Connected carers – advice & resources for practitioners
A kinship carer looks after the child of a relative or friend on a full time basis, whether this is a temporary or permanent arrangement.
The biggest group of kinship carers are grandparents, but there are many others including older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, more distant relatives, family friends and neighbours.
Kinship care can be arranged in formal or more informal ways and in both cases there is support available. It’s important to understand the implications of different legal situations, as there may be choices to make and the responsibilities and support provided varies. To ensure the right support it is important that the local authority knows about arrangements.
Special Guardianship offers an option for children who cannot live with their birth parents and need to have permanent care whilst giving the carers parental responsibility for the child. Special Guardianship offers security without absolute severance of the relationship with the birth parents.
A Special Guardian family takes on the legal powers and responsibility of parenting a child until their 18th birthday. Birth parents do not lose their parental responsibility, but they cannot exercise their responsibility except in certain circumstances, which are exceptional and few. The Special Guardians make most decisions to do with the child’s upbringing, including where the child lives, goes to school and what medical treatment they can receive.
Carers may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for 12 months or sooner with the leave of the court.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private law proceedings and the local authority will be asked to assess and prepare a report for the court stating whether the Special Guardianship Order is in the child’s best interest.
Special Guardianship Orders can also be made at the end of care proceedings. Special Guardianship Orders can be made in favour of Kinship carers with whom a child is living and can be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need.
The applicants for Special Guardianship, the birth parents and the child will all be seen by the Local Authority Social Worker during the process of the application for a Special Guardianship Order.
All Special Guardians are entitled to an assessment of their needs as well as the needs of the child.
Visit the Family Rights website for more information at www.frg.org.uk/
Private fostering is an arrangement where a parent, or someone with parental responsibility for a child, arranges for their child or children to live with a carer who is not the child’s guardian or close relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother or step parent by marriage), for 28 days or more. Privately fostered children can be up to the age of 16 years (or 18 if disabled) and are looked after on a full time basis.
A private fostering arrangement might be put in place for example when a:
- child/young person’s parents work or study long and/or anti-social hours;
- child/young person is sent to the UK for education or health care by birth parents from overseas;
- child or young person lives with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home;
- teenager lives with their partner’s family.
Sometimes parents don’t realise that the arrangements they have made for their child or children are private fostering arrangements. It is important to think about this and let the local authority know. The law says that in these arrangements the local authority has a duty to ensure the child is safe and well cared for.
For more information visit these websites:
- Manchester City Council – private fostering pages at www.manchester.gov.uk
- The Fostering Network at www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/
- Coram at www.coram.org.uk
- LGBT families at newfamilysocial.org.uk/adoptingfostering