The contribution of kinship carers has been the focus of attention recently, after a new campaign highlighted that around 200,000 children live in kinship care around the UK.
Kinship carers are family members or friends who take on the care of children whose parents are unable to look after them. Without these carers, these children would end up in local authority care.
Extra Support Needs
However, as the campaign seeks to highlight, support for kinship carers is very limited, despite the fact that the children affected can often have additional care needs.
An earlier study from the US found that around 2.8 million children were living with relatives across the country, and like children in foster care, those in kinship care experience a multitude of health issues.
"Children who live in kinship care with a relative have more special health care needs, mental health problems such as ADHD and depression, and dental problems compared with children who live with their parents," said Dr. Eleoff, from the University Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, which conducted the study.
"These children and their families may need additional services and supports," she added. "Therefore, health care providers, educators and public health agencies should ask about children's living situations and consider the risk of special needs among children in kinship care."
The UK campaign, which is led by national charities Grandparents Plus and Family Lives, is calling for more recognition and support for those who step in to prevent children going into local authority care.
Lack of Local Authority Support
Recent analysis by the charities found that:
- If every child being looked after by kinship carers were fostered instead, each local authority would be looking at an average additional cost of £14.8 million. Local authorities aren’t required to provide any financial assistance to kinship carers to help them raise the children, even if they’re living below the poverty line.
- For every school or nursery in the UK, there are eight children being raised in kinship care. Schools aren’t required to know which children aren’t living with their parents, or offer extra support to children or their carers.
- There are 21 children in kinship care per registered GP surgery in the UK. Children in kinship care are more likely to have a disability, learning or behavioural difficulties and mental health problems, but doctors aren’t asked to record if a child is living with their parents or carers.
Calls for Greater Recognition
“There are around 200,000 children being raised by kinship carers in the UK – twice the amount in local authority care – and yet there’s so little recognition throughout society of the role they’re playing or what support they might need,” explained Lucy Peake, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus. “This campaign is about making more people aware of what’s happening, and letting kinship carers know that they’re not alone.”
“Kinship carers do an amazing job, often stepping in overnight to look after their relative’s children,” added Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of Family Lives. “This campaign will help to raise awareness of what they do to support their family, and the impact it can have on their life and to improve the outcomes for the children.”
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