Support for family and friends carers

Family and friends care or kinship care is when the child of a relative or close family friend lives with you. You might be asked to have a child with you all or most of the time if their parents are unable to look after them.

Caring for a loved one’s child can give them a safe and stable home with familiar adults. It can be a rewarding experience, but it can also take time to adjust to your new role as a carer.

You can also read our advice on how to support a child through kinship care. 

Your role as a kinship carer

Your responsibility for the child in your care will depend on the type of care arrangement you have. 

Informal arrangement

If social services aren’t involved, a parent might ask a friend or family member to look after their child for a short time. You don’t need to tell the local authority, but it can be helpful to tell the child’s school or nursery if their living situation has changed.

Court ordered care

If a child is taken away from their parents, a family court can decide if a family member should look after them instead of the child going into foster care. They can give either a special guardianship order (SGO) or a child arrangement order. You will share parental responsibility with the child’s parents, but the decisions you can make depend on the type of order.

Family and friends foster care

You can become the foster carer of a friend or family member’s child. This happens through the local authority who will assess you before the child comes to live with you. The child’s parents and the local authority share parental responsibility. This is usually a temporary arrangement.

Private fostering

If you’re not a close relative of the child, their parent can make a private fostering arrangement with you. The parent will still have parental responsibility and they are not ‘looked after’ by the local authority. You must still tell children’s services about this arrangement.

    Build a support network

    Having a child come to live with you might be a big change for you. It’s understandable to have a lot of feelings. Try to spend time with friends and family and have time for yourself to do things you enjoy.

    Get to know other parents at school drop offs or children’s clubs and parties. It can help to speak to other parents but respect the child’s privacy and don’t share information about their case. You can also talk to the child’s teachers or other professionals around the child.

    You may like to connect with kinship carer support groups in your area. These offer support and understanding from other carers in your situation.

    Financial support

    Becoming a kinship carer can have a financial impact on you and there may be support available for you. The type of financial support depends on the type of kinship care arrangement you have. You may be able to receive:

    • Child Benefit
    • Child Tax Credits
    • Pension Credit
    • Guardian Allowance
    • Universal Credit

    Get more support

    These services offer support for family and friends carers:

    happy childhood icon

    This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

    More on parent mental health

    Talk to us

    Talk about the issues that are worrying you with a parenting coach. Use our free and confidential online chat.