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Watch a vlog with our chief executive explaining more about kinship care.
- Understanding kinship care
- The law about kinship care
- Exploring kinship care: duties, family group conferences, initial assessments, care proceedings
- Types of kinship care arrangement
- Common questions family and friends have about kinship care
- Ukrainian children in kinship care
- Kinship care and support with education
- Kinship care and the benefits system
- Special guardianship and the Adoption Support Fund: Therapeutic support services
- Further useful information, advice, and support for kinship carers
Understanding kinship care
These first four FAQs explain some core information about kinship care and kinship carers.
The law about kinship care
Exploring kinship care: duties, family group conferences, initial assessments, care proceedings
The six FAQs below explain how kinship care options can be explored for children.
- 1. When should children’s services think about kinship care? And how can family group conferences help?
- 2. Should children’s services think about kinship care for a child who is already looked after in the care system?
- 3. What is an initial assessment? When is one carried out? What does it involve? And what if care proceedings have started?
- 4. What is good practice when doing initial assessments?
- 5. What happens if an initial assessment is negative? Can a negative initial assessment be challenged?
- 6. Where can kinship carers, and potential kinship carers, get further information about initial assessments and get legal advice?
Types of kinship care arrangement
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. ‘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.
4. Special guardianship
5. 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.
7. What is a testamentary guardian?
A testamentary guardian is someone who is:
- Appointed by a child’s parent(s) or special guardians in writing to look after their child after they die, and
- The parents/special guardians have now died, and
- The appointment has taken effect.
The appointment will often be in a written Will, but not always.
For an overview of all the types of arrangement and the differences between them open or download our Types of kinship care arrangement – quick reference table.
Common questions family and friends have about kinship care
If you haven’t yet found the information you are looking for about kinship care, you may find these six questions useful.
Ukrainian children in kinship care
Kinship care and support with education
Kinship care and the benefits system
Special guardianship and the Adoption Support Fund: Therapeutic support services
Who is eligible?
Below we explain three different situations in which someone is eligible to be assessed for therapeutic services paid for by the Adoption Support Fund.
I can answer ‘yes’ to all three of these statements:
- The child I have a special guardianship order (SGO) for was in the care system immediately before I obtained the SGO, and
- That child is struggling to cope and needs support and/or my household needs support to help the child I have an SGO for, and
- The child is 21 or younger or the child is 25 and has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan.
If a child left care under a ‘lives with’ child arrangements order (CAO) for the purpose of you being assessed as a special guardian for them then, that child:
- Is eligible to be assessed for therapeutic services paid for by the Adoption Support Fund whilst that child arrangements order is in force
- Remains eligible if a special guardianship order (SGO) is subsequently (later) made.
I have a special guardianship order (SGO) but:
- The child I have the SGO for left my home under a section 20 voluntary arrangement (sometimes called voluntary accommodation or just ‘section 20’) and
- The child has a care plan that includes an intention to return back to my home or
- The child is 16 or over and has a care plan that includes an intention for them to move into independent living arrangements.
How can I get help?
You will need to have an assessment of your family’s support needs by a social worker from the children’s services department in your local authority (council).
Where the assessment identifies that the therapeutic services funded by the Adoption Support Fund would be beneficial to your family, the local authority will apply to the Fund on your behalf. The Fund will then release funding to the local authority. The local authority will then use the funding to commission and pay the agreed provider of services.
There is a Fair Access Limit of £5,000 per child for therapy. This is as well as a separate amount of up to £2,500 per child if specialist assessments are needed per financial year. Further information about this can be found here.
The local authority social worker is expected to talk to you about who can provide the types of service that you need and which provider you would prefer.
How does the local authority get funds?
The social worker’s assessment and recommendations for services must be approved by a designated manager in the local authority. Designated means the manager who has responsibility for accessing the fund.
Once the social worker’s assessment and recommendations have been approved , the social worker applies to the Adoption Support Fund for funding.
Applications are normally successful provided that:
- The application confirms that you meet the eligibility criteria
- The recommended services have been approved by the local authority to meet national quality and safety standards
- The application form has been completed correctly.
Applications are usually processed within 20 working days.
All identifying information about you must be excluded from the application form. This is because it is information that is confidential between you and the local authority.
The Adoption Support Fund notifies the social worker who applied for funding (within 10 working days) and the social worker should then let you know the decision. If the application is successful, the Adoption Support Fund sends the money to the local authority who pays the provider for the agreed services.
You can then get the service you and your family need. Please note that there may be waiting lists for some local services.
What type of services can the Adoption Support Fund provide money for?
The Fund will provide money for a range of therapeutic type services that are identified to help your child achieve the following positive outcomes:
- Improved relationships with friends, family members, teachers, and school staff
- Improved engagement with learning
- Improved emotional and behaviour management
- Improved confidence and ability to enjoy a positive family life and social relationships
Specialist Assessment that meets all the criteria below:
- An in-depth assessment of the child and family’s needs with a focus on trauma and attachment, and how this demonstrates the links to the assessment of support needs.
- Led and undertaken by a qualified clinician(s).
- For the purposes of the ASF, a qualified clinician would be someone who diagnoses and treats patients; is suitably qualified and is licensed to practice via a regulator such as the Health and Care Professional Council e.g. a trained Clinical Psychologist or Psychotherapist.
- Result in a therapeutic support plan for the child(ren) / family.
The following are not in scope of the Fund:
- Standalone assessments for single conditions, e.g. ADHD, FASD, autism, sensory integration, unless they are part of a wider specialist assessment which meets the criteria for the Specialist Assessment FAL i.e. are in depth, covering trauma and attachment, led and undertaken by a qualified clinician and resulting in a therapeutic support plan.
- Standalone specialist assessments, including any baselining specialist assessments, are also out of scope of the Therapy Fair Access Limit.
- A general social work assessment of adoption/SGO support needs remains the responsibility of the local authority/regional adoption agency.
To achieve these outcomes the Fund will pay for therapeutic support and services including but not restricted to those listed below. Some of the services may be provided through the NHS, some by the local authority and others by independent providers. The exact range of services available will vary for each local authority, depending upon which services are available locally that meet relevant quality standards.
- Parenting training – evidence-based parenting courses adapted to meet the needs of Adopters or Special Guardians.
- Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.
- Theraplay– a child and family therapy to build attachment and the parent-child relationship based on directed play and activities.
Filial therapy – very similar to Theraplay and always involving the parent/carer.
- Creative therapies e.g. art, music, drama, play. Music therapy and Art therapy can help children from complex and traumatic backgrounds in a range of ways. It can help to increase concentration and attention skills, improve family and social relationships and increase a child’s confidence.
- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). A psychological treatment method which stimulates the brain to reduce the intensity of distressing memories.
- Non-Violent Resistance (NVR). A psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour.
- Sensory integration therapy/sensory attachment therapy aims to help the child re-organise or re-process sensory information in order to regulate emotional responses. Individual sensory integration therapy is provided as direct one-to-one therapy, following a specialist assessment by an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Speech and Language Therapist with postgraduate training in sensory integration.
- Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) – involves working closely with families, providing intensive therapy that focuses on problem solving. It aims to give parents problem-solving skills to deal with their issues. Families receive 24-hour support from a therapist, and a range of agencies work in partnership to support them over a three to five-month period.
- Psychotherapy – by a qualified and registered psychotherapist.
- Specialist clinical assessments where required to identify therapeutic needs.
- Extensive life story work with a therapeutic intervention (where therapy is used to help the young person understand and cope with the trauma and difficulties that their life story work might revisit).
- Short Breaks are in scope where they include a substantial element of eligible therapeutic therapies.
The Adoption Support Fund now runs until the end of March 2025. Will the support I receive end then?
The Department for Education has said the Adoption Support Fund will continue until the end of March 2025.
How do I find out who to contact in my local authority to get an assessment?
Unfortunately, your local authority’s website may not have clear information about this. As a first step, try asking the social worker who has worked with you to get the SGO.
In some local authorities the Adoption and Permanence Team in children’s services lead on getting the Adoption Support Fund for Special Guardians. In other local authorities it is the Family and Friends Care designated officer. And other local authorities may have their own arrangements.
Where we have the information on who to contact, we have provided links on our website here.
Where we don’t have the information, we have provided a template letter for you to send to the Director of Children’s Services of your local authority to request an assessment. They should pass your letter on to the person with responsibility for these assessments in your local authority, and they should reply to you to tell you who they have asked to deal with your request.
I am sure I am eligible, but my local authority says I am not - so they won’t do an assessment. What can I do?
The eligibility criteria are quite complicated. The Adoption Support Fund is not available to Special Guardians whose child was not looked after in the care system.
There is more detailed information about the eligibility criteria in the Adoption Support Fund website.
If you have checked the eligibility criteria and believe you are eligible then you could complain to your local authority. For information about how to do this see our Complaints page.
Why won’t the Adoption Support Fund pay for the basics?
The Adoption Support Fund is for therapeutic type support. But you should have also been assessed for a special guardianship allowance. If you are having problems with getting that allowance, or are having deductions made from it that should not be made (e.g. child benefit) you should complain to children’s services. Letter 6 on our Top tips and templates page can help you do this. .
There are also a range of services, not funded by the Adoption Support Fund, that the local authority must ensure are available to Special Guardians. See our advice sheet 2e) Practical and financial support for special guardians for more information and advice about this. And if these services are not available in your local authority area you could complain using our template letter here.
You can also look at our Kinship Carers Forum to see how others in similar situations are coping and register to start a thread yourself.
I haven’t got the special guardianship order yet. But it is on its way. Can I have the funding now?
The local authority can apply before the SGO is made, provided that all the eligibility criteria are met. However, funds will only be released to pay for agreed services when the SGO is in place.
I’ve had an assessment. But the social worker says we don’t need funded local services. What are my options?
The current range of services that might be available to you in your local authority area may be limited. The local authority must provide a range of services to meet the needs of Special Guardians. We have provided a template letter to help you to complain and to challenge the services available locally. Make sure you put all your questions in writing and keep copies of your questions and any responses you get. If this does not work, you could consider making a complaint. For more information see our Complaints page.
You can also look at our Kinship Carers Forum to see how others in similar situations are coping. Or to register to start a thread yourself.
The child I care for under a special guardianship order was not born in England. Can I still get the Adoption Support Fund?
Yes, if you meet the eligibility criteria and you are living in England.
- Template letter (1) to get an assessment
- Template letter (2) to challenge the range of services that are available to Special Guardians NOT funded by the Adoption Support Fund
- Template letter (3) to challenge the range of services that are available to Special Guardians funded by the Adoption Support Fund
Further useful information, advice, and support for kinship carers
- To meet and support other kinship carers visit our Find a local kinship support group page
- Family group conferences: advice for families
- Children with special educational needs and children with disabilities
- Advice sheet 2e) Practical and financial support for special guardians
- Advice sheet 2h) Welfare benefits and kinship care
- Advice sheet 2i) The education system in England: information for kinship carers
- Campaigns to improve the situation for children in kinship care and their carers
- Resources on kinship care for practitioners