of children who are able to stay within families,” said the study.
The report will be published in full by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering in the summer.
Oxford University department of social policy and social work