Kinship Connected is a programme developed by Kinship, the leading kinship care charity. 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 network through community-based peer support groups. Research illustrates that Kinship Connected has been positively received by kinship carers. However, the potential of the programme to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing, through support to ensure that kinship carers can meet their needs, has not been established in the evidence so far.
This feasibility study was conducted by Ecorys, the University of Exeter and Kinship. The study aimed to determine whether it is possible to run a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the Kinship Connected intervention with a focus on children’s mental health and wellbeing, and what the key design features of such a pilot would be.
This study aimed to answer the following research questions:
- 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 feasibility study involved conducting five focus groups with a total of 13 kinship carers and 10 staff from local authorities and the Kinship charity. The focus groups aimed to obtain the participants’ views on the above questions, and so fostered discussions surrounding the ethics of randomisation in this context, ways to increase the likelihood of the study being successful, and which outcome measurements may be most appropriate to consider.
The study also involved refining the Theory of Change and logic model for Kinship Connected, to understand the pathways by which outcomes from the programme could be achieved.
Key findings and recommendations
The study found that it is possible to run a pilot RCT of the Kinship Connected programme. The aim of the pilot RCT would be to determine whether a full-scale RCT could be conducted to ultimately answer the question: Does the Kinship Connected intervention improve children’s mental health outcomes?
Based on the findings of the study, this report makes the following key recommendations about how to design the pilot RCT:
- Restricting the pilot RCT to local authorities that do not currently offer Kinship Connected, so that the control group can receive all business-as-usual services
- Randomising at the local authority level and using a stepped-wedge design, whereby eventually all local authorities receive Kinship Connected
- Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, completed by the kinship carer, to measure the child’s mental health outcomes.