Kinship Care in the UK

Kinship care is when a child is looked after by a relative, often a grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling. It can also refer to care by a family friend. The arrangement is full-time or for the majority of the time.

Kinship care can be on the basis of an informal arrangement with the child’s parents or arranged by the local authority or be ordered by the court under a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order. Kinship carers may also be referred to as connected people.

Around half of kinship carers are grandparents. The need for kinship care can arise in a number of ways, including parental drug or alcohol problems, abuse, ill-health, bereavement or imprisonment.

It has been shown to be beneficial to children to be cared for by adults who are connected to their family. It offers a level of stability as well as the chance to stay within their family network and can avoid separating a child entirely from their parents. Children who are looked after by kinship carers have also been shown to have increased placement stability compared to those in local authority care.

At Crisp & Co, we specialise in family law. Our team have an in-depth understanding of the law in this area and can offer expert kinship care legal advice to help you put your situation on a sound legal footing if you have stepped in to care for a young relative or family friend.

We know how important it is for your family to have the support and guidance you need. You can be sure that we will take the time to get to know your situation so that we can provide the right help for you and the children you wish to care for.

Book your free initial consultation with our kinship care solicitors

Contact our kinship care solicitors today to book your free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.

Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

Our kinship care solicitors’ expertise

We can advise you across all issues related to kinship care, to include the following:

  • Informal kinship care arrangements
  • Adopting the child of a relative or friend
  • Concurrent planning and kinship care
  • Special Guardianship
  • Helping you to obtain a kinship care order (Child Arrangements Order)

Our team understands how important the right support for your family is and we will work to ensure that any child in your care has the legal foundation that you and they need.

At Crisp & Co, we only deal with family law, meaning we have genuine and in-depth legal expertise. If any difficulties arise, we have the knowledge and proficiency to deal with them.

Our services include the following:

  • Advising you in respect of the law surrounding kinship care and what the legal process will be
  • Representing you through with private applications to become a kinship carer for a child (such as applications for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order)
  • Liaising with other parties as required, such as the child’s parents and their legal representatives
  • Advising you about adopting a child you are kinship carer for and the legal process of adoption
  • Support and advice once adoption or special guardianship has been approved

Contact us today to discuss your needs with a friendly member of our team. Alternatively, fill in our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

For more information, see our page on fostering.

How kinship care works in the UK

What is kinship care?

Kinship care is taking care of a child belonging to a relative or a friend, either for most of the time or for all of the time. It can be formal or informal.

Taking on kinship care will involve you undertaking legal rights and responsibilities. So, it is recommended that you take legal advice to ensure that you understand the implications and that you have the right structure in place to allow you to make necessary decisions for the child in your care.

How is kinship care arranged?

Kinship care can be arranged in a number of ways:

  • A Child Arrangements Order made by the court can give you parental responsibility alongside a child’s parents. This means that you are legally entitled to make decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. You would typically share decision-making responsibilities with the parents and anyone else with parental responsibility.
  • A Special Guardianship Order, where the court will appoint you to be the child’s special guardian. This is usually a role given to a relative and you would have the authority to make major decisions for the child until they reach the age of 18.
    As a special guardian, you would be given parental responsibility and would not generally need to consult the child’s parents when making decisions about their care and upbringing.
  • Kinship foster care is arranged by the local authority, placing a ‘looked after’ child with a family member or friend in an official fostering capacity.

How does kinship care fostering work?

A child may become looked after by the local authority either with the agreement of the child’s parents or by order of the court. The local authority will generally prioritise a foster care placement with a child’s family or with a family friend, provided it believes that to be in the child’s best interests.

Where a child is placed in a kinship foster arrangement by the local authority, there will be continuing involvement and support from the authority, which can be helpful. If the arrangement is informal, then carers may be left without support and any related entitlement to financial help. If you become a formal foster carer, you will be entitled to an allowance.

If you are made a foster carer for a child, you will not have parental responsibility. This will be shared with the local authority and the child’s parents, which means they will still have the right to make major decisions in respect of the child.

You may be advised to apply for a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order which would give you parental responsibility. You should take legal advice before taking this step, which would have implications in respect of your responsibilities for the child as well as in respect of financial assistance.

Find out more about parental responsibility here.

How does adopting a child in kinship care work?

Adoption is not generally considered necessary when a child is in kinship care. It risks confusing a child as to family relationships when a grandparent becomes an adoptive parent and a parent becomes a sibling. For this reason, it is not often recommended. An adoption order also ends a child’s legal relationship with their parents.

Do parents have a say in their children’s care during kinship care?

The child’s parents will still generally have parental responsibility, as this is rarely removed by the court unless a child is adopted.

When a Special Guardianship Order is put in place, the kinship carer will generally be able to make most decisions in respect of the child without needing to consult the parents. When a Child Arrangements Order is in place, the kinship carer may need to share some decision-making responsibilities with the parents and anyone else with parental responsibility.

Can parents take back their children from kinship care?

If kinship care is on an informal basis, then those involved can agree that the parent or parents can resume care of the child.

Where a court order has been made, an application will need to be made to the court to vary it and the court will generally need to grant permission for an application to be made. This will need to be accompanied by evidence showing what has changed in the situation that means that the parent or parents are now able to take their child back.

This type of court order is intended to give a child a stable home for the whole of their childhood, so the court will not overturn an order lightly. As well as showing a change of circumstances, a parent will need to persuade the court that the change would be in the child’s best interests.

How much is the kinship care allowance?

The amount a kinship carer will receive will depend on the local authority as well as the support plan that is put in place.

You could be eligible for regular payments, based on the age of the child, and you may also receive one-off payments. Other assistance may be available from your local authority, such as help to find accommodation, childcare support, bereavement counselling, help for behavioural problems and diagnosis for conditions such as autism and ADHD.

You should also take into account the possible effect the receipt of kinship care payments may have on any benefits you receive.

Dealing with a support plan can be complex and it is important to negotiate if you do not believe it is adequate.

You are entitled to receive the same payments as a non-related carer, such as a local authority foster carer. The law states that kinship carers should not be discriminated against because they have a relationship with the child. Some local authorities have failed in their responsibility to pay the full amount due, so you should check to make sure that you are receiving the same as their other foster carers.

What can the kinship care allowance be used for?

The allowance is intended for kinship carers to provide the care that a child needs. This could be by covering the costs of providing a home, food and clothing for them or for extra items. Additional payments are also usually paid, for example, for Christmas and birthdays.

When a child is first fostered, one-off payments for clothing and equipment may also be paid.

Why choose Crisp & Co’s kinship care solicitors?

Crisp & Co is a specialist family law firm, meaning we have genuine expertise in issues relating to children.

We understand the legal complications that can arise in dealing with kinship care and we have extensive experience in resolving them. Our team know how stressful it can be for a child’s family to deal with legal matters relating to their upbringing and we will always do all we can to make matters as easy as possible for you.

We will also work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

We hold Law Society accreditation in respect of Family Law Advanced for our experience and skills handling complex and high value family law cases, including kinship cases where complications have arisen.

Get in touch with our kinship care solicitors

Contact our kinship care solicitors today to book your free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.

Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

Our expertise includes:

Adopting your foster child

It is common for foster children to become part of the family. However, foster carers do not have the same legal rights or responsibilities as the child’s legal parents. If you want to make your foster child ‘officially’ part of your family, it may be possible to adopt them.

This process can be fairly complicated. It can take a long time to be approved as an adoptive parent and there is no guarantee that both the local authority and the family courts will agree that you can adopt the child.

The first step will be to contact your local authority or fostering agency and discuss with them whether adoption is possible.

Fostering to adopt

Fostering to adopt is the process of becoming dual-approved as a foster carer and an adoptive parent so that you can adopt a particular baby or young child directly from foster care.

The process of becoming an approved adoptive parent can be long. So, the benefit of fostering to adopt is that you give the child a stable, secure home from the moment they need it, not just once you become their adoptive parent.

With this process, the local authority will have already decided that the child should be adopted before they are placed with you. However, the family courts will still need to decide whether adoption is in the child’s best interests. Because of this, there is always a small risk that the adoption will not work out.

For more information, visit our Fostering to adopt page.

Concurrent planning

Concurrent planning is like fostering for adoption except neither the local authority nor the family court have decided whether the child should be adopted yet.

The child will be placed in foster care with carers who are approved to be adoptive parents. However, there is still a small chance that the child can be returned to their birth family.

We understand the stress this uncertainty can cause and are here to provide emotional support as you go through the concurrent planning process.

Fostering and adopting a child in kinship care

When a child’s parents cannot provide the safe home they need, it is common for a relative or family friend to step in and provide care. These types of arrangement are called kinship care arrangements.

There are several different types of kinship care arrangement, including:

  • Informal kinship care arrangements
  • Kinship foster care
  • Private fostering
  • Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangements Orders

Advice about adopting a child in kinship care

We can provide all the advice and support you need to adopt a child to whom you are connected, for example, your relative or child of your close friends.

Our fostering solicitors have experience with the following types of kinship care arrangement:

Informal kinship care arrangements

It is common for children to simply go and live with close relatives, such as grandparents, aunts uncles or siblings, with little to no involvement from the local authority. Such carers often do not need to be approved as foster carers.

If you are a grandparent, visit our Adopting Grandchildren page for more information.

Kinship foster care

Where a child is looked after by the local authority, they are required to give preference to relatives and other ‘connected people’ if that is what is best for the child. However, that person must be assessed and approved as a foster carer.

Private fostering

This is where someone who is connected to the child, but is not a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, looks after the child. For example, a great aunt or a child’s teacher may privately foster a child.

Usually these arrangements are made between the carer and the birth parents (rather than between the carer and the local authority as with kinship foster care).

However, the local authority must be notified at least six weeks before the arrangement begins, so social services can get involved and ensure that the child’s welfare is put first at all times.

Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangements Orders

These are private court orders that can allow a child to live with you while also giving you parental responsibility.

As a carer under a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, you will not technically be a foster carer, but you can still take steps to adopt the child.

We can help carers obtain these orders where it is right for you and the child.

Visit our Child Arrangements Orders page or this article on Special Guardianship Orders for more information.