Kinship care is a form of care that involves children being raised by non-parental family members, such as grandparents, an uncle, aunt, or a close friend of the family. This type of care plays an important role in the wider care system by providing an opportunity for children to live with family members when their birth parents are unable to care for them. The aim of this project is to improve the understanding of kinship care through analysis of administrative data of all English local authorities. The availability of administrative data means that large scale analysis of children’s experiences and outcomes can be carried out and important questions can be answered. The work will provide more quantitative evidence regarding the use of kinship foster care and special guardianship orders (SGOs) both nationally and across local authorities. It also aims to illustrate how variation in use is correlated with other variables and compare educational outcomes of children who have experienced kinship care compared to those that have experienced foster care.
The project will use individual-level data requested from the ONS’ Secure Research Service (SRS) to understand kinship care in England. The data requested includes national administrative data on looked after children provided by local authorities to the Department for Education (known as the SSDA903 collection) for the years 1998/1999 – 2019/20, as well as data from the children in need and annual school census.
This work will focus on two forms of care arrangements. Firstly, kinship foster care, in which a Looked After child is cared for by a friend or relative who has had a formal foster carer assessment (and does not have parental responsibility). Secondly, special guardianship orders (SGOs) awarded by an, intentionally permanent, law order to a carer (who shares parental responsibility) of a child who was previously Looked After by the Local Authority.
The first strand of analysis will use descriptive statistics and visualisations to provide a national summary of the use of kinship care, and information about children in kinship care such as age at entry and number of episodes of care prior to and after kinship care. The next strand will use regressions to establish how local authorities vary in their use of kinship care arrangements as a placement option and how the use of different types of kinship care correlates with other local authority characteristics. The third strand of analysis will involve a matched regression of children in kinship care and foster care to establish the association between these placement types and educational outcomes (attainment, exclusions and attendance). This will widen the evidence base on differences in outcomes for children in kinship care compared to other types of care in the English context.