Practising in Kinship Care: The Perspectives of Specialist Social Workers

Kinship has launched a new report Practising in kinship care: the perspectives of social workers. on the views and experiences of social work practitioners specialising in kinship care. The research, conducted by Joan Hunt, Honorary Professor, Cardiff School of Law and Politics, is believed to be the first to focus on the views and experiences of social work practitioners working in kinship care, and has important implications for policy and practice in the sector.  

Practitioners spoke extensively about the complexity of kinship care and the challenges of working with families and within systems which are not adequately attuned to the unique characteristics and needs of kinship families.  

The report highlights areas of improvement in kinship care policies and practices based on the insights of social work practitioners. According to the professionals in the sector, there is a need to:  

  1. Recognise and reflect the uniqueness of kinship care within the child welfare system.  
  1. Achieve institutional recognition of the unique circumstances of kinship families and a commitment to support them. 
  1. Recognise and reflect the similarities in the experiences and needs of children requiring any form of substitute care – whatever the legal status of the arrangement. 
  1. Widen the policy and research focus on special guardianship to encompass all kinship care arrangements. Support should be based on the needs of kinship carers and their children, not by legal status. 
  1. Work towards greater consistency in the provision of special guardianship support across local authorities; mapping and evaluating different service models. 
  1. Develop preparation, ‘training’ and peer support groups for kinship carers.  
  1. Support kinship families to establish and maintain children’s contact with their parents, unless this is demonstrably not in their best interests.  
  1. Recognise and reflect the complexity of kinship carer assessments:  
  • Allow sufficient time to complete kinship assessments  
  • Reaching a shared understanding between local authorities and the courts about what is required in a permanent kinship placement 
  • Develop a standard approach to untested placements 
  • Review the assessment and approval of kinship foster carers  
  1. Develop and share professional expertise.