Prepare for being a kinship carer

Information and practical advice to help you get ready for being a kinship carer.

Most people need to make changes when they become a kinship carer. It’s important to prepare as well as you can, so that you can make good decisions for you, your family and the child you will care for.

The first step is to make sure you understand what being a kinship carer means and the different types of kinship care arrangement. You should also take some time to find out what free support you can get and ask for legal advice as early as possible.

Remember – you are not alone. Our experienced advice team help people in your position every day.

Contact our advice line and explore our website where we answer the most common questions about kinship care.

Get your home ready

When you become a kinship carer, you want the child to feel safe and part of your family life. Think about where they will sleep and how they will spend their time. What changes can you make that might make them feel settled and at home? Try and think about the future too. You may need more space as the child gets older and your family’s needs change.

Understand the child’s needs

There is a good chance you will already know the child well before you become their kinship carer. However, try and make extra time for them and make sure they know they can ask questions and say how they are feeling.

Talk to the child about what is happening and find a way to explain in a way that matches their understanding of why they are going to be in your care. Reassure them that they are loved and cared for.

The child may be thinking about how they will bring their clothes and toys, and about staying in contact with their siblings. If possible, try and make sure you keep any treasured items, like the child’s family photo albums.

You can also speak to those who have been caring for them to learn more about the things they like doing and their day-to-day routines. Ask about contact information for school friends, activities they attend, meals they like to eat, and any allergies they may have.

You also need access to the child’s health and dental history, including and upcoming appointments. You will also need their birth certificate and information about who can sign for consent when the child has medical appointments and school trips.

Find out if a social worker is involved. If they have concerns about the child’s welfare, ask about the reasons so you can protect the child from any future harm.

Expect routines to change

Most people have to make significant changes when they become a kinship carer. You can prepare by thinking about any other caring responsibilities you may have and how those might be affected.

You may also need to make changes to your social life and other interests, though kinship carers are often able to adapt in ways that work for everyone. Building and maintaining a support network will make any changes easier.

Get financial support

Welcoming a child into your family may mean you need extra financial support. Start by working out how your job might be affected or what government benefits you can get. Do you expect to earn less by becoming a kinship carer? How much might it add to your regular household expenses?

You may be able to get a range of financial support, but it will depend on your situation and what type of kinship carer you are. Get expert advice before making any decisions and consider asking for legal help should you need it.

Manage work and kinship care

Many people are able to continue working when they become a kinship carer. However, you may need to make changes to your working pattern and depending on your situation, you might need to change your job or stop working completely.

If you feel able to, consider speaking to your employer about how your job will work if you become a kinship carer. Take some time to learn how you stand legally and understand your rights.

Look after your health

Being a kinship carer is a long-term commitment for many people. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider your age and health when you are making decisions and planning for the future.

Think about how you will manage should your health get worse or you become unwell. If you have any concerns, try and get the right support in place, including a plan for who can help or take over if necessary.

If a social worker is involved you can ask for family mediation, where your family comes together to talk about things such as support and contact arrangements.

Plan contact time with family

Contact time with family refers to the time that children in kinship care spend with their birth parents. Managing contact time can be stressful for some kinship carers and one of the ways to avoid problems is through good planning.

Start thinking about how you can help make it a positive experience for the child. Be as practical as possible by being clear about things like timings, travel, supervision and expenses.

What is contact time with family?

Plan time for yourself

Everyone needs a break sometimes. Try and plan time in your weekly routine for you to rest and recharge and have social time to see family and friends. Many kinship carers find attending a support group really helps.

You may be able to arrange suitable childcare or for the child to take part in regular after -school activities, such as Brownies, Scouts or other clubs.

For longer respite care, some kinship carers are able to arrange for the child to spend a day, weekend or short holiday with their parents or another family member.

Celebrate the positives

There may be times when being a kinship carer gets tough, but it’s important to share and celebrate the good parts together. It’s easier to do that if you are clear about why you are a kinship carer in the first place.

For some people, it can be an emotional experience that brings up complicated feelings. However, kinship care has many benefits for you, your family and the child you care for, and there is support available when you need it.

Support from Kinship

It’s important to know that you can free support as a kinship carer. You should think about what help you might need as soon as possible and speak to family, friends and neighbours who can often provide support.

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.