Improving understanding of what works to support kinship care with Foundations

Parent lifting child up playfully

Increasing numbers of children needing out-of-home care in the UK are being placed with family or friends (rather than unrelated foster carers) in “kinship” or “connected” care arrangements. While evidence shows these arrangements can lead to better outcomes for children, kinship carers often face additional challenges compared to other foster carers, and may need different supports in place.

Foundations, the UK What Works Centre for Children and Families, has commissioned CEI and our partners to investigate which policies and programs might improve the experience of kinship carers, improve outcomes for the children and ensure their future benefit, and might address the inconsistent use of kinship care across the UK.

“Our systemic review will look at what we know about what works – and doesn’t work – to support kinship families from high-income countries such as the UK, other European nations, USA and Australia,” explains Dr Ellie Ott, CEI Associate Director. “To answer our five research questions, we’ll identify published and unpublished literature describing robust evaluation, as well as qualitative research in the UK. And we’re guided by an Advisory Group that includes various kinship sector leaders, including those with lived experience.”

“Where possible, we’ll also seek to understand the elements of effective interventions and look at differential impact for different groups of carers. The review will also explore carers’ perspectives on how interventions in the UK can best serve them.”

Foundations’ aim is to turn the evidence review findings into accessible recommendations for delivering local services, through development of one of the first Practice Guides for services for children and families.

“We want to gather this evidence together to better understand what improves outcomes for children in kinship care and their carers, to enable policymakers to use it, and to see where the gaps are – so we can accelerate positive change for children and carers,” Ellie notes. “There is an opportunity for change in the system – not only is there a growing recognition of the important role family members and friends play when they care for a child who comes into care, but there’s also a national movement for change, including an upcoming Kinship Care Strategy from the Department of Education.”

The protocol for the systematic review, “What interventions improve outcomes for kinship carers and the children in their care,” authored by Dr Eleanor Ott, Amy Hall, Georgina Mann and India Thompson from CEI, along with Dr Marc Winokur from Colorado State University and Professor Aron Shlonsky from Monash University, is available HERE.

If you have evidence on the effectiveness of interventions for kinship carers or on perceptions about and implementation of interventions for kinship carers in the UK, please email the research team: Eleanor.ott@ceiglobal.org