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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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Kinship Assessment Guide – Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements by John Simmonds, Chair of the Kinship Care Alliance and Director of Policy, Research and Development CoramBAAF

The development and publication of this guide represents the commitment, determination and expertise of a large number of stakeholders with a core interest in family and friends care. The importance of considering family and friends care within the range of possible options and solutions when children may not be able to remain with their parents cannot be overstated. It is an issue that is firmly embedded within a human rights and legal framework, as set out in Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Children Act 1989. It is also embedded in our fundamental beliefs about family life as being core to society. Nevertheless family and friends care struggles to attain the same prominence as other forms of child placement – specifically adoption and foster care.

There is little doubt that where parents find themselves in difficulty, it is an almost instinctive response for other family members to step in – temporarily at first and in the longer term if that becomes necessary. But this can create significant challenges for those family members – for example, in understanding what has happened, anticipating what is likely to happen, managing the shock and protecting the vulnerable – the parents who were once children, the children of those children and the often raw thoughts and feelings of other family members. Then there are the practicalities such as money, housing, employment, and disruption to existing family plans. And in some instances, there is the involvement of the local authority and other services and then the courts.

All of this will be familiar to social workers and other professionals. The challenge of understanding what has happened, focusing on the child or children, making a plan, weighing up the options, taking decisions and acting on and resourcing all of this marks out some components of their professional task. In the midst of this may come the challenge of undertaking a viability assessment within a condensed timescale – opening (or closing) the door to further exploration of the assessment of family members as carers for the child or children, and with potentially life-long implications.

The expert group who have worked on the task of developing and producing this guide could not have been more committed. But one person stands out in having formulated the need for this work, identifying the people who might contribute and the key questions to be answered: Bridget Lindley. Bridget was Family Rights Group’s Deputy Chief Executive and Principal Legal Adviser. Tragically, she died before the work was completed. Indeed, the group had met only a few days before her death and Bridget made her usual authoritative, challenging, and insightful contributions. Without Bridget this work would not be of such high quality – indeed, it would not exist. The guide is a tribute to the significance of her work over her career.

Many other individuals and organisations have helped bring this work to its conclusion. The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation have generously supported the policy work of the Kinship Care Alliance, including Bridget Lindley’s time in instigating and developing the guide. Bindmans LLP were generous in offering their offices for us to meet and refreshments to smooth the way. Social workers, lawyers, policy makers and family and friends carers contributed their experiences and knowledge. This inevitably resulted in multiple perspectives and the challenge of finding a coherent formulation for such a complex task. Resolving the desire to be thorough, comprehensive, and complete against the need to be speedy and realistic is not easy – but that was the challenge before us.

The guide is designed primarily for social workers undertaking initial family and friends care assessments. But it is also for all professionals who make decisions about, work with or represent family and friends carers and the children who may be unable to live safely with their parents. It includes resources for family members to help them understand the purpose of an initial assessment, what it will entail, what they need to consider and how to get independent advice.

It is the wish of the expert working group and those organisations that have endorsed the guide that it will make a positive difference to children’s lives. We know from experience that social workers strive to engage with families in a thoughtful, supportive, and insightful way. This guide will support their endeavours.

We are extremely grateful to members of the viability assessment expert working group who have very generously shared their time and expertise to develop this guide.

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