Caring for a family or friend’s child

There’s a range of legal options you can consider when looking after a family or friend’s child.

A family or friend carer can be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or family friend.

We want to make sure children and young people have stable homes by helping children who can’t live with their birth parents to stay with members of their extended family or friends.

The advice of a social worker or a solicitor may be helpful when deciding the best option.

Informal family care

As a close relative, you can take care of the child but you don’t have parental responsibility. The arrangement isn’t made by the council and the child isn’t in care.

Private fostering

Private fostering is where a child under 16 years of age, or under 18 if disabled, is cared for 28 days or more by someone:

  • who doesn’t have parental responsibility
  • who isn’t a close relative

Family and friends foster care (kinship care)

The child is placed with a family member or family friend by the council. You are assessed and approved as a foster carer to look after the child.

Child arrangements order

This is a court order arrangement between you and the child. You share parental responsibility and decision making with the child's parents. The child lives with you usually until they are 18 years old and they continue to have contact with their parents.

Special guardianship order

This is a court order appointing a person to be a child’s special guardian. It’s a permanent arrangement for a child when adoption isn’t suitable and offers more security than a child arrangements order.

It gives the carer parental responsibility for the child. In contrast to adoption, the birth parents stay the child's legal parents and have limited parental responsibility.

Adoption order

This is where you adopt the child. Adoption provides the only life-long legal arrangement, which will be most suitable for the young child who is unlikely to be able to return to their birth parents within a reasonable timescale.

Support for family and friend carers


Wherever possible, we’ll give family and friend carers support to get appropriate housing if this will prevent the child coming into care.

Supporting contact                                                  

Most families arrange their own contact between children and parents. In exceptional circumstances, we may provide advice, support and arrange facilitate contact for a limited period. Ask your social worker for more advice.

Finding solutions to your family issues

A family meeting involves members of your wider family, who are other family members, as well as the child and their parents. Together, we’ll help you find solutions to your family issues.

We may arrange a family group conference when appropriate or necessary:

  • when you’re receiving a service from children's social workers or
  • there may be a court proceeding


Find out how children and young people in care can get extra support at school

Support groups

There are support groups for