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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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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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