Are Children in Kinship Care ‘in care’?
July 2, 2011
I work with kinship care families on a daily basis – mostly grandparents and aunts who are looking after children who cannot live with their own parents. They are a remarkable bunch of carers, and I feel so inspired by what they do each and every day to keep their relative’s children out of care.
So when I hear someone say that children in kinship care are ‘in care’ purely because they cannot live with their own parents I get slightly annoyed.
I recently met a grandmother who is looking after her 2 grandchildren. Both children had been ‘in care’ (foster care) and were subject to Interim Care Orders. Then the grandmother applied for a Residence Order and had the children taken out of foster care to live with her. Are these children ‘in care’?
A few months ago I met an uncle looking after his niece and nephew. Both kids had been ‘in care’ as they had been living in foster care before coming to live with him. The two children are still subject to Care Orders and the uncle is a kinship ‘foster’ carer. Are these children ‘in care’?
So how do we define whether a child is ‘in care’ or not in care? Seems as though it is easier to label children who aren’t living with their own parents as being in care because we have yet to get our heads around the concept of kinship care as an important and unique out of home care arrangement for children. But by doing this we underestimate and belittle the role of other family members in raising their relative’s children. Grandparents take on the role of parent when looking after their grandchildren – so is it fair to say that these children are ‘in care? Grandparents and other kinship carers fight tooth and nail through the Court system to have children who are ‘in care’ taken out of care to live with them. So is it right to still say these children are in care?
I worked with a group of kinship carers to help them write their stories. A number of the carers I worked with were looking after and caring for children who were subject to Interim and Full Care Orders. What was interesting from talking to these kinship ‘foster’ carers was that none of them felt the children they looked after were ’in care’. They acknowledged the legal status underpinning the care and upbringing of the children, but they refused to think that their relative’s children were in care. What was also interesting was that none of the children knew they were in care. They thought they were living with their family.
So I come back to my initial questions. What constitutes being ’in care’ ? What does being ‘in care’ actually mean? Is a child in care purely because they can’t live with their own parents? Is it fair to put labels on children because we aren’t able to separate kinship care from other forms of care?
If we start labelling children according to what is works best for us, rather than what is right for children we risk placing these kids at a disadvantage as they grow up. If a child perceives themselves in the care of their family and friends – then they are in family and friends care.
Or perhaps you don’t agree?