Kinship carers in England are also known as family and friends carers and/or connected persons carers. There are different means by which a child may be living with a kinship carer, depending on the relationship between them and their carer, the level of involvement with the local authority, and, where applicable, the nature of the court order granted.
This information page provides an overview of work with kinship carers in England, and outlines the five main ways in which arrangements are made and monitored:
- informal arrangements between close family members
- private fostering
- family and friends foster care
- special guardianship
There is a useful summary table of the different options in Annexe A of the Family and Friends Care statutory guidance.
More detailed information is available in relation to the assessment, approval and support of family and friends foster carers, for which The Fostering Network have produced assessment resources.
We have produced a Practice Information Note on placing children with family and friends carers (England).
Key points to consider
Parents can make their own arrangements for the care of their child by close relatives (grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings or a step-parent) – these are sometimes referred to as ‘informal arrangements’.
- Parents who make their own arrangements for the care of their child with someone other than a close relative, and for longer than 28 days, enter into a private fostering arrangement. The local authority must be notified and they are required by law to assess, monitor and support this arrangement.
- Parent’s choices to make their own arrangements as above may be limited in situations where there are concerns for the child’s welfare and safety.
- When such concerns arise, early intervention by agencies, and involvement of a child’s extended family and social network in assessments and planning from the beginning, can empower a child and family’s wider support networks to engage and improve the chances of a child being able to remain in the care of their parents. Some people advocate the use of family group conferences where there are child protection concerns.
- Should circumstances arise where the child cannot remain in the care of their parents, such early engagement allows social workers to identify and assess potential kinship care arrangements before they are needed. These initial family and friends care assessments (also known as viability assessments) may enable family members to take their own steps (via private law proceedings) to secure the welfare of the child.
- If concerns escalate to the point of removal of the child from the care of their parents, the child becomes a looked after child and all kinship carers will require the local authority to assess their suitability as alternative carers for the child before the child can be placed.
- Temporary care with family members can be arranged where appropriate whilst work with the family continues and longer term plans are made. A family member must be assessed and temporarily approved as a local authority foster carer before a looked after child can be placed with them. See Practice Information Note: Placing Children with Kinship Carers
- Regardless of whether a child is living with parents, placed with temporarily approved family and friends foster carers, or placed with other local authority foster carers, the social worker will need to consider the options available for the permanent care of the child should it be decided the child cannot remain living or return to live with their parents. The social worker is required to give preference to placement with family and friends carers, provided they can safeguard the child and meet their welfare needs.
Kinship carers can offer permanence to a child in different ways: as foster carers under a care order, as special guardians under a special guardianship order, or under a child arrangements orders. In rare cases, adoption under an adoption order may be the most appropriate. Each arrangement requires assessment under the relevant regulations, and fostering and adoption require approval by the local authority following recommendation from the relevant panel. Where care proceedings have been issued, it is not unusual for the court to order multiple assessments of potential family and friends carers. The pros and cons of each will be laid out in the court balance sheet as part of the social work evidence template and ultimately the court will decide on the most appropriate order.
The Skills to FosterTM assessment report is a modular report which enables local authorities to use the same report template for the different assessments that may be required of the same person or family. With eight sections from which to select, the report can be updated and added to as information becomes available and as the care planning process progresses. Starting with a viability assessment and/or assessment as a temporarily approved foster carer under the care planning regulations, the initial information gathered can be added to if either a fostering or special guardianship assessment (or both) is required. Each assessment can be saved once completed, copied and renamed in order to continue with a subsequent assessment.
The assessment report contains integrated guidance notes to aid completion and comes with an electronic toolkit containing additional resources for use in the assessment. There are guides to the assessment available for assessing social workers, applicants and for panel members.
- The Skills to Foster Assessment Guides: for assessing social workers, applicants and panel members
- All You Need to Know: Family and Friends Foster Care
- Initial Family and Friends Care Assessments: a good practice guide (2017)
Key legislation, regulation, guidance and research relating to kinship care
The Children Act 1989
Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations (2010 as amended)
The Fostering (England) Regulations (2011 as amended)
The Children Act 1989 Statutory guidance and regulations: Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review
The Children Act 1989 Statutory guidance and regulations: Volume 4: Fostering Services
Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for local authorities