Child Fostering has many different aspects. There are, for example, different categories of fostering placements from emergency placements, short break and respite care placements through to bridging placements. Kinship care simply means that a child or young person is put into placement with relatives, or friends if they can no longer live with their parents. Children will, in most instances have a fairly developed social network: kinship care can be offered by someone that the child or young person trusts. In child fostering, this kind of care is sometimes referred to as family and friends care – which is an accurate description of what it actually is. Alternatively, kinship foster carers may be known as connected persons.
Kinship care can be arranged in different ways – it may be a private arrangement, or put on a formal basis through a legal order.
Private arrangement for child fostering
Here the arrangement for child fostering is is on an informal basis. No legal agreements are in place, with the child being looked after by individuals other than their parents – most commonly grandparents or other close relatives. The definition ‘close relative’ covers step-parents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts and grandparents.
Private fostering: kinship care and special guardianship
In child fostering, this is when a child under the age of sixteen (under eighteen if the child is disabled), is looked after by someone who is not their parent or close relative. With kinship fostering, an arrangement is made where the local authority retains legal responsibility for a child or young person. The authority then approves their being placed with a family member, or a friend who will foster the child.
Special Guardianship: this is arranged through a formal court order and allows parental control over a child by people other than the parents – again, this could be grandparents, close relatives or family friends. You don’t have to be a blood relative – you can even be an unrelated foster carer. To be a Special Guardian, you must be over 18 years of age and have an existing or a possible relationship with the child or young person. Under the terms of Special Guardianship, the carers have full parental responsibility and will have the child until it is grown up. The local authority ceases to have responsibility for a child under this child fostering arrangement.
Special Guardianship and Kinship care bring benefits to a child – the chance to remain as a part of their extended family network, stability and a sense of permanence without the child being separated legally from their parents. These forms of child fostering provide the opportunity to build a lifelong relationship.
Broadly speaking applying to be a special guardian means you will fall into the following categories:
foster carers approved by local authorities or an independent foster carer who is not connected to the child; a local authority foster parent with whom the child has been residing for at least one year before the application,
family and friends carers approved as foster carers by their local authorities,
you are a relative of the child and the child has been living with you for at least one year immediately pre-dating the application for a Special Guardianship Order.
family and friends carers who have been temporarily approved,
Anyone with the permission of the Court to make the application.
Role of the court
If you are not a relative, you will be required to demonstrate you have developed a strong bond with the child or young person. You can then seek to have a legal framework put in place. Then you must guarantee the child’s long term progression, and show that complete trust and security have been established.
A parent of a child or young person cannot be appointed as the child’s special guardian. The court will make a decision based around whether a special guardianship order is in the best long term interests of the child. The court will also consider if, as well as making the special guardianship order, a contact order should also be made. Before a final decision is made, a local authority report addressing the suitability of the applicant – plus any other issues deemed relevant by the authority – will be considered.
Once appointed, the special guardian will assume complete responsibility for the day to day decisions relating to the child’s upbringing and general welfare. The court may give leave for the child to be known by a new surname.
For more background information on this aspect of child fostering we have a book recommendation. ‘Inside Kinship Care’: edited by David Pitcher. This is a detailed look at the relationships and dynamics of providing kinship care.
Available – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-Kinship-Care-Understanding-Providing/dp/1849053464
And the good news at the end of this fostering rainbow…moving forward with our child fostering projects: we are making a connection with a local singer/songwriter who has achieved considerable success in a local school. He has been inspiring young people to think creatively about lyric writing and music production.
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