The aim of this paper is to review the Australian and international literature on social and emotional issues affecting children in kinship foster care and to examine stresses experienced by kinship foster carers.
There is a growing trend of kinship foster care as an alternative form of care for children in Australia and overseas which is attributed to factors such as child abuse, parental incapacity, parental incarceration, and parental substance misuse. The ideology supporting the use of kinship care is that it is in the child’s best interests because it helps them to maintain ties with their family of origin.
A comprehensive search of the literature on kinship care was undertaken and articles addressing social and emotional issues of children in kinship care or their carers were selected for critical review.
The literature suggests that children placed with kinship foster carers suffer from a range of social and emotional issues and these may impact on outcomes in adulthood. The existing literature does not, however, adequately differentiate the impacts of kinship care itself from the children’s pre-existing difficulties and there is a paucity of literature comparing kinship care outcomes with outcomes for children who have experienced other forms of out-of-home care. Common factors experienced by kinship foster carers that can make it challenging for them to deal with children’s issues are economic disadvantage, stress, health issues and lack of resources.
In conclusion, this review supports the arguments for assessment and interventions for children in kinship foster care; and support, parent training and interventions for kinship carers. Longitudinal studies are needed in this area.