What is Kinship Care?
Kinship care means that relatives or friends look after children who cannot live with their parents.
Many kinship carers are part of the extended family of the children they care for, but kinship carers may also include people who are not related to the child but who are still in the child’s social network. For example someone the child knows well and trusts, perhaps, a parent of a school friend, a neighbour or a close family friend. Sometimes this type of care is called family and friends care or connected persons care.
kinship carers provide a vital role to children who cannot live with their parents, giving them love, support and a sense of belonging. You may have become a carer in a crisis without any notice and may yourself have been deeply affected by the events which have led to the child not being able to remain with their birth parents.
If you are already or if you are thinking about caring for a child who is not your own, you may want more information.
Different Types of Kinship care
If you, or someone you know, has been caring for a child that is not a close relative then you might be a private foster carer:
- a privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is being cared for, for 28 days or more, by an adult who is not their close relative
- it's usually a cousin or great aunt, a friend of the family, or someone who has agreed to take care of the child by private arrangement without involving the council; close relative is defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or by marriage)
- the parent is still legally responsible for their child
- Children Services have a legal duty to ensure children in this situation are safe and well
Examples of private foster care arrangements:
- children and young people who are sent to this country for education or health care by their birth parents from overseas
- children or young people whose parents work or study long and/or antisocial hours and other people care for their children
- children or young people who are living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home
- a teenager living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend
By law if you are caring for a child under a private fostering arrangement you need to let Children's Services know. For more information, please contact your Local Children’s Services Office:
- telephone: 01905 822666
Download: Private fostering guide for children
Child Arrangement Order
This is a formal court orders and replaced 'Residence Orders' and 'Contact Orders' in 2014. Child Arrangement Orders can decide where a child lives and what contact arrangements are put in place. Parental responsibility is shared with birth parents. Kinship carers can apply for a Child Arrangement Order through the court in private proceedings
Special Guardianship Order
This is a formal court order which allows parental responsibility and control over a child by individuals other than the parent. This could be a grandparent, close relative or a family friend. A Special Guardianship Order is generally thought to be a stronger order than a Child Arrangement Order and the holder can make most decisions about a child's life without needing to refer back to the child's birth parents.
Special Guardianship Orders can also be applied for by kinship carers in private proceedings through the courts for children who have been living with them for 12 months or more. In these cases the local authority need to be notified so a Special Guardianship assessment.
This is where friends or family members have been assessed and approved as foster carers to look after children whose birth parents agree to their child being in the care of the local authority or children for whom the local authority have legal responsibility through a care order granted by the courts at the end of care proceedings.
The Local authority share parental responsibility for children on care orders with their birth parents and social workers will remain actively involved in the child’s life.
Download: Find out more about what to expect
What you can do next
- If you have decided to make a longer term commitment to a child already in your care, you can apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Orders (formally a residence order ) or a Special Guardianship Order, this will give you parental responsibility. If you are intend to apply for a Special Guardianship Order, you need to write to the local authority giving 12 weeks notice of your intention to apply. This is to allow time for the Local Authority to complete a Special Guardianship assessment that will be used to inform the court’s decision.
- If you would like to be considered as a kinship carer for a child where concerns mean the local authority may already have or be or planning to start care proceeding, you can contact the child’s social worker or the local authority directly. Children's services telephone: 01905 822666