Personal Message from Martin Narey

Martin Narey very kindly agreed to clarify his views on Kinship care and adoption for us.  Some of the recommendations in his reports are direct and can sometimes be a topic of heated debate. But here in his own words are his thoughts on Kinship Care and it's importance within the safeguarding of children..........

"There is a lot of nonsense written about my views about Kinship Care, sometimes by organisations which should know better and who insist on seeing adoption as being in direct competition with Kinship Care. To be blunt, I think that’s absurd. There are about sixty six thousand children in care in England and last year there were only three thousand adoptions.

So I’m grateful to be given this opportunity to be very clear about what I really believe. And that is that when a child cannot live with his or her parents, whether because of neglect or for any other reason, the first place that we should look when searching for a new and permanent home for the child is the wider family. Grandparents first I would say, and then other relatives, although the search should not go on forever as more and more unrealistic options are explored. I was staggered to discover a case last year where a Court ordered the consideration of the suitability of a relative living in Somalia to care for a British toddler (and depressed by the practitioner at a Community Care Conference who sought to defend such nonsense)

But, there is a “but” here and an important “but”.  Before a decision is made on kinship care we must be quite sure that we are not compromising the interests of the child. Where neglect has been the reason for removal, and if we think the child might be further neglected, perhaps because the grandparents might allow a neglectful parent too close an involvement in the child’s life, we should look at other options. Or, where we are simply uncertain of the capacity or willingness of relatives to give a child the same opportunities afforded by alternative care arrangements, particularly adoption, we should look elsewhere. I have no truck with notions about blood being thicker than water. If that were a reliable test then there would never be a need to remove a child from his or her birth parents.

I see grandparents as the first port of call when looking for a new and permanent home for a child not because blood is thicker than water but simply because grandparents have a vital start on any other potential carer: they already love the child and the child already loves them.

I know that, not least because of my getting to know some of the grandparents who have come together to form Kinfest. Their motivation to look after their grandchildren is motivated by unselfishness and love for the child. But too often such altruism is punished by grave financial difficulties, as couples that have reduced incomes suitable for a life approaching or in retirement, suddenly have to cope with the expense of child rearing once again. It’s important that kinship carers do not find the burden of care overwhelming.  Although I think there will sometimes be very good reasons for preferring adoption to kinship care, the affordability of the kinship care for the relatives should never be one of them."

Martin Narey

Government Advisor on Adoption