• attachment to carers;
  • anxiety;
  • bereavement;
  • informal kinship care;
  • social networks;
  • stigma


Our re-analysis of census data shows that 95% of kinship arrangements are ‘informal’, i.e. made outside the formal child welfare system. Interviews with 80 children aged 8–18 years in informal kinship care and their carers showed that most children were well attached to their kin carers, but one-third had been taunted or bullied because they did not live with their parents. Many children tightly controlled who knew about this potentially stigmatizing information. Most children had good numbers of adults and children in their social networks, and for three-fifths, their parents were still key figures in their lives. The children who regarded few people as very important to them significantly more often lived with older kin carers (many of whom were in poor health), were more often anxious and depressed, and did not talk about their living situation to others. A considerable number of children worried about their carers’ poor health and about their own future if they died. The significance of these findings for statutory and voluntary services is discussed.