Perspectives of Social Workers Working in Kinship Care (New Research)

There is a new piece of research published by, believed to be the first of its kind that looks at the views and experiences of social work practitioners working within the field of kinship care.

The research was published by Joan Hunt, Honorary Professor, Cardiff School of Law and Politics in September 2021.

kinship care research views of social workers

There are around 180,000 children in the UK living in Kinship Placements. Kinship Placements are defined as Family and Friends Fostering arrangements, Special Guardianship, Child Arrangements Orders or other informal family arrangements. But not many people know much about the work of these specialist social workers who support families in such arrangements. This research will have important implications for policy and practice around kinship, which is much needed in this evolving field of work.

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.”

For example, there was discussion about whether the fostering regulations need to be revised in relation to family and friends foster carers, as these regulations were not developed to encompass the very different needs and circumstances of kinship carers.

The research raises discussion about whether legislation should be changed to enable the court to make an Interim SGO to test out a special guardianship placement. This would be in instances where a child had not been living with the special guardians and would allow a period of testing, in the same way, that adoption is tested out. It is thought that this would prevent placement breakdown, which was been on the increase in Special Guardianship placements.  

In this research, practitioners spoke extensively about the complexity of kinship care and the challenges of working with families, within systems that are not adequately attuned to the unique characteristics and needs of kinship families.

Overall, the discussion of the report focuses on the need for improved support for all kinship arrangements, not just for family and friends fostering arrangements, but also Special Guardianship and other informal arrangements.

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 also part of the Kinship Professionals’ Group.

The research focuses on the views of practitioners who work in this complex field and highlights the many challenges that the assessment of family members brings with it, not to mention the added complexities such as Court timescales.

The aim of the Research:

  1. To explore perspectives and experiences as kinship care practitioners.
  2. Views on the support group, what practitioners saw as value and what changes are needed.

It is a long report with 128 pages, but it is set out clearly as follows:

Chapter 1 Introduction: Background to the study

Chapter 2 Assessing kinship carers: challenges for practitioners.

Chapter 3 Uncertain, contested, and shifting thresholds

Chapter 4 Court timescales.

Chapter 5 Concerns about Special Guardianship Orders

Chapter 6 Supporting special guardianship: Support plans and the organisation of services

Chapter 7 Special Guardianship: Support Needs and Service Provision

Chapter 8 Supporting kinship foster care

Chapter 9 Specialisation.

Chapter 10 Sharing Practice, Informing Policy: The Kinship Care Professionals Group

Chapter 11 Summary of findings and implications for policy and practice

You can read the research here in the resource library

Or you can also find it on the site

Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice