Report: Improving outcomes for looked after children: a critical analysis of kinship care

An article examined comparative outcomes for looked-after children placed in kin and non-kin care in the United Kingdom.

It said that stability was achieved more commonly through kin placements, although the inherent familiarity within the setting could undermine aspects of care quality, such as through problematic parental contact or problems within a child’s wider network. The article outlined two areas for development of professional practice: the provision of better support to children and kin carers; and better recognition of the need to end inadequate kin placements.


Although UK law and policy favour family and friends care, the number of children placed in kinship care remains low compared to other countries such as the USA and Australia, and there is professional uncertainty as to whether children may be better placed there.

This review compares outcomes for looked after children placed in kin and non-kin care and finds stability is achieved more commonly through placement with kin. However, the inherent familiarity of kinship placements can undermine aspects of care quality.

Children are more likely to experience problematic parental contact and problems within a child’s immediate family may exist in the child’s wider network. Despite such adversities, emotional and behavioural outcomes are as favourable, or more favourable.

The review concludes that although poor quality kin placements do have adverse effects on children’s emotional and behavioural development, stability is a protective factor.

Two areas for the development of professional practice are highlighted.

Firstly, the need for professionals to provide better support to children and kin carers. Secondly, the need to end inadequate kin placements, sometimes against a child’s wishes, should be better recognised: in some cases children’s needs have been undermined when social workers have allowed inadequate placements to continue.