This protocol is for the Kinship Connected project, an exploratory study to determine under what conditions a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the intervention is feasible.
Kinship care is where a person connected to a child, usually a family member, looks after them full-time when it is not possible for the child to remain with their birth parents. Kinship carers and the children they care for have unique vulnerabilities which are frequently underserved by the current system. There is evidence that additional support can achieve positive outcomes for children living in kinship care arrangements.
Kinship Connected is a programme developed by Kinship, the leading kinship care charity, to provide support that evidence shows kinship carers could benefit from in practice. The programme offers one-to-one support to kinship carers for at least six months via a dedicated project worker, and develops and maintains kinship carers’ support networks via community-based peer support groups. Kinship Connected is currently running in 17 local authorities (LAs).
Kinship Connected is designed to impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing by helping kinship carers develop long-term supportive networks, which result in a more stable and supportive environment for the children. Although there has been some research into kinship carers’ outcomes, there is no primary evidence on the impact that the Kinship Connected programme has on children, and little primary research on the impact of kinship care on UK children more generally (Winokur et al, 2014).
In order to determine whether specific formalised support for kinship carers can have a positive impact on children’s mental health, this scoping study aims to determine on what basis it would be advisable to proceed to a pilot RCT design that is acceptable to the participants (namely local authorities, Kinship staff, families and children).
The research questions for this qualitative scoping study are as follows:
- Is randomisation acceptable to participants in this setting?
- What are the key barriers and facilitators to potential participants in taking part in this study?
- What are the key barriers and facilitators for the study’s success more widely?
- What are the key design components of a proposed pilot study protocol?
The final report and summary of the study are planned to be completed by early 2023.