Kinship Carers

I had the privilege of meeting a remarkable group of women last week when I attended the East Lothian Kinship Carers Support Group.  These were – with one exception – grandmothers who were formally recognised as having parental rights for their grandchidren. 

The definition of Kinship care is as follows:

Children who cannot live with or be cared for by a parent and who are living with a relative or family friend who is responsible for their upbringing

 The benefits of kinship care have been identified in research studies as:

  • children feeling loved, valued and cared for
  • children being able to maintain a sense of identity, having a sense of belonging and feeling settled because they are placed with people they know
  • children having more stable placements than children placed with non relative carers and being less likely to be subject to placement moves
  • children being able to maintain contact with their family and friends

A number of disadvantages have also been identified, including:

  • limitations to freedom for children and carers
  • financial hardship
  • problems for carers in having to cope with the behaviour difficulties of young people
  • lack of support from child welfare agencies
  • overcrowding
  • ill health of carers
  • less thorough assessments for kinship carers than non relative foster carers and less stringent monitoring of placements
  • lower reunification rates for children and children being less likely to be adopted

The Scottish Government published a report in December 2007 entitled “Getting it right for every child in foster care and kinship care – a National Strategy”

As I listened to their stories – which were so often connected to their own children’s drug abuse – I was struck by the life-changing impact of having to take on the role of being a parent at a time in life when they would reasonably have been expecting to slow down and enjoy the fruits of retirement.  I tried to put myself in their place – and failed miserably!

Yet for all the personal challenges it was obvious that the children they cared for were benefitting so much from living in a such a loving and caring environment.

We concluded by talking about the funding process.  In East Lothian we only fund kinship care at a level equivalent to foster carers when the child is officially on the Looked After Register. This undoubtedly provides a real challange to many of those kinship carers whose grandchildren are not in such a category.

I’m afraid I couldn’t stop thinking about them all weekend!