Family and friends foster care

What it means to be a family and friends foster carer, how you become one and available support.

Family and friends foster care, also known as kinship foster care, is when the local council’s children’s services department places a child with a family member, family friend or someone else closely connected to them. This is usually because the child’s parents, or someone else with parental responsibility, cannot care for them.

You do not have parental responsibility as a family and friends foster carer and the child is considered ‘looked after’ by children’s services.

A child becomes ‘looked after’ through:

  • a voluntary agreement with their parents
  • an interim care order, full care order, or emergency protection order made by a family court

When a child is looked after, the local authority decides where the child will live.  It will always try to place the child with a relative, friend or another connected person if it is in their best interests. However, that person must be assessed and approved as a foster carer.

In an emergency, you may be assessed and approved as a temporary foster carer.

In some cases, the local authority may decide to place the child with a foster carer they do not know or in residential care.

Family and friends foster care assessments

You must pass an assessment by a social worker to become a family and friends foster carer. They will ask for practical information and details about your parenting experience, relationships and childhood. All adults in your house will need to pass police checks.

Once the social worker completes your assessment, they will give their recommendations to the children’s services foster panel, who will make the final decision.

If possible, the social worker will assess you before the child is placed in your care to make sure you can meet their needs.

If a social worker has asked you to care for a child outside of family and friends foster care arrangement, you should get legal advice as soon as possible.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

Temporary arrangements

In an emergency, there may not be time to go through a full foster care assessment before the child comes to live with you. Instead, a social worker can quickly assess and approve you as a temporary foster carer, which means the child can live with you immediately.

You can be a temporary foster carer for up to 16 weeks, or 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances. That gives you time to take and pass a full foster care assessment.

Parental responsibility

As a family and friends foster carer, you never have parental responsibility for the child.

If the arrangement has been agreed with the child’s parents, their mother has parental responsibility. The child’s father may also have responsibility if they are eligible.

If the child is ‘looked after’ through a care order, children’s services will share parental responsibility with the child’s mother, and father if he is eligible.

You are caring for the child on behalf of the local council’s children’s services, which means you will need to work closely with social workers follow agreed arrangements. You should have access to regular support and training that you will need to complete.

What is parental responsibility? (GOV.UK)

Apply for a legal order

Some family and friends foster care arrangements are or can become permanent, with no plans for the child to live with their parents again.

In this case, you may want to or be asked by children’s services to apply for a legal order, such as a special guardianship order or child arrangement order. You should not be pressured into applying for a legal order and children’s services should never threaten to take the child into care.

Every situation is different, but a legal order will give you parental responsibility and security as a family. However, before making any decisions, you should speak to a kinship expert and get legal advice to find out what applying for a legal order will mean for you and the child.

It is also important to think about what support you will need for the child now and in the future. Make sure that any support agreed is put in writing, ideally as part of your care plan. It should clearly state how long the support will last for.

Financial support

Family and friends foster carers receive a foster care allowance that covers the cost of caring for a child, whether you have a full or temporary arrangement. You can also get an allowance to pay for birthdays, Christmas and holidays. You may be eligible for one-off payments to pay for clothing, equipment or bedding.

Financial support for family and friends foster carers

Help with the cost of fostering (GOV.UK)

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.