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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). 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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Kinship care: children living with relatives or friends

The law states that children should be supported to live within their family where possible.

And when children cannot live with their parents, children’s services departments should seek to place them in the care of a suitable family members.

There are more than 180,000 children across the United Kingdom being raised by relatives or friends. This is known as kinship care. Kinship carers may be grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, or family friends.

Research shows that as a group, children raised by kinship carers do better than, or at least as well as, those living with unrelated foster carers. Research has shown many benefits to children being raised in kinship care. This includes benefits to emotional well-being and how children do at school.

There are different types of kinship care arrangement. These include:

Private family arrangements

A close relative steps in to raise a relative’s child without the prior involvement of children’s services and without matters being considered by the Family Court.

Private fostering

Someone who is not a close relative of the child and not already an approved foster carer looks after a child for 28 days or more and will then be regarded as private foster carer.

‘Lives with’ child arrangements order

Under this court order the child will live with the kinship carer named in the order and the carer will share parental responsibility with the parents.

Special guardianship

A special guardianship order is a court order that says a child will live permanently with someone (who is not their parent) until they are 18. A special guardianship order gives the special guardian ‘enhanced’ parental responsibility for the child. This gives them the authority to make all major decisions about the child’s upbringing and care. The order restricts the birth parents’ rights but does not permanently end them.

Kinship foster care

Sometimes a kinship care arrangement involves a child becoming looked after by children’s services. But with the child living with a relative or friend who becomes a foster carer for them. This might be under a care order, or under a voluntary arrangement. The carer is known as a kinship foster carer.


Adoption is unusual in kinship care arrangements because it changes the legal relationship with the child’s parents. They legally cease to be the child’s parents.

The type of arrangement affects the child and the carer’s right to practical and financial support and the amount provided.

It also affects who can make decisions about the child. To find out more about kinship care and about these different types of kinship care arrangement go to our Kinship carers page.

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