This page explains the law surrounding an arrangement whereby a child goes to live with a relative, friend or other connected person. It explains the duties of the local authority to assess the suitability of a Family and Friends Carer and provide support where necessary.
If a child goes to live with a relative or other connected person this person could be recognised as a Family and Friends Foster Carer.
What is Kinship or Family and Friends care?
Family and Friends Care or Kinship Care is an arrangement whereby a child who cannot be cared for by their parent(s) or other person with Parental Responsibility, goes to live with a relative, friend or other connected person. The person with whom a child is placed could be recognised as a Family and Friends Foster Carer.
The arrangement can be a private arrangement directly between the parent(s) and the relative, friend or connected person or it can arise through Children's Services involvement. Children's Services may have determined that the child was at risk of harm living with the parent(s) and therefore placed the child in the care of a relative, friend or connected person. This is an important distinction because it will often determine the extent to which the Local Authority owes a duty to assess and provide support to a carer.
If you are not related to the child you wish to care for please see our page on Private Fostering.
Who can become a Kinship or Family and Friends carer?
You will need be recognised as a 'connected person' in order for the Local Authority to assess and approve you as a Family and Friends Foster Carer.
A connected person is defined as a 'relative, friend or other person connected with a child'. The latter is likely to include person(s) who have a pre-existing relationship with the child, for example, a teacher who knows the child in a professional capacity.
A relative, for the purposes of family and friends foster care, is defined in the Children Act 1989 as:
A ‘grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent’.
Family and Friends care may be a short-term private arrangement between parent and a relative or connected person or a formal arrangement with support from Children's Services.
What are the duties of the Local Authority?
The duties of the Local Authority will be often be dependent on whether Children’s Services were involved in placing the child.
Children’s Services involvement
If the child is looked after by the Local Authority i.e. under a Care Order or accommodated under a section 20 agreement the Local Authority has specific duties. If you are a relative or other connected person and Children's Services have placed a child with you then they must assess you as a foster carer under Regulation 24 of The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. It is possible to assess you as a temporary foster carer so that a child can be placed with you immediately. The full assessment must be conducted within 16 weeks of the child being placed with you, and this can be extended for a further 8 weeks in specific circumstances.
You will not automatically be eligible for assessment and support if the child is living with you through a private arrangement. It is advisable to notify Children’s Services of the arrangement and request that they assess you as a foster carer as soon as possible.
We would suggest seeking legal advice if you are in a position where children’s services placed a child with you but they have later identified the arrangement to be private.
Children’s Services must provide reasons if they refuse to assess and their complaints procedure can be followed if you wish to dispute their decision.
You can request a ‘child in need’ assessment under S.17 of the Children Act 1989 if you require additional support in caring for a child and the assessment for Family and Friends Foster care was refused.
What will happen as part of the assessment for Kinship or Family and Friends Care?
The assessment will be split into 2 stages.
Stage 1 will be looking at:
- Your health and any disabilities
- Your marital status
- Your accommodation
- Other children in the household
- Any criminal convictions or cautions
- Background checks on any person over 18 within the household.
- References as to your character
If you pass stage 1 then it will progress to stage 2.
Stage 2 will be looking at:
- Your personality
- Your religion
- Your racial origin, cultural and linguistic background
- Your employment and other income
- Any previous experience of caring for children
What happens after the assessment?
The social worker will produce a report to submit to the fostering panel. You must receive a copy of this before the panel meeting and you are entitled to make representations to the panel.
The fostering panel will then either decide to approve you, approve you with conditions, request further information before making a decision or decide not to approve you.
Once approved, your allocated social worker will provide support and supervision and make regular visits to the home. You will be periodically reviewed as a foster carer.
In which situations could I be refused as a kinship or family friend foster carer?
You will be not be approved if:
- You or anyone else in the household has a conviction for child abuse, neglect, assault or violent offences against children or young people.
- You or any other person in the household has been convicted of rape of a child or adult.
If you are refused because of either of these reasons you cannot challenge the decision.
You should not automatically be refused as a foster carer due to a disability or health problems or because of your accommodation. This ought to be weighed in balance to other factors considered in the assessment.
You might be refused at stage 1 or at stage 2. In both situations you should be given full reasons and an opportunity to challenge this either directly to Children's Services or before an Independent Review Panel.
What financial support is available for Kinship and Family Friend carers?
If the child is looked after by the Local Authority you will be paid a full fostering allowance for the child. Even if you are temporarily approved as a foster carer you should receive a full fostering allowance.
Children's Services can also provide support such as respite care, facilitating contact with the child's parents and help with education costs. It is important to negotiate and agree in advance the support that you require from Children's Services.
If a Family and Friends carer is caring for a child under a private arrangement they may be able to obtain financial support from the Local Authority under s17 Children Act 1989 and should negotiate this as soon as possible.
Biological parents remain financially responsible for their children and may be required to pay maintenance.
You may also be able to claim child benefit but you will need to talk to the parents of the child you are fostering and reach an agreement.
Children's Services can provide financial support either as part of a fostering allowance or under section 17 Children Act 1989
What alternatives are there to Kinship or Family and Friends care or foster care?
Family and Friends carers and foster carers do not get Parental Responsibility for the child which means that they do not have the authority to make some key decisions on behalf of the child.
If this will be problematic a Family and Friends carer may apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order confirming that the child resides with them or a Special Guardianship Order or an Adoption Order.
Can I get legal aid for applying for a Child Arrangements Order?
mediation if you meet the financial requirements. Legal aid can help with the costs of going to court for a Child Arrangements Order where there is evidence of child abuse. For more information on legal aid see our information pages on :can help with the costs of