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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What is foster and adoption? What does it mean if a voluntary arrangement with foster for adoption foster carers is being suggested?

Foster for adoption is a type of foster care. It is used when adoption is being looked at for a child. It:

  • Involves babies and younger children who are ‘looked after’ living with foster carers who may go on to adopt them
  • Is allowed even though adoption is not yet the formal plan for the child
  • Can happen even though the Family Court has not been involved.

What is the duty on children’s services to look at a foster for adoption?

The legal duty is in section 22C (9B) of the Children Act 1989.

It says when thinking about adoption as a possible plan for a child, children’s services have a legal duty to look at whether the child should live with foster for adoption foster carers.

The idea behind foster for adoption is that a child is able to form a strong, early relationship with someone who could go on to be adopt them.

When should foster for adoption foster care be used?

It for use in situations where adoption is highly likely. This should only be where:

  • The child is unlikely to be able to live safely with their parents and
  • There is no one who can care for the child in the family and friends’ network. For example, a grandma, aunt or uncle.

Government statutory guidance says using foster for adoption placements alongside voluntary arrangements is ‘likely to be unusual’ (see paragraph 3.156 of the Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review).

This is because it is a very serious step to decide:

  1. A child is highly likely to be adopted
  2. A child should be cared for by foster for adoption foster carer
  3. To use foster for adoption without the involvement of the Family Court. And most section 20 arrangements are put in place without court oversight.

For these reasons, it may be very concerning practice to use foster for adoption and a voluntary arrangement together.

This all means that it is very important that any parent who thinks children’s services may be proposing their child is cared for in a foster for adoption placement urgently:

  • Seeks legal advice from a solicitor who is a specialist in children law. Or who has ‘Children Law Accreditation’.  To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website.  See our guide Working with a solicitor on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor. If they cannot get legal advice from a solicitor because they can’t get legal aid, then parents can still:
  • Contact us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays)
  • And read our Foster for adoption: information for parents advice sheet. This covers:
    • What foster for adoption means, including implications for parents and their child
    • What needs to happen before a child is placed in a foster for adoption placement
    • What parents should do if a social worker tells them they want to place their child in a foster for adoption placement.
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