Fostering family or friends

When children are brought up by family members or friends, it is known as 'family and friends care'.

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 come forward to offer care for a child, then that child might need to be cared for by the local authority and would be placed with 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.

Our experience is that the commitment from carers is something that gives children greater security from feeling loved and comfortable in their own family environment.

We promote and support family and friends care so that children who cannot live at home with their parents are given every opportunity to thrive and be happy in their own family network.

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?

We support family and friends carers in most situations if we have been involved with the family by helping to make the arrangements for the care of the child or children.

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 in order 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.

Will I receive any help?

Caring for a child can be difficult, but you will get help and support. If you are in financial need because of caring for the child/children, you can request a financial assessment. This will depend on your financial circumstances. It can take the form of a grant to purchase furniture or childcare equipment, or a regular allowance. Child benefit and tax credits can also be claimed.

We do not provide financial assistance or support for children we have not placed with you but will help you access any benefits you are entitled to.

Please note: general fostering allowances do not automatically apply to family and friends carers.

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.