Kinship Care

Young children may often require care and love beyond their parents. In an ideal world, one or both parents may share the custody of a child. Parents may be unable to continue providing care and assistance to their children due to certain circumstances. Children will often need love, care and affection during such times where the parents are unable to provide care and support to their children, this is where kinship care may come into play.

Article Contents

What is kinship care?

Kinship care is the term given where parents are unable to look after and care or support their children. In such a situation other family members and relatives may be required to care for the child including looking after their day to day needs and housing needs. These can be grandparents, elder siblings, uncles or aunties or other adults who are connected to the child. Kinship carers are also known as family and friends carers. Such people who raise a child either full time or most of the time when their parents are not able to are known as kinship carers. It could also cover adults such as neighbours or friends including family friends. The idea of kinship care is also supported by the government and is noted as looking after someone else’s child.  

For what reasons may children be placed in kinship care?

The sole reason why children may be placed in kinship care is due to the inability of the parents to look after and care for the children. The charity, Kinship has conducted a research which states that 52% of the children end up in such care due to drug or alcohol misuse by the parents. Other reasons could include the bereavement or imprisonment of a parent or parental abuse, parental neglect, or even ill health of the parent.

Is kinship care permanent or temporary?

Kinship care could be arranged on a short term or long-term basis. This arrangement can also be either a permanent or temporary arrangement. A temporary arrangement may be one which is agreed informally between the parents and the kinship carer. Alternatively, it may be a permanent arrangement which is formalised and approved through a court order from the family court. Long term kinship care can be arranged through formalising the kinship care arrangements through court orders. These can be through a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order.

What are the different types of kinship care?

Kinship care can take form in many ways. Most common forms of care are:

  1. Informal family and friends arrangements
  2. Private foster care arrangements
  3. Family and friends foster care child arrangements
  4. Child Arrangements orders
  5. Special Guardianship Orders
  6. Adoption orders

Informal family and Friends Kinship care

Informal family and friends kinship care arrangements can take place when a child begins living with relatives, friends or other people connected to the family. This will be due to the parents inability to continue caring for the children. This arrangement can take place informally between the parent and the kinship carer. Alternatively social services may become involved where they consider that a child by living with their parent is at a risk of harm and may informally agree to an informal kinship care whilst their investigations continue.

Private Foster Care Arrangements

Private foster care arrangements take place where someone other than a parent or a close relative of a child will be required to look after a child for at least 28 days or more. It is important to note that private fostering does not include a close relative. Therefore, this can include a cousins, friends, neighbours or great uncles and aunts but does not allow for grandparents, immediate uncles and aunties, siblings or step parents to care for the child.

For private foster care arrangements to take place the parent, private foster carers and those who are involved in arranging such arrangements must notify the children’s services department of the relevant local authority. Although the arrangement for private foster care arrangements is private, under the Children Act 1989 the local authority must be notified. This is to ensure the children are protected given that the local authority is under a duty to ensure that the arrangements relating to a child promote the welfare and safety of a child.

Upon notification to the local authority, they may undertake enquiries and investigations to ensure the child fostered in the area is protected and safeguarded. The local authority may also provide information relating to the care of a child is made available to the private foster carers.

Family and friends foster care child arrangements

Family and friends foster care child arrangements cover situations where the family or friend kinship carer is seen as an official foster carer for the children. This is known as the kinship foster care. For this to take place, the carer, which can be a family member or friends of the family, would need to be assessed and approved by the local authority to foster care. The child in question will be placed under the care of the local authority. The child is referred to as “looked after”. Therefore, the carers under kinship foster care do not have parental responsibility over the child. This arrangement is formal arrangement.

Kinship foster care can also be an informal kinship foster care arrangement. An informal kinship foster care arrangement is where a child lives with a family member, relative or family friend without the local authority carrying out a foster carer assessment.

The child can be made subject to kinship foster care either with the parents’ agreement or where the local authority would have made an application to the family court and subsequently they would have been granted an order by the courts following the initiation of their care proceedings. This order provides the local authority responsibility over the child.

What is the assessment for kinship foster care?

When considering and with regards to kinship foster care, the local authority will carry out assessments to ensure the suitability of the carer. The assessment is based on two stages, the first stage considers the carers health, accommodation, marital status, whether there are other children in the home, criminal convictions and cautions, backgrounds check over adults in the home and will also involve obtaining character references.

The second stage of the assessment revolves around our personality, culture, racial origin, religion, your employment and whether you have any previous experience in looking after children. Following the 2 stage assessment the local authority will provide a report and decide whether you are approved, you are approved with conditions, whether further information is required or whether you are not approved.

Kinship care through a child arrangements order

A child arrangements order can be obtained from the family court to determine where the child will reside. Quite often family members can also make applications for child arrangements to either achieve the residence of the children or to establish some form of contact with the children. In terms of kinship care, carers can apply to the court to obtain a Child Arrangements order in their favour. This would also mean they have parental responsibility along with the child’s birth parents and would be able to make decisions for the child. When considering kinship care a child arrangement order can be made in private family law proceedings which doesn’t include any involvement from the local authority or social services.

Where kinship foster care is awarded to a relative, family member or a family friend, the carer can also obtain a Child Arrangement order in their favour. This is especially the case where the care arrangement maybe beneficial for the child and could provide a permanent plan for the concerned child.

Kinship care through a special guardianship order

Kinship care could also take place through a special guardianship order. Such an order involves the court appointing a care for the child until the child attains the age of 18 years. The guardian in most cases will be a relative of the child. The special guardianship holder will share the parental responsibility for the child with the parents and be involved in making decisions for the child without having the need to consult the parents.

The process for obtaining a special guardianship order is like the process of kinship foster care as the local authority will need to be notified of your interest to ensure you are adequately assessed.

Kinship Care vs Special Guardianship order?

If arrangements are to be long-term then you may want to consider securing a Special Guardianship Order to enable rights over the child. Adoption can be an alternative if you are happy for rights over the child to be left with the local authority.


Kinship Care and adoption

Quite often kinship care may lead to adoption of the child. With adoption the adoptive parent becomes the child’s legal parent. A family member which is either a grandparent, aunty or uncle, a sibling or stepparent can make an application to change the status from kinship care to adoption. This is providing if the child has lived with you for at least 3 years in the last 5 years.

If you are placed as a local authority foster carer by way of the local authority becoming involved and allowing you to become a foster carer of a child, then you can apply to adopt the child providing you have been caring for the child and the child has lived with you for a period of at least 1 year.

Adoption can often be seen as the last resort if the parents are unable to care for their children for the long term. This is because adoption provides the adoptive parent the parental rights and responsibility. Adoption can make kinship care permanent as it lasts lifelong and cannot be revoked. To transfer kinship care to adoption the local authority need to be notified and an adoption order will need to be obtained. This can only be obtained once the social worker from the local authority carries out their assessments and approve you as an adoptive parent.


Is help available for kinship care?

Within England and Wales help and support is available to kinship carers who raise children when their parents are not able to do so. A leading charity offering this support and assistance is Kinship Family Rights Group also provides support and assistance to ensure children are kept safe during difficult times.


How is kinship foster care supported by this country?

If you are involved in kinship care and have someone else’s child living with you then you can get help and assistance from the government and your local authority. If you are acting as the parent and assume their rights and responsibilities, then you will be entitled to receive child benefit and child tax credit as well as any other benefits that parents are entitled to claim.

Kinship foster carers are also supported by their local authorities through training which is tailored to help offer the support and care children need. A social worker will often be appointed where the local authority become involved who will visit you and offer and advice and support to ensure the children’s welfare is supported adequately.


What is relative foster care allowance?

All kinship foster carers are entitled to receive a relative foster care allowance. This is to ensure the costs of caring for a child are met. A relative foster care allowance is mainly used to ensure the child’s household costs including food, clothing, educational costs, and travel costs are met.

A relative foster care allowance can vary depending on which local authority the child lives in. The relative foster care allowance can also vary depending on the age of the child which is living with you and is being cared under kinship care. The payments for relative foster care allowance are relatively upwards of £120.00 per week or £500.00 per month which are dependent on the age of the child in care.



In what circumstances can a kinship foster carer be refused?

A family member, relative or family friend maybe refused to be considered for foster kinship care where either the kinship foster carer or any one in their home has a conviction for child abuse, assault, violent offences against children or neglect. You may also be refused to be considered for such care if either you or a member of your household has been convicted of raping either an adult or a child.

Is tax payable on relative foster care allowance payments?

Whether or not a kinship foster carer must pay tax on a relative foster care allowance payment depends on the number of children they look after, whether it is a full tax year and whether other kinship foster care people live in the same house.

No tax is payable on relative foster care allowance payments if the carer earns up to £10,000.00 a year. If there is more than one kinship foster care parent in the same house, then this exemption is shared equally between them.

For relative foster care allowance payments which exceed the £10,000.00 mark a kinship foster carers tax relief is available for every week or part week a child is with them.

Contact Kabir Family Law today for a free initial consultation

If you are caring for a child who is not biologically yours or is a child of a relative or a friend, then contact our family lawyers today to receive all the support and advice you need on kinship care. Our family lawyers in Nottingham as well as across Newcastle, Northampton, Oxford and London can assist you to ensure you fully understand the principles of kinship care. Our family specialists can also advise you on the different forms of kinship care as well as assisting you in making your care arrangement permanent by way of a child arrangements order, special guardianship, or adoption.

We provide family law advice nationally as well as internationally through telephone, email and Skype. We will also ensure you are kept up to date with your matter and assist you developing a strategy to help you succeed. Contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling on 029 2192 1400 to discuss your options or let us call you back.