Inside kinship care: understanding family dynamics and providing effective support

Pitcher D (ed) (2013) Inside Kinship Care: Understanding Family Dynamics and Providing Effective Support. London. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Reviewed by Steph Jones, lecturer at the University of Staffordshire School of Social Work, Allied & Public Health

This is a timely publication given that Local Authority spending on kinship care has risen sharply and is likely to continue to do so (Cooper, 2011).

Permanence as a concept is firmly rooted within policy and practice.  This is the guidance taken from the Children Act (1989) and Pitcher clearly builds upon this premise by offering the reader an 'insiders' view of the often complex realities of kinship care.

Pitcher introduces the topic from a historic angle and then leads the reader directly into part one of the book with Amy O'Donohoes' graphic and personal account into her journey into kinship care.  This account offers the reader a benchmark of understanding to continue to read with confidence.

Sadie Young, in Chapter 2 demonstrates that the book is not afraid to tackle difficult issues.  Young discusses the potentially value laden subject of parents with intellectual disabilities.  Young draws on the work of Tarleton et al (2006) and discusses the support needs of such parents and the potential challenges of kinship care arrangements.

Part two considers the long debated issue of sibling relationships and how these may be managed.  Pitcher aids the reader's understanding of the subject by providing case studies, practical safeguarding exercises and tools for Social Workers and students to consider when working with children and families.  Some of the tools discussed, may not always be those immediately considered, but have clear potential for professionals working with families. These tools and exercises, whilst being extremely helpful, make the book accessible and highly readable as they allow the reader to 'dip in and out' of the text when relevant information is needed.  Additionally, a valuable feature throughout the text is that each chapter begins with a brief overview to illustrate the overall chapter content.  This very much 'sets the scene' for the reader and enables a seamless introduction to the subject matter.

Whilst this book offers much practice guidance, it does not ignore the application of theory.  Pitcher includes a chapter on psychoanalytic psychotherapy and guides the reader through this by applying a case study to clearly explain the process of building strength and optimism for children in kinship placements.

Chapter 12 considers the placement of ethnic minority children with white carers.  Again, this is a contemporary and controversial subject and currently high on the political agenda (Gove, 2012).  Pitcher then opens the subject up to include comparisons with Kinship care in Australia and New Zealand and considers what lessons we can learn from a country with the highest rates of children successfully placed in kinship care.

Pitcher has produced a positive and contemporary text which offers insight into kinship care and reads 'how it is' not 'how it should be'.  Pitcher’s experience and enthusiasm are tangible throughout the text and he does not hesitate from tackling controversial and difficult subjects which, in practice are often the reality.  The text champions a 'head on' approach and guides the reader to consider a holistic and strengths based approach when assessing kinship care arrangements.

I shall certainly be recommending this text both to colleagues and to social work students to support them to gain an insight into the complex and skilled area of kinship care


Cooper, J (2011) Children’s spending on guardianship orders rises sharply [online] Available:

Gove (2012) Speech on Adoption. Department for Education. [online].  Available:

Great Britain. Children Act 1989: Elizabeth II. Chapter 41 (1989) London: The Stationery Office.

Tarleton, B Ward, L and Howarth J (2006) Finding the Right Support: A Review of Issues and Positive Practice in Supporting Parents with Learning Difficulties and their Children. London. The Baring Foundation.