Assessment in kinship care
Edited by Cath Talbot and Martin C. Calder

For family and friends, who offer to care for their relative children, the issue of assessment can present itself as a daunting task indeed. Many potential carers doubt the validity of assessments, often because of the way they are managed. Many experience it as a disempowering and imposing process. Even skilled and experienced assessors often lack the skill and knowledge base required to consider the specific issues, strengths and difficulties associated with kinship placements. Many prospective kinship carers perceive welfare agencies as unsupportive and many are excluded from the care planning process. This is most likely to be the process when professionals operate with a value base of 'family dysfunction'. There is a need for a new paradigm for practice.

This paradigm is family-centred, emphasising extended family and community involvement in planning and decision making, and acknowledges carers' equity. In the new paradigm there is a much greater emphasis on the provision of family support at a primary, preventative level through family based interventions. In the traditional paradigm permanency planning is based around supporting the nuclear family. There is much more emphasis for work with the child's extended families, friends and communities as prospective sources of support, information and assessment.

It is against this background that kinship care is emerging as a critical consideration for social workers and the courts when the future of children living away from home is being considered. It is important now not only because of the legal requirement, but also because the number and quality of foster and residential placements is reducing significantly. Kinship care pre-dates it being a social services option: for some time many children have lived with family or friends without the sanction or involvement of social services departments. Such a variation in placement patterns and the inappropriateness of using the existing governmental frameworks for assessment highlights the need to harness the available evidence to inform the development of a specific, sensitive and holistic framework for assessment. The editors have commissioned a range of chapters from practitioners, academics and researchers in the field to try and respond to this need. The book covers a huge territory in an attempt to unify research, theory and practice, including:
  • a summary of research evidence
  • a critique of contemporary assessment structures
  • the legal context
  • the impact and implications of drug and substance misuse
  • issues in respect of learning disability
  • inter-generational sexual abuse
  • domestic violence
  • contact issues
  • balancing risk and family preservation.

The book concludes with the construction of a detailed, practical contemporary framework for conducting assessment of kinship placements that fills the gaps and limitations of the current and incoming assessment structures advocated by central government.

Large format paperback. 180 pages. 978-1-903855-86-7. Published 2006. £27.95.


Preface Bob Broad
Kinship care: the research evidence Cath Talbot
Some advantages and disadvantages of kinship care: a view from research Bob Broad
Contemporary assessment: a critique Martin C Calder & Cath Talbot
Kinship care: the legal position Philip Kidd & Paul Storey
Kinship placement and parents with intellectual disabilities Sadie Young
Towards an empirical basis for domestic violence risk assessment Calvin Bell
Multiple child abuse that involves wider kin and family friends within intergenerational networks: a theoretical model Pam Freeman & John Ingham
The impact of parental substance misuse on kinship care and the implications for assessment Brynna Kroll & Julie Cornwell
Promoting contact between family and friends Cath Talbot
Assessment in kinship placements: a sensitive, evidence based framework Martin C. Calder & Cath Talbot


"Welcome addition to the sparse literature on kinship care…Unlike other available texts, it does not only analyse and promote the advantages of keeping children in their own kinship network; it also seriously explores the risk of re-placing or leaving children in their families of origin if they cannot or should not remain with their parents….an invaluable aid to working with the kinship network to assess the viability of kinship care and to creating sustainable placement support plans. Kinship care is not an easy option…but it is different. This book should go a long way towards helping us to acknowledge that difference so that we can work together with families to keep children safe in the kinship network." Adoption & Fostering.

"A timely publication…the sheer variety of the topics included guarantees something in it for all those interested in kinship care….particularly helpful in that it provided lots of models of assessment and a wide range of questions that workers can address in their work. Busy practitioners could select chapters that will guide their thinking around very complex topics. I would recommend this book to the many workers grappling with the complexities of kinship care." Rostrum.

"A much needed assessment framework specifically for kinship care… responsive to the particular circumstances and needs of each kinship placement." Community Care.

"It not only explores current assessment methods and practices, it acknowledges their shortfalls in relationships to kinship care and offers refreshingly creative ideas for assessments that encompass the uniqueness of these placements….a new ground is broken…an informative, comprehensive read, without the use of excessive jargon….an excellent and informative source book with sensitive and creative ideas for assessment in future practice." Professional Social Work.