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 calls for kinship care to be recognised as an entity, a unique form of care requiring policies, systems and practices tailored to its needs. It recommends an end to the ‘square peg in a round hole’ approach of adding kinship care to policies, systems and services that were developed for fostering or adoption.
Forty-two practitioners from 19 local authorities in England and six in Wales took part in the research. Most were either part of a specialist kinship team or had been so in the recent past in their local authorities. Many were part of the long-running Kinship Care Professionals’ Group.
Important implications for policy and practice
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:
- Recognise and reflect the uniqueness of kinship care within the child welfare system.
- Achieve institutional recognition of the unique circumstances of kinship families and a commitment to support them.
- 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.
- 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.
- Work towards greater consistency in the provision of special guardianship support across local authorities; mapping and evaluating different service models.
- Develop preparation, ‘training’ and peer support groups for kinship carers.
- Support kinship families to establish and maintain children’s contact with their parents, unless this is demonstrably not in their best interests.
- 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
- Develop and share professional expertise.
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