There are so many ways you can grow your family nowadays. Foster caring is a rewarding way to give a child a loving and supportive home when they need it most. Whether that child eventually moves on to different carers, returns to their birth family, or you go on to adopt them, having the right support is essential.
As Crisp & Co, our family law solicitors can provide sensitive practical advice relating to children to individuals, couples and families.
We can help you handle all private legal matters associated with fostering a child, including:
- Adopting your foster child
- Fostering to adopt
- Concurrent planning
- Fostering and adopting a child in kinship care
Why do children need foster carers?
Children are taken into care for so many reasons, but typically it is because their welfare is at risk. Often, the child’s parents simply cannot care for them, for example, because of health issues or because there are domestic violence concerns.
Care is always a last resort. In most cases, the local authority (social services) will work with parents and to help them improve their circumstances so they can provide a safe home or develop the skills they need to fulfil their child’s needs. However, if this is not possible, it may be necessary to take the child into care where they will usually be placed with a foster carer or even be placed for adoption.
Care can be temporary measure. For example, if the child’s parent is in hospital and is temporarily unable to look after the child, a foster carer may be asked to step in – these types of placement can last just as little as a few days or weeks.
However, sometimes it becomes clear that the child will never be able to return to live with their birth parents. In some situations, the parents may even agree that they should no longer care for the child. In these types of cases, the child may go to live with a long-term foster carer and may eventually be adopted.
Babies and very young children can sometimes be fostered by their adoptive parents while the adoption process is ongoing. This is called fostering for adoption.
Becoming a foster carer
Fostering is a wonderful way to give a child a safe, stable and loving home, either for a short while or in the long term.
Anyone over the age of 21 can be eligible to be a foster carer. You do not need to be married or in a civil partnership; you do not even need to have a partner.
To become a foster carer, you should speak to your local authority or fostering agency who can provide advice and support about the assessment and what you need to do.
Fostering and adoption
It is possible to become a foster carer specifically to adopt a child. To do this, you can be dual-approved as an adopter and a foster carer. Often, the local authority will have already decided that the child should be adopted before placing them with you (although not always).
You may also be able to adopt a child you are already fostering. Of course, this usually only works with long-term foster placements where the local authority has decided that it is in the best interests of the child to be adopted.
How our fostering solicitors can help
Our solicitors can help foster carers will all types of adoption processes and are highly experienced in fostering law. Whether you are already a foster carer looking for advice about adopting your foster child, or you need advice about becoming a foster carer specifically to adopt, we are here to help.
We can also provide advice to people who are caring for a relative under a ‘kinship care’ arrangement (such as your niece, nephew or grandchild).
With all types of foster child adoption, we can provide professional advice and support. There is an important legal process to go through to become your foster child’s adoptive parents, including applying to family court for an Adoption Order.
We will handle all the heavy-lifting on your behalf, ensuring that all documentation is completed to the highest degree of accuracy and giving you the best possible chance of being successful. We are also here to provide emotional support through this challenging process.
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 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 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.
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.