Kinship care is when a child lives full-time or most of the time with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent, usually because their parents aren’t able to care for them. That relative or friend is called a ‘kinship carer’, and it’s estimated that around half of kinship carers are grandparents, but many other relatives including older siblings, aunts, uncles, as well as family friends and neighbours can also be kinship carers.
Aunts and uncles
There are lots of different types of kinship care, and if you’re a kinship carer, you might find that as circumstances change the type of kinship carer you are changes too. Kinship care includes children who may be:
- living in an informal arrangement made by their parents
- ‘looked after’ by the local authority and placed with kinship foster carers
- on a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order.
Kinship carers are also often referred to as ‘family and friends carers’ or ‘connected people’ by local authorities and in official documents.
Why are children in kinship care?
Most children are in kinship care because their parents aren’t able to care for them. Our research shows that around half of children (52%) are in kinship care as a result of parental drug or alcohol misuse, although other reasons include bereavement, imprisonment, parental abuse or neglect and parental ill-health.
Almost half of children in kinship care have some kind of special needs (49%), most commonly emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Is kinship care better for children?
There are clear benefits to children if they’re kept within their family network. Research shows that children in kinship care benefit from increased placement stability compared to children in local authority care, and are able to maintain family relationships. Even so, many children who go to live with kinship carers have had a very difficult start in life, and their behaviour is often greatly affected by past experiences.
What support is available for kinship carers?
The support available to kinship carers from local authorities and statutory services varies enormously. A good place to start is here, or you can contact our advice service on 0300 123 7015 to find out what might be available in your situation.
Are you a new kinship carer?
Whether you are already raising a relative’s or friend’s child, or are considering it, there are a lot of things to think about so you can make decisions that are right for both of you. Find out more by clicking here.
What type of kinship carer are you?
A Kinship Carer is anyone who is looking after another person’s child on a full-time basis. You can become a kinship carer in different ways, some formal and others informal, and this can affect your rights, the responsibilities you have and the type of support you might be entitled to.
A Special Guardianship Order (often known as an SGO) is a legal order where the court appoints a carer – usually a relative – as the ‘Special Guardian’ of a child until they turn 18. The Special Guardian then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make nearly all the major decisions about the child without having to consult them.
The person named in a Child Arrangements Order shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make the most important decisions on behalf of the child without needing the permission of the parents. It lasts until the child turns 18 unless the court states otherwise.
Kinship foster care is when a friend or family member becomes an official foster carer for a child. This is different to other forms of kinship care as the child is then considered ‘looked after, and you won’t have parental responsibility.
Informal kinship care is where you are looking after a child who is closely related to you but you do not have parental responsibility for them and they are not ‘looked after’ by the local authority.