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Should children’s services think about kinship care for a child who is already looked after in the care system?

If a child is already looked after in the care system, then children’s services have a legal duty to place the child with people in a certain priority order. This duty is in section 22C of the Children Act 1989 and says children’s services should:

  1. See if a child can be safely cared for by their parent(s). If not, then
  2. See if a child be safely cared for by someone else who holds parental responsibility for them
  3. Next look at anyone who was caring for the child under a child arrangements order just before they came into the care system
  4. Next, look to place the child in the most appropriate placement looking first at  wider family, friends and other people already connected with the child who are already approved by children’s services as foster carers
  5. Only where this is not possible, should children’s services go on to arrange for a child to live with unrelated carers. This could be foster care, or if not possible then in residential care (a children’s home).

This duty means that:

  • Plans for where a child lives/who they are cared for should always be kept under review
  •  So, even if a child in looked after in the care system by an unrelated carer, children’s services this should regularly review this. If a family member who may be able to care for the child comes forward, this should be explored
  • Where a child is looked after and children’s services do arrange for the child to be cared for by a family member, friend or other person who is connected to the child that person must be assessed and approved by children’s services as a foster carer for the child.


  • The placement of the child with that relative or friend will be unlawful and
  • Children’s services may need to assess the carer as a temporary kinship foster carer. This is so the child to be placed with them immediately.

See the Types of kinship care arrangement section.

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