What is kinship?
Kinship care is when a child lives full-time, or most of the time, with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent, usually because their parents aren’t able to care for them.
That relative or friend is called a ‘kinship carer’. It’s estimated that around half of kinship carers are grandparents. Many other relatives, including older siblings, aunts, uncles, as well as family friends and neighbours, can also be kinship carers.
Special guardianship order (SGO)
This is a formal court order which allows parental responsibility and control over a child by individuals other than the parent. This could be a grandparent, close relative or a family friend.
An SGO is generally thought to be a stronger order than a child arrangement order. The holder can make most decisions about a child's life without needing to refer back to the child's birth parents.
Kinship carers can also apply for an SGO in private proceedings through the courts, for children who have been living with them for 12 months or more. In these cases, the local authority needs to be notified so a special guardianship assessment can be completed.
This is where friends or family members have been assessed and approved as foster carers to look after children when either:
- the birth parents agree to their child being in the care of the local authority
- the local authority has legal responsibility through a care order granted by the courts at the end of care proceedings
In an emergency situation, temporary approval as a connected carer can be given before a full assessment is completed. This is known as Reg 24 approval.
The local authority shares parental responsibility for children on care orders with their birth parents. Social workers will remain actively involved in the child’s life.
Where parents have agreed to the local authority looking after their child, under Section 20, parental responsibility remains with parents while certain aspects are delegated to the local authority.
What happens in an assessment?
Step 1: Viability assessment
This is the first step of the process to decide whether it is likely the family member is going to be able to safeguard and meet the needs of the child or young person, or whether it is clear at this early stage that they are not going to be able to fulfil this role.
This is completed in two stages:
- Stage 1: A social worker will complete an assessment which will involve a discussion regarding the expectations, alongside initial checks on all adults in the home. If no concerns are raised it will progress to Stage 2.
- Stage 2: A home visit will be carried out. A recommendation will then be made about the suitability to progress to a full assessment or not. This part of the process is likely to involve one to two sessions.
Step 2: Full assessment
The purpose of the full assessment is to establish whether or not the prospective carer could meet the needs of the child for the duration of their childhood in the event that the child or children is not able to return to their parent’s care. This is known as a special guardianship assessment and/or connected carer assessment.
If the viability assessment is positive and recommends further assessment, a full kinship assessment may need to take place. This will be undertaken by a social worker in the fostering team. In addition to sessions with you and your family, this will also involve undertaking references, checks and medicals.
It means that the social worker will need to visit you between eight and ten times, depending on the time of each session.
Our fostering recruitment and assessment team undertakes the assessment of carers for both SGOs and approval as connected carers.
For connected carers, upon completion of the assessment, the assessing social worker will make a recommendation which is then presented to the foster panel to consider. The final outcome and decision is then made by the agency decision maker (ADM).
The assessing social worker who is completing the assessment will make a recommendation regarding an SGO, the final outcome and decision is then made by the court.
Checks and references
The list below shows the statutory checks and references that will be undertaken for SGO and connected carer assessments.
This is not an exhaustive list and further references and checks may be made, depending on the family circumstances.
- Local authority or health trust - current and previous.
- DBS - check on all members of the household over 16.
- Health - applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP complete the form and comment on their fitness to care for children.
- Education – where the applicant has children attending nursery, pre-school, school or college, they will be contacted for information on the applicant’s ability to promote a child’s education
- Health visiting service - if a child is under school age
- CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) - to enquire about any family court involvement
- Probation - to enquire about any involvement with offending
- Employment - a written reference must be obtained from each applicant’s current employer regardless of the applicant’s occupation. If you have completed voluntary work or paid employment with vulnerable adults or children, references will be sought from each of these.
- Previous partner - a reference will be sought from any previous partner that an applicant has parented children with and/or lived with, this may include birth children or non-related children. Where there are concerns about risk, further discussions will take place around this.
- Personal references - applicants will be asked to provide the names of at least three referees each, these must not all be family members. Written references are sought from the referees and three referees will be selected for interview. The referees should have known the applicant for at least five years.