If a child cannot be cared for by their birth parents there are several officially recognised options open to family members, friends or other people closely connected with the child. This is known as kinship care (also known as family and friends care or connected persons care).
Placing children with family or friends is given priority over other care plans as it maintains important links for the child to family or a familiar environment.
What are your options as a kinship carer?
There are several legally recognised ways kinship carers can care for a child. Both yours and the child’s circumstances will dictate which one is the most suitable option. They are as follows:
Informal care arrangement
Grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, brothers or sisters can legally care for a child but with the parents keeping full parental responsibility. Other family members or friends wishing to care for the child would need to become a private foster carer.
Private foster care
As stated above, this applies to non immediate family members or friends. You will need to contact your local authority to be formally assessed and approved as a foster carer. You can find out more about the law relating to private fostering here.
Special guardianship orders
A long-term alternative to adoption or long-term fostering. A special guardian takes full parental responsibility for the child which overrides the parent’s parental responsibility. Unlike adoption the child still maintains links with their parents. It is different from fostering in that the child no longer remains in the care of the local authority. For more information on the circumstances where special guardianship arrangement would be suitable, visit the Child Law Advice Service website.
Child arrangements orders
Child arrangements are determined by the courts and can be decided in favour of a kinship carer. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.
If you are considering becoming a kinship carer, it may be helpful to learn more about how the child’s background impacts on their development and behaviour.