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30 Nov 22
The Importance of Family

Let’s start with a bit of Trivia –

Q. What do Al Pacino, Bill Clinton, Isaac Newton, Davina McCall, John Lennon, Jamie Foxx and Nicki Minaj all have in common?

A. They have all been raised (for all or part of their childhoods) by family members and not by their parents.

This is Kinship Care and it is far more common than you would think.

The reasons behind why a child cannot remain in the care of their parents are wide ranging. According to research shows that of the children cared for by a family member , around half of them (52%) are in kinship care as a result of parental drug or alcohol misuse.  Other reasons include bereavement, imprisonment, parental abuse, neglect and parental ill-health. Regardless of the reasons, the decision to move a child out of the care of their parent(s) will always be what is in their best interests.

Without these Kinship carers, that child would end up in the care system either in Foster Care, Care Home or even adopted.  We hear all too commonly that the Care system does not provide good outcomes for children.  A family placement is usually a much more familiar setting for the child and is generally seen as a much more stable, long-term solution.

Most Kinship Carers are grandparents but any family member or close friend can be a Kinship Carer.

Davina McCall has recently given her support to #KinshipCarer campaign on the Kinship Facebook page, read her post here.

There are three ways one can become a Kinship Carer:

1. By informal agreement or family arrangement

Informal kinship care is where you are looking after a child who is closely related to you but you do not have parental responsibility for them and they are not ‘looked after’ by the local authority.   You will not receive any state benefits or allowances for the child nor do you have any legal standing to make important decision so-called “Parental Responsibility”.  Such arrangements are really only suitable as a very short term measure

2. By way of court order such as a Special Guardship Order or Child Arrangements Order

i. A Special Guardianship Order

(often known as an SGO) is a legal order where the court appoints a carer – usually a relative – as the ‘Special Guardian’ of a child until they turn 18.  The Special Guardian then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make nearly all the major decisions about the child without having to consult them.  A Special Guardianship Allowance can be paid to a Special Guardian as well as other support services can be accessed via the Local Authority, depending upon need.

ii. Child Arrangements Order for the Child to Live with you (formerly Residence Orders)

The person named in a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make the most important decisions on behalf of the child without always needing the permission of the parents.  It lasts until the child turns 18 unless the court states otherwise.  You can obtain some State Benefits for the Child once you have been awarded a CAO for the child to live with you.

3. By involvement of Social Services and possibly Public Law orders such as a Care Order or a Supervision Order.

A Care Order can be put in place where there is significant risk of harm to the child by its parent(s).  The court can make a care order and the child will be placed with a Kinship Carer.  The Local Authority would have Parental Responsibility for the child and all legal decisions regarding their care will go through the Social Worker on behalf of the Local Authority.  Kinship foster care is when a friend or family member becomes an official foster carer for a child after having had an assessment by Social Services.  This is different to other forms of kinship care as the child is then considered ‘looked after’ by the state  You won’t have parental responsibility.  Fostering Allowance can be paid to a kinship carer as a result of Public Law proceedings.

How can we help?

At Watkins and Gunn, we believe that a carer who understands their legal rights and accesses the right support will have the best chance of maintaining a successful placement for the child.  By asking for our specialist advice on these issues at an early stage, a potential carer can make informed choices about the path they wish to take as well as pursue the appropriate support for themselves and/or for the child.

Victoria Murphy is our specialist Family Solicitor who can advise you on these issues.  Please get in touch with our experienced Family Law team on 01633 262122.


Victoria Murphy is a Family Law Solicitor at Watkins & Gunn. 

For further information contact the Family Law team.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.

Contact us today 0300 1240 400