Policy, practice and research implications
Kinship care is a time-honoured childcare mechanism as well as a family support system. In many societies today, it is a taken-for-granted childcare practice. It is not regarded as care-giving separate from care provided by biological parents; indeed, a child is considered fostered only when fostering occurs outside the extended family. In these societies, fostering is an accepted means of meeting children’s emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual needs as well as providing stability and promoting their identity. In some of these communities, looking after one’s young relatives is a natural thing to do. Things are, however, transparently different in Western societies where many people feel uncomfortable about even the idea itself, where the mere thought of sending away one’s offspring to be raised by another family makes many shudder. It is not surprising, therefore, that kinship care poses thorny questions for child welfare professionals, policy-makers and researchers. In terms of policy, these problems relate particularly to the kind and amount of support and services that should be committed to supporting kinship care as a viable service.