Informal kinship carers – the poor relations?

buttle uk - kinship report

Buttle UK yesterday published research into the experiences of children and informal kinship carers, and I found it a powerful and useful piece of work.  One of the things that struck me was just how many kinship carers arrangements were as a result of drug or alcohol misuse.

They found that in 2 out of 3 cases (67%) drugs and/or alcohol played a part in the decision to remove children from their parent’s care.

The research includes the voice of carers and children, which brings home some of the desperate circumstances that lead to these decisions being made.

One grandmother is quoted saying:

They [parents] were drug addicts and I went over one day to their house when he was 6 weeks old and he was lying trying to feed his self with a bottle and all these cushions. An I just [pushed] through, you know this crowd were in the bedroom, they were doing all different things with drugs. So I just took the child out, went straight to my lawyer.

What also comes across is the love and care that the children receive; one 9 year old says:

It’s just they look after me and make sure when I have problems… they come and sort it out.

The report suggests that despite the adversities they’ve faced the majority of children in these informal arrangements develop well, but a minority have are showing quite serious problems.  The authors report that 34% of the group they talked to scored abnormally on the SDQ scale, which compares to 10-16% in the general population and 45-74% for those in unrelated foster care.

As you may know if you’ve followed what we do at any point over the last 8 or so years Mentor is interested in supporting kinship care families, particularly where parents have had, or are having, a problem with drugs or alcohol.

We recognise that kinship placements are more likely to lead to better outcomes for children who can’t live at home, but believe to make that work carers the children and those that support them need support.

Over the years we’ve produced the Mind the Gap resource pack, which included a film of kinship carers talking about their circumstances (above), the EU Kinship Carers pack, and in our guide for Scottish kinship carers.  And at the moment we’re just finishing the first year of the Families Together project which is working to develop resilience in kinship families.

Much of what is reported in this new report fits very closely to what we’ve been told by kinship carers over the years, and many of the recommendations that are made fit very well with things that we’ve recommended as a result of our work.

We can only hope that Ministers and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services work together to mean that the next report on kinship care is able to report on positive improvements in the lives and well being of these remarkable people.

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