Berkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy ServicesIQ Legal Training

Children and Families Across Borders launches International Kinship Care Guide

Coinciding with its annual child protection conference on 23 November, Children and Families Across Borders – in collaboration with others, including the Cross-Border Child Safeguarding Group (CBCS), a number of government departments and child protection agencies, and a number of local authority social workers –  is launching a guide on international kinship care placements and minimising breakdown when looked after children are placed with family overseas.

The guide is the first of its kind to address comprehensively best practice for placing looked after children currently in the UK into the care of a family member(s) living in another country. The overarching aim is to ensure that all options are explored for a child in care and to provide local authorities with tools and knowledge so that family members overseas are not unnecessarily ruled out as potential carers for children in care in the UK, particularly if this option may be in the best interests of the child. 

In 2019, 34.3 per cent of all children born in England and Wales had either one or both parents born outside of the UK, up from 33.8 per cent in 2018. With more children on the move than ever before and increasing numbers of multinational and foreign-national families – and with 78,150 children in care in England alone – CFAB estimates more than 18,000 looked after children in England and Wales may have family members abroad who could and should be explored as options for their long-term care.

CFAB says that despite the benefits that are associated with international kinship care placement – such as allowing the child to maintain a sense of family identity – these placements are rarely considered as a long-term and permanent option for children and young people currently in care in the UK. 

In a research study undertaken by CFAB, freedom of information (FOI) requests were sent to over 200 UK local authorities to ask how many looked after children had a) family members abroad who had been explored as potential carers, and b) subsequently been placed abroad in the period from 2015 to 2017. Local authorities were also asked about the type of legal orders used to place these children abroad. With over a 95 per cent response rate, it was found that half of local authorities which provided answers did not explore any family members abroad in this timeframe, and of those that did, none reported placing more than an average of three looked after children abroad per year. As such, CFAB believes that there is a need to ensure that local authorities are appropriately supported so that international kinship care is not just considered, but is delivered where this is in the best interests of the child. 

The evidence suggests that many children may not have their right to family upheld and, if they have, the process of family reunification is often flawed. Yet, a child's right to preserve his or her identity, to be provided with appropriate alternative care, and for all actions to take into account the child's best interests, are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. 

Carolyn Housman, CEO of CFAB and Chair of the CBCS, says:

"It is currently unknown how many looked after children in the whole of the UK have family overseas that could potentially care for them. Whilst the wider consideration of international kinship care placements for children should be actively encouraged, the delicate and complex nature of these placements requires specialist and comprehensive guidance to provide local authorities with the tools to ensure these placements are a success." 

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, comments:

"This is a comprehensive guide for professionals exploring family placements abroad for children, and many of the considerations here will apply for other forms of care.  It bridges the gaps between various domestic policies and legislation."  

For more information on CFAB's International Kinship Care Guide, click here.