Kinship care means that children whose parents are unable to look after them on a short or long term basis are cared for by other relatives, like grandparents, uncles or siblings,or by other adults who have a connection to the child, such as neighbours or a close friend of the family.

Most children in kinship care are not "looked after" by a local authority, but some are.

Kinship care may be a permanent arrangement, sometimes formalised through a legal order, or a temporary and informal one.

Different kinds of kinship care

Kinship care includes children who may be:

  • living in informal arrangements made by their birth parents with a close relative, or by default, for example because their birth parent has died or abandoned them
  • living with private foster carers 
  • looked after by the local authority and placed with kinship foster carers who will need to be approved as foster carers
  • on a "Child Arrangement Order" or "Special Guardianship Order" granted by the court
  • in arrangements which are due to lead to adoption by a relative or friend
  • living with testamentary guardians when a parent has died

Depending on the specific circumstances, kinship carers will have different rights, responsibilities and support available to them.

What are the benefits of kinship care?

Kinship care gives children:

  • some stability without legally separating them from their birth parents
  • the chance to build a firm foundation for a lifelong permanent relationship
  • the opportunity to remain within their extended family network

Because of their existing relationship or connection with the child, kinship carers often feel more motivated to manage tricky situations or go through approval or legal procedures in order to provide a consistent, secure and loving home for the child.

For more information on kinship care you can read one of our books:

You can also read about Special Guardianship, private fostering and options available for step-parents.