Make kinship care first port of call for children, charity urges

Nina Jacobs
Monday, January 17, 2022

A family rights charity is calling for kinship care to be the “first port of call” in cases where there are concerns for a child’s welfare.

Most parents would trust grandparents to raise their children, research finds. Picture: Adobe Stock
Most parents would trust grandparents to raise their children, research finds. Picture: Adobe Stock

The Family Rights Group says findings from its latest survey reveal 91 per cent of people would trust relatives or friends to look after their children in the event they could no longer provide care themselves.

The charity claims its polling of 2,000 adults between 29 November and 2 December demonstrates the vast majority of the public would prefer their children to be brought up by a kinship carer rather than enter the care system.

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they would trust a grandparent the most to look after their children followed by 21 per cent who would trust other relatives.

A further breakdown of the figures shows 14 per cent would trust aunts or uncles to care for their children while 11 per cent said they would hand over responsibility to their siblings.

Overall, 83 per cent of adults said they trusted relatives the most to provide care for their children compared to eight per cent that would ask their friends.

In contrast, just three per cent of adults said they would trust children’s services to provide care for their children and only two per cent said they would trust adopters.

The research comes at a time when figures for children and young people in the care system are at the highest level in more than three decades, the charity says.

With more than 104,000 children and young people currently being cared for by foster carers or in residential care, just 15 per cent of these children in England are being raised by relatives or friends who have become their kinship foster carers, it explains.

Furthermore, the proportion of children being cared for by kinship care can vary significantly between different local authorities, it adds.

It cites the example of Leeds where 29 per cent of children are in kinship foster care compared with 7.5 per cent in County Durham.

The charity is supporting a campaign by the all-party parliamentary group on kinship care around paid employment leave for kinship carers and the extension of legal aid to cover advice and representation for current and prospective kinship carers.

It says that more than half of kinship carers give up work or reduce their hours when a child comes to live with them while others face huge legal costs to secure a placement.

According to the survey, 83 per cent of adults think a family member should get paid leave, similar to adoption leave, if they became a kinship carer as well as receiving help with legal costs.

Cathy Ashley, the charity’s chief executive, said kinship care should not just be an “afterthought” for those children unable to remain with their parents.

“The new polling data finds that the vast majority of us would want our child to be raised by a family member or friend, if we couldn’t care for them. We overwhelmingly prefer this to our child going into unrelated foster or residential care or being adopted.

“Research also bears out that children raised in kinship care report feeling loved and secure, and overall do better than other children in the care system. Kinship carers often go above and beyond for the children,” she said.

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