A Study of Kinship Foster Carers in Northern Ireland In Relation to: 1. Selected Characteristics in the Wider Context of Traditional Foster Carers 2. The Attitude of Kinship Foster Carers to the Involvement of Social Services in Their Lives

  • Una Lernihan

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    To study Kinship Foster Carers in Northern Ireland in relation to:1. selected characteristic, in the wider context of traditional foster care,2. the attitudes of kinship foster carers to the involvement of social services in their lives.

    A sampling frame for kinship foster carers and their foster children in Northern Ireland was compiled through returns from a postal questionnaire to all the Fostering team leaders A 50% [n=100) random sample of kinship foster carers was selected, and a similar sample of 100 traditional foster carers. Only families where children had been looked after for six months or more were selected. The selected files were interrogated to collect data on selected characteristics about the carers and the children. SPSS was used to analyze the data and cross tabulations were completed to compare traditional and kinship. Semi-structured interviews were completed with as tratified random sample (14) of kinship foster carers.

    Data was collected from 178 fostering households from all eleven health and Social Services Trusts in Northern Ireland, [322 foster carers and 276 children] This represented 41%[82] of the kinship foster care population and 6% (96) of the traditional foster care one. Kinship foster carers were less likely to be married, or own their own homes than traditional foster carers.While the average age of carers was similar, the age distribution was greater for kin. A similar minority of both groups had police records but kinship foster carer records included more serious crimes. Over 80% of both groups had left school at the minimum school leaving age, but kinship carers were more likely to have done so. More than one male kinship carer in three was unemployed. A third of kinship foster carers did not get full fostering allowances compared to all traditional foster carers. A fifth of kinship foster carers had not been approved. The most common kinship foster carer was a maternal aunt, secondly Grandparents. A fifth of children in kinship foster care were placed with paternal relatives. Kinship and traditional children suffered similar levels of neglect and abuse, though maternal alcohol abuse and absence of the mother were significantly more common reasons for kinship children to be “looked after”. Kinship children were more likely to be placed with siblings, have significantly more contact with their mothers, and have return home as their care plan. Eighty percent of children in both types of foster care were subject to care orders.The qualitative data demonstrated that motivation for kinship foster carers included a strong sense of family duty and pessimism about alternative care placements. Kinship foster carers valued financial and practical support and often found social work involvement intrusive. Contact with their birth parents was more frequent and informal, though also frequently acrimonious.Fostering had an impact on the lives and families of kinship carers, often causing jealousy. Kinship families considered themselves as permanent families for life for the children, though some expressed reticence about moving to residence orders, fearing social services would withdraw financial and other support. Kinship foster carers felt that they were subject to rules and regulations which were not relevant to their particular family situation.
    Date of AwardJul 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorGregory Kelly (Supervisor)

    Cite this