Support for family and friends carers

If the child of a relative or close family friend is living with you, this is called kinship care or family and friends care. You might have been asked to have a friend or relatives child live with you all or most of the time if their parents are unable to look after them.  

Kinship care can provide a safe and stable home for children with already known and 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. 

An older woman places a hand on a toddler as they look out the window together

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 – a family court can give either a special guardianship order (SGO) or a child arrangement order for a child to be removed from their parents and looked after by a family member instead of going in to foster care. In both types of order, the guardian shares parental responsibility with the birth parents, but the decisions you can make without the parent are different. 
  • Family and friends foster care – when you become the official foster carer of a friend or family member’s child. This happens through the local authority. You will be assessed before the child comes to live with you and it is the local authority and the child’s parents who 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. You must tell children’s services about a private fostering arrangement but they are not ‘looked after’ by the local authority and the parent still has parental responsibility. 

    Look after yourself

    It might be a big change for you, having a child come to live with you and it’s understandable to have a range of feelings. Make sure you stay connected with family and friends and continue to have time for yourself doing things you enjoy. 

    It also helps to build a support network: 

    • 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.  
    • It’s also good to build a relationship with teachers, group leaders and any other professionals involved with the child. 
    • You may like to connect with Kinship Carer support groups in your area. Many kinship carers find these a huge source of support and understanding with other carers who understand the situation, challenges and achievements. 

    Becoming a kinship carer can also have a financial impact on you and your family.  Check with your local authority about financial support that is available in your area. 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 or Universal Credit. 

    Find out about financial support for kinship carers in England and Wales and support for kinship carers in Scotland. 

    Further support

    These services offer support for family and friends carers:

    If you need more advice, you can also speak to one of our parenting coaches.

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