Friends and family carers are foster carers for a child they know, whereas mainstream foster carers care for a child who is unknown to them (known as mainstream foster carers).
What is family and friends care?
Family and friends care (previously known as kinship care) is when someone close to a child - for example grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, step parents, other relatives or family friends - come forward to care for the child when they are not able to live at home.
If relatives or friends do not offer to care for a child, then that child might need to be cared for by the local authority and would be placed with carers who do not know the child (mainstream foster carers).
Why is family and friends care so important?
For many years in Oxfordshire, we have been promoting family and friends care as one of the ways we support children who cannot live with their birth parents.
Family and friends care means that children are given every opportunity to thrive and be happy within their own family network. This gives children greater security from feeling loved and comfortable in and environment they are familiar with.
Children tell us that they prefer to be cared for within their own family when they can’t live with their parents. They feel more secure and feel they 'belong'. Families offering this type of care do so because they want to keep the family together.
How does family and friends care work?
To find out whether you, as a family and friends carer, are eligible for help, we will make an assessment to see if the child you care for, or plan to, is a child for whom services need to be provided. Once a decision has been made that the child or children need a service, then you as the carer will be offered social work support.
We have a duty to make sure any child we are providing services for is safe and well cared for, so the social worker will discuss with you how you are going to look after the child.
Your social worker will talk with you about the help you need to care for the child/children. They will also ask for your permission to carry out checks which we are legally obliged to make when someone other than a parent is looking after a child. We assess, support and remain involved whilst the you are caring for the child.
Will I receive any help?
You and the child will have a social worker who is there to give you support, guidance and to ensure that the child is happy.
What other support could I receive?
- Ongoing support from your dedicated supervising social worker providing advice, information and support.
- Assistance in requesting other services for the child, for example from education or from health services.
- A foster carer coordinator – an experienced carer who offers support and advice by phone and support groups.
- A link with national and local groups who support family and friends carers, including the Grandparent’s Plus Helpline support from the Oxfordshire Foster Care Association and Fostering Network.
What happens if I have worries or concerns?
Having a child come to live in your family, even when you are a relative or close friend and know the child well, is likely to create changes in all the family relationships and it will take time for adjustments to be made.
Your social worker and foster care coordinator are there to offer you advice and support.
What legal rights do I have with regards to the child?
The child’s birth parent(s) will be asked to make an agreement with you about how the day-to-day responsibilities for the child are to be carried out, for example dental and medical appointments, who will attend school meetings etc.
If the child/children are to remain with you long term, you can apply to court for a legal order to secure the placement and increase your legal rights.
What about contact?
In most family and friends care arrangements, it is important for the child to keep in contact with their family. Your social worker and foster carer coordinator will help you to arrange this contact.
What are the next steps?
If you wish to foster the child of a family member or close friend, or just want to find our more information, please contact us.