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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.

Grandfather embraces hug l

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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