Family and friends

Relatives and close friends play an important part in children’s lives. They become even more important when parents are not able to care for their child.

Sometimes children live with wider family or friends who become their main carers. Family and friends carers include grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or family friends. These are usually private arrangements within the family. It avoids the child going into care and the parents keep parental responsibility.

When to tell us about caring for a child

  • If the arrangement does not involve the Council, the carers get financial support from the parents or from tax relief or the benefits system.
  • If it is not a close relative, it is private fostering. You must tell the Council.

Sometimes the local authority is involved because a child is not safe in the care of the parents. The child needs to be cared for by someone else while the parents get help. This may become a permanent arrangement if the parents cannot improve their care.

Please also see:

For more information, you can also visit The Kinship Care Charity.

Sometimes children live with wider family or friends because the Local Authority or the Court has decided that they are not safe with their parents. 

Qualities and abilities that make a good family and friends carer

The social workers who assess you, will look at whether you have:

  • long term commitment to the child throughout their childhood
  • the ability to put their welfare first, even when it conflicts with loyalty or concern for the birth parents
  • understanding and acceptance of the real reasons that the child’s parents are unable to care for the child
  • ability to protect the child from further harm
  • ability to deal with the strain of changing family roles
  • sufficient support network
  • sufficient time and space to devote to everyone in the family
  • capacity to offer warm, stimulating care
  • capacity to understand, adapt to and meet the child’s changing needs
  • ability to promote the child’s educational and health needs
  • commitment to helping the child develop an understanding of their history
  • commitment to promote a positive identity, including their ethnic and cultural heritage
  • capacity to be realistic about the possible problems and special needs which the child may present
  • capacity to work with professionals and to seek out and accept help

What makes a family and friends carer unsuitable?

We believe it is better for a child to live with someone to whom they already have a connection. But there are several reasons why we might not recommend a child lives with them. These can include:

  • health – if your medical or psychiatric history and current state of health cause serious concern about your future health prospects
  • age – where the medical opinion is that you may not survive all the years of the child’s dependence. Or you may not retain sufficient energy and vigour to meet the child’s needs until independence.
  • drug or alcohol problems – if you have a dependence likely to affect your ability to offer safe care.
  • criminal record of prospective carer and adults in the household – certain types of offences will automatically bar the offender from caring for a child. Other offences will need detailed discussion to establish if they may impact on the care of the child.
  • housing – where the current accommodation is temporary, overcrowded or poorly maintained. Where there are no realistic prospects for re-housing within near future. Or where arrears of payment mean that you could be at risk of losing your home.
  • work and lifestyle – where your work or leisure pursuits severely limit the time available for child care.
  • family composition – where the needs of others in your household or network are likely to conflict with the needs of the child you are offering to care for. These include other children, dependent adults and regular visitors.
  • parenting concerns – where there have been serious difficulties in how you parented your own children. If there is a history of abuse and neglect.
  • understanding children’s needs – unable to show an understanding of children’s development and needs.
  • meeting needs of a specific child – unwilling or unable to understand or meet the child’s identified needs. These may be educational, medical or emotional needs. This includes those who may require a high level of specialist care.
  • protecting the child – unwilling or unable to protect the child from abusive parents. Unable to enforce restrictions on contact with birth parents.
  • working together – lack of co-operation with Children’s Social Care and other professional services
  • finance – where your income or level of debt means you cannot protect your family from losing fuel and food

Please also refer to:

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