Special guardianship, kinship care and private fostering

What is Kinship Care?

grandfather and granddaughterKinship care means that relatives or friends look after children who cannot live with their parents. 

Kinship care may include people who are not related to the child but who are still in the child’s social network.  For example someone the child knows well and trusts; a good neighbour, a parent of a school friend or a close family friend.  Sometimes this type of care is called family and friends care because this more accurately describes what it is, and kinship foster carers are sometimes called connected persons.  

Kinship care can be a private arrangement or formalised through a legal order. 

Private arrangement or legal order?

  • Private arrangement - this is an informal arrangement where a child is looked after by inidividuals other than the parent such as a grandparent or a close relative. No legal agreements have been undertaken.
  • Private fostering - this is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity)
  • Kinship Fostering - this is an arrangement whereby the local authority have legal responsibility for a child and place them with a family member of friend who is a foster carer for that child.
  • Special Guardianship  - Special Guardianship is a formal court order that was introduced on 30 December 2005 which allows parental control over a child by individuals other than the parent. This could be a grandparent, close relative or even a family friend.

Benefits to the child

Kinship care and Special Guardianship can offer a child;

  • A form of stability without legally separating the child from their parents.
  • The chance to build a firm foundation for a lifelong permanent relationship.
  • The opportunity to remain within their extended family network.

A Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship means that the child lives with carers who have parental responsibility for them until they are grown up. The child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority.

The order usually lasts until the child is 18

Who can apply to be a Special Guardian

You must be over 18 years and have an existing or possible relationship with the child. You could be;

  • Grandparents
  • Aunt/uncle
  • Brother/sister
  • Other relatives

Also you don’t have to be a blood relative. You can be a;

  • Family friend
  • Other relationships
  • Unrelated foster carers

Prospective special guardians fall into five categories. Which one do you fall into? 

  1. Foster carers who have been approved by local authorities or an independent foster carer who is not connected to the child.
  2.  Family and friends carers who have been approved as foster carers by their local authorities.
  3. Family and friends carers who are temporarily approved.
  4. Family and friends who are not caring for a child who is placed with the local authorities or independent foster care providers.
  5. Lastly unknown applicants. 


These eligibility requirements are formed in order to guarantee a large group of people with existing ties to the child can apply.

Have you developed a bond with the child concerned?

If you have a bond with the child, you can do the following;

  • Secure a legal framework.
  • Ensure the child’s long-term progression.
  • Show that the bond between the two of you has formed. 
  • Lastly; trust, respect and security have now been established.

Assessing prospective Special Guardians 

Information about the child needs to be presented to the courts. The court will need to understand the child’s whole story including: their family composition, social, educational, development and finally, the child’s own feelings. The court will look into the child’s history to make an informed decision. The court also assesses the prospective guardian’s support needs in relation to the child. 

Get the real story

Deborah become a special guardian and she explains how she fought through the uncertainty to find a new sense of stability for her family through Special Guardianship. Read her story here.