Kinship care is the care given to a child whose parents are unable to provide the care and support for a child and this responsibility is taken on by a family member such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or other connected adults to the child such as godparents or close friends of the family. For these associations Kinship Care can also be termed as `Family and Friends` care or `Connected Persons` care.

A Kinship carer is a person who is looking after a child of a relative or friend on a full time basis; this can also be a temporary or permanent arrangement and can also be on a formal or informal basis. The placement of a child with an unrelated person by their parent(s) is known as Private Foster Carer. A chart showing the differences between these types of care can be found below.

Informal Kinship Care

It is important to understand the difference between an informal kinship care arrangement and that of an approved kinship foster placement. In general terms an informal kinship carer will care for a child following an agreement between themselves and the parents when they are no longer able to care for the child themselves and wish to avoid the child going into care. For example, grandparents might step in to look after a child if the parents are unable to cope, perhaps due to bereavement, drug or alcohol problems, or mental health issues. This type of arrangement does not involve the local authority and the carers do not generally receive a fostering allowance. If the carer feels they may not be able to meet the needs of the child due to finances, they may consider requesting a `Child in Need` assessment from the local authority (see below).

Kinship Foster Care

In Kinship Foster Care, the local authority will approach a relative or friend (a connected person) and ask them to care for the child. Sometimes the child will already be in foster care with an unrelated foster carer or sometimes the local authority will seek a kinship foster placement to avoid taking a child into foster care. The key difference is that the local authority places the child with the Kinship Foster Carer and therefore has financial responsibility for them. Where the local authority places the child with a relative or connected person, they are referred to as a looked after child and the local authority will exercise parental responsibility for the child. Kinship foster carers undergo a fostering assessment and once approved will receive a fostering allowance to help support the child. The financial support should be equal to the allowances/fees provided to other foster carers within that local authority (National Minimum Standard 28.7).

Private Foster Care

When informal arrangements of care for a child or young person are made with people who are not connected or family members then this is classed as a private fostering arrangement. If it is to continue beyond a period of 28 days, the local authority should be informed and an assessment of the placement should take place. There is no entitlement to financial support from the local authority and Private Foster Carers are not assessed as foster carers.

Child in Need

Anyone can contact social services if they have concerns about a family, or believe that a child may be in need. An assessment is made where more than advice or information is required and it appears you might need services to assist you and the children in your family.

You are entitled to an assessment if a child or children in your family appear to be in need or at risk of harm if an assessment is not carried out. An assessment is usually carried out by a social worker and the child will be identified as a child in need if without the provision of additional services they are unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of expected health and or development.

An assessment of a child in need is carried out under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

Under section 17 the child is not looked after by the local authority and will not have a care plan but there may be the requirement to implement a child in need plan or a child protection plan. When a plan is put in place social workers or other professionals may be required to visit the child periodically.