Kinship Care: Fostering Your Grandchildren


Kinship care is a wonderful way for grandparents to keep their grandchildren safe and secure, in an environment they know well, around the people they love. With Grandparents Day coming up soon in the UK, this is your chance to access the information you need. There are many instances where a child may need to come into your care as a grandparent; knowing your rights, where you stand and what support you can get to make this a permanent arrangement are key to securing your grandchild's future.

Fostering your grandchildren

Grandparents, A Much Needed Support

There are a number of names and legal arrangements that are related to grandparents fostering their grandchildren. Most likely, it will be referred to as kinship care. The difference in each kind of arrangement is usually determined by what happens to the child at the end of the arrangement.

It is a common misconception that because your grandchildren are living with you, you have the ability to make decisions on their behalf such as where they go to school, decisions relating to their health etc. This isn't true, and can sometimes create problems between the birth parents or others who have parental responsibility, but don’t live with the child when decisions need to be made.

Fostering Your Grandchild

The Grandparents Association, a national charity that helps grandparents and their families, has estimated that 300,000 children in the UK are being raised by their grandparents, other family members or friends. The decision to take on their care is sometimes taken by the grandparents themselves, or even social services, depending on the situation.

If, when the child comes to live with you, you're not already registered as a foster carer, your local authority can give you temporary approval for 16 weeks. During this time, they will carry out a fostering assessment so the child can be with you straightaway. Some people may be put off with the idea of involving the local authority in favour of a more informal arrangement but security for the child and their best interests are at the heart of the process.

Types of Arrangements

Getting advice at this stage to make the right decision for now and the future will make all the difference in the long run. Child arrangement orders (used to replace residence and contact orders) and special guardianship orders are both popular choices chosen by grandparents.

Child arrangement orders decide:
  • Where a child lives
  • Who they spend time with
  • When and what other types of contact they have with people
They usually last until the child is 16 or in some exceptional cases, until they are 18. They allow you to gain parental responsibility without taking it away from the child's birth parents.

Special guardianship orders are more permanent than child arrangement orders and last until the child is 18. Unlike child arrangement orders, they are harder to revoke, as the parents will need to show there has been a significant change in their circumstances. This is sometimes the best option for those grandparents taking over the care of their grandchildren when there has been substance abuse or alcohol dependency.

There are a number of things to consider when taking over the care of your grandchild and at times, it may seem overwhelming. The take away points from this article that can help you with your decision are:
  • Ask for a clarification of terms on what kinship care means in your local authority
  • Look into having yourself registered as a foster carer for the purposes of raising your grandchildren
  • Think about which arrangement would suit your needs most and then seek legal advice about putting them in place

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