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Kinship care should be first option for children in care

More than 90 per cent of parents would want a relative or friend to care for their children if they were unable to, a survey by The Family Rights Group has highlighted.

Most children in care are living with unrelated foster carers or in residential care away from their family network. But kinship care, where a friend or relative carers for children where the parents are unable to, would be the preferred option among nine out of 10 parents.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive to Family Rights Group, said: “Kinship care should be the first thought not an afterthought for children who cannot remain with their parents. The new polling data finds that the vast majority of us would want our child to be raised by a family member or friend, if we couldn’t care for them. We overwhelmingly prefer this to our child going into unrelated foster or residential care or being adopted.”

“Research also bears out that children raised in kinship care report feeling loved and secure, and overall do better than other children in the care system. Kinship carers often go above and beyond for the children,” she added.

More than 104,000 children and young people are currently being raised in the care system in the UK, the highest number in care in over 30 years, and which places the child welfare system under huge pressure.

Only 15% of these children In England are being raised by relatives or friends who have become their foster carers (kinship foster care) and the proportion varies significantly between local authorities.

The poll carried out by Opinium on behalf of Family Rights Group found that 83% of parents most trusted a relative such as grandparents, aunties/uncles, siblings or other relatives to look after their children. A further eight per cent most trusted a friend to care for their children while just 3 per cent most trusted children’s services and two per cent said adoption.

New government data from parliamentary questions submitted to the Department for Education by Helen Hayes MP shows huge variation between local authorities in England in the likelihood of a child being placed with family or friend foster carers, compared to unrelated foster carers and residential care. While 29% of looked after children in Leeds are in kinship foster care, this compares to just 7.5% in County Durham.

Internationally, a third of children in the US are in kinship care while more than a half of children in Australia and nearly two thirds of children in care in New Zealand are in kinship care arrangements.

Family Rights Group, along with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care and the Kinship Care Alliance, have called for kinship care to be explored as the first point of call when there are concerns about a child’s welfare.

Furthermore, 83% of the public think that a family member should get paid leave (similar to adoption leave) if a child goes to live with them while just 17% disagree. Also, 83% of the public think that relatives should have their legal costs covered if a child goes to live with them.

FRG Chief Executive Cathy Ashley added: “Unfortunately, just 15% of children in care in England are being raised by relatives or friends, compared to nearly a third in the US and nearly two thirds in New Zealand. Moreover, there is huge variation between English local authorities in the chances of a child in care being placed with a family member, with nearly 30% of looked after children in Leeds in kinship foster care compared to only 7% in County Durham.

“All children should have the right to be raised within their family, where it is safe. Their chance to do so shouldn’t depend on which part of the country they are born,” she concluded.

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