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7.2.13 Children being Cared for by Family and Friends: Practice Guidance


  1. Introduction
  2. Principles
  3. Definitions
  4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers
  5. What to do if a Child Can No Longer Remain in the Care of their Parent or Carer
  6. Financial Support

    Appendix 1: Arrangements for Placement

1. Introduction

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.

This policy sets out the local authority's approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided.

2. Principles

The Children Act 1989 states that the Local Authority should promote the upbringing of children in their families. The legislation emphasises that not only families but relatives and other people connected with the child (Connected Person) may be a resource for the child.

Options for a child to live with a Connected Person should be rigorously explored before consideration is given to admitting a child to public care.

Under Section 20(1) Children Act 1989, every Local Authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appear to them to require accommodation as a result of (a) there being no person who has Parental Responsibility for him; (b) his being lost or abandoned; or (c) the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.

The Children Act 1989 states that before making any decision with respect to a child who is looked after or whom the Local Authority is proposing to look after the Local Authority will ascertain the wishes and feelings of:

There are times when children cannot be cared for by their parents and alternative arrangements need to be made for the care of those children. It is necessary before the Local Authority considers placing a child in accommodation that all options have been considered for the child to be cared for within their family (see Threshold Criteria for Looked After Children Procedure).

It is usually less distressing for children to stay with friends or relatives than to be placed outside their family/social network.

If children go to stay/live with relatives or friends the agreement between the family and Children’s Social Care needs to be clear about the status of the arrangement.

3. Definitions

A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years.

A Connected Person is a person who is a relative, family friend or any other person connected to a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a childminder, a teacher or a youth worker.

A relative is defined in the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership), sibling or step-parent.

Looked After Children

A Looked after Child is defined in Section 22 Children Act 1989 as:

  • A child who is subject to an Interim Care Order (ICO) or a Care Order (CO) or provided with accommodation by the local authority for a continuous period of more than 24 hours.

The following children are Looked After Children:

  • All children who are subject to: a Care Order (Section 31, CA 1989), Interim Care Order (Section 38, CA1989) or Emergency Protection Order (Section 44, CA 1989) are looked after regardless of where they live as the Local Authority has acquired Parental Responsibility for that child;
  • In some instances, children who have appeared in court and have been bailed to reside where the Local Authority directs - they are looked after if they are being provided with a Local Authority funded placement. They are not Looked After if the decision is that they should remain living at home;
  • Children remanded to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation;
  • Children who are subject to a Secure Accommodation Order (Section 25 Children Act 1989).

These children are Looked After if the Local Authority is funding the cost of the secure placement. They are not Looked After if the young person is sentenced to reside in Secure Accommodation due to their offending (the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, Sections 90-92), and the cost of the placement is funded by the Home Office. See also Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure.

4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers

Family and Friends Care is also known as Kinship Care. The term Kinship Care is used generically to refer to circumstances in which children are in the primary care of a relative or family friend because their own parents are not able or willing to care for the child themselves. This may be formal or informal.

Social workers need to be clear about the different status of placements/arrangements.

Informal Kinship Care is where the child is not Looked After. The local authority may have not direct involvement, or may be involved in assessment, for example in the case of Private Fostering or establishing whether the child is a Child in Need.

Formal Kinship care is where the child is a Looked after Child; the Local Authority is involved in placing the child with a Connected Person and arrangements are made for the carers to be approved as a foster carer for that particular child. (See Placement with Connected Persons Procedure).

4.1 Informal Kinship Care Arrangements

Children who are not Looked After, staying/living with relatives or friends are not in a placement.

Informal Kinship Care is where the child is not a ‘Looked after Child’:


  • The Local Authority is not directly involved in arranging the kinship care placement. The arrangement is between the child’s parent(s) and the relative or friend. The Directorate does not get involved in these arrangements, other than when the arrangement constitutes Private Fostering under Section 66 of the Children Act 1989 (see Section 4.2, Private Fostering Arrangements). The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child's needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child.


  • The Local Authority is involved in negotiating and agreeing with the parents and the kinship carer arrangement outside of the Looked After Children system. The role of the social worker is to “broker” the arrangement when it is in the best interest of the child and a viable option to accommodation. The Local Authority will promote contact between the child and their family if possible.

Sometimes this is not clear and if in doubt legal advice should be sought.

In some cases relatives or friends should be advised to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order – see Section 4.3, Child Arrangements Order.

Where no private arrangement can be made with family or friends by the parents and an assessment concludes that the child/young person needs to be in care then Section 20 (Accommodation) or Section 31 (Legal Orders) Children Act 1989 applies.

4.2 Private Fostering Arrangements

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.' It does not include a child who is Looked After by the local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer.

The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified.

See also Private Fostering Procedure.

4.3 Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.

Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, however this is discretionary.

4.4 Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.

Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have parental responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.

Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and Special Guardians, including the need for financial support.

See also Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure.

4.5 Adoption Order

Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.

An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

4.6 Family and Friends Foster Carers – ‘Connected Persons’

See also Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.

Placements with Connected Persons can only be made if the child is Looked After, i.e. on a Care Order or Interim Care Order or the child has previously been accommodated immediately prior to the placement.

Interim approval as a foster carer is obtained on completion of checks and a viability assessment approved by the Head of Corporate Parenting and Leaving Care. Full approval is obtained on completion of a Connected Persons Assessment which is presented to the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks of placement. This period of assessment can be extended by a further 8 weeks in the following circumstances:

  • Approval has not been approved and the Connected Person seeks a review;
  • The assessment has taken longer than 16 weeks; and
  • The placement remains appropriate;
  • The views of the Fostering Panel have been sought and the Independent Reviewing Officer advised.

5. What to do if a Child Can No Longer Remain in the Care of their Parent or Carer

5.1 Informal Kinship Care Arrangements

At an early stage in the Directorate’s involvement with the family, the child’s social worker should endeavour to obtain details (names, contact details, relationship to child) of all significant relatives or family friends.

In the event that it is identified that a child is unable to remain at home with their birth family, the child’s parents or anyone else who has Parental Responsibility for them should be assisted in considering an alternative appropriate living arrangements for the child. If possible, this should be within the child's extended family network (subject to police and agency checks). The parent/carer should contact the family member or friend to make this arrangement, not the Social Worker. Once this arrangement has been agreed the Social Worker can directly contact the family/friend to confirm.

This should be recognised as an Informal Kinship Care Arrangement. It is vital at the time of the placement to be clear about the informal nature of this arrangement and that the child is not a ‘Looked after Child’.

See Appendix 1: Arrangements for Placement for a written agreement.

5.2 Formal Kinship Care Arrangements

If parents/carers are not able to make appropriate Informal Arrangements for their child, then with their agreement, the child will become Looked After under Section 20 and the parents will sign the Placement Information Record.

If the parents are not willing to agree to the child becoming Accommodated, then a decision will be made in consultation with the service managers for the child to be secured legally.

6. Financial Support

Financial support may be offered to relatives or friends caring for a child under Section 17 duties.

Financial support will be offered as either:

  1. A one off payment to cover the initial cost of clothing, bedding, initial food costs of a maximum of £150; or
  2. A maximum of 6 weekly payments within the first 6 weeks of the arrangement at no more than Department of Work and Pension rates:
    • Maximum weekly payment will not exceed £42 per week, per child;
    • The Local Authority will not pay allowances for children aged 16 and 17;
    • Relatives and friends will be supported by the Local Authority to negotiate with the child’s parent(s) for payment to be made by them to the relative or friend for the care of the child. If either family is dependent on benefits then the six week payments will cover the period of making new claims for benefits.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a payment made to the child and therefore the benefit should be taken with the child to the relative or friend.

  • Any arrangement for a child to live/stay with a relative or friend should be referred to the Welfare Rights Service. They will make a visit to the relative or friend and will undertake a benefits check and help make new claims.

Appendix 1: Arrangements for Placement

Click here to view Appendix 1: Arrangements for Placement.