Governments have an obligation to ensure that children living without parental care have access to alternative care arrangements. For many of us, that conjures up images of state-run children’s homes or foster families; both of which provide care for millions of thousands of children worldwide. And yet focusing on these care contexts would miss the world’s most commonly-used alternative care setting – kinship care – where a child is looked after by other members of their extended family or by close family friends.

Worldwide, a staggering 1 in 10 children live in kinship care. But although it is children’s preferred care option for when they cannot live with their parents, it is largely ignored and unsupported by governments; for whom it provides free alternative care. Kinship care can bring its own challenges, from the economic to the emotional and more, and for the wellbeing of the children and families involved, these need to be known in order to be overcome. And, of course, not all kinship care arrangements provide a positive setting for the child; but without recognising that they exist, governments cannot look out for their welfare.

Out of sight, out of mind

Our paper, ‘The Paradox of Kinship Care’, found that research on kinship care is severely lacking. This presents a major problem: how can we care for children if we don’t understand their situation? 

The answer is, of course, we can’t – or, at least, not very well. Because many children in kinship care are not formally registered as doing so, it is impossible to provide the support these families need. 

What needs to change

Our paper goes into these challenges in more detail, but a key theme has emerged through our research – that more investigation is needed in order for governments to be able to meet their obligations. That’s why we’re working through our alliance’s local Changemaker organisations to call on national and regional bodies to make this happen.

Specifically, we have identified a need for research on:

  • Children’s perspectives on kinship care
  • The views of parents of children in kinship care 
  • The impacts of frequent placement changes on child well-being in contexts where regular movement between households is the norm
  • Long-term impacts of kinship care, including comparisons between the educational attainment, health and development of children in kinship as opposed to other forms of care
  • Comparisons between outcomes in kinship care and in at-risk families
  • The gendered and age-related dimensions of kinship care provision and boys’ and girls’ experience of kinship care at different ages
  • The impact of kinship care on other children in the household
  • The particular experiences of children with disabilities in relation to kinship care

Through our advocacy work and our ‘It’s Time to Support Kinship Care’ campaign, we’re calling on governments to make this research a priority. Kinship carers often step up to care for children because of a sense of family ties and doing what’s right – so now it’s time for governments to do right by them, too.

If you work with children and families and would like to join our call for better support for kinship care, join our online community of Changemakers and connect with us. Visit to sign up now.

Learn more about our kinship care work at