Foster care – kinship care and SGOs

If you foster a child, you will soon discover there are many different categories of fostering. For example, there are different placements from emergency placements, short break and respite care placements right through to bridging placements. Another kind of arrangement is kinship care. This simply means that a child is placed with relatives, or friends if they can no longer live at home. In most instances, young people have a fairly developed social network. This makes it more possible for kinship care to be offered by someone that the child or young person trusts. In the world of foster care, this kind of arrangement is sometimes referred to as family and friends care. Kinship foster carers may also be known as connected persons. Kinship care can be arranged in different ways: for example, it may be a private arrangement, or put instead, on a formal basis through a legal order.

Private foster care – kinship care and special guardianship (SGO)

When a child is in foster care, this is when a they are under the age of sixteen (under the age of eighteen if the child/young person is disabled), and is looked after by someone who is not their parent or a close relative. Kinship fostering requires an arrangement to be made where the local authority keeps the legal responsibility for a child or young person. The authority will then approve the placement with either a family member, or a friend who will be the foster carer.

Special Guardianship: this will be arranged via a formal court order (SGO). It allows parental control over a child by people other than its parents.  This could also apply to the grandparents, close relatives or family friends of the child concerned. There is no requirement to be a blood relative. It is even possible to be an unrelated foster carer. But to be a Special Guardian, you have to be over the age of eighteen and have an existing, or a possible relationship with the youngster. Under the terms of Special Guardianship, the foster carers take on the full parental responsibility. They will look after the child until it has reached adulthood. The local authority concerned, then ceases to have any responsibility for a child under this foster care arrangement.

Where Special Guardianship and Kinship foster care arrangements are in place, there can be significant benefits to a child or young person. There is the chance to remain as a member of their extended family network. This creates both stability and a sense of permanence without the need for the child to be legally separated from their parents.

In broad terms, applying to be a special guardian means you will find yourself falling into the following categories –

  • foster carers approved by local authorities or an independent foster carer who is not connected to the child; a local authority foster parent with whom the child has been living for at least one year before the application;
  • family and friends carers approved as foster carers by their LAs (local authorities);
  • Any person with the permission of the Court to make the application;
  • you are a relative of the child or young person and the individual has been living with you for a minimum of one year immediately pre-dating the application that was made for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO);
  • family and friends of carers who have been temporarily approved to provide care.

In summary, kinship care can offer numerous benefits to children. This includes lessening disruption, a sense of belonging, continuity, stability, the formation of identity and the preservation of cultural and familial links.

The Role of the court.

If you are not a relative, it will be your responsibility to demonstrate that you have developed a strong bond of trust with the child or young person. Once this is done, you can then apply to have a legal framework put in place. Then you will be expected to guarantee the child’s long term progress – as well as showing that complete trust, security and stability have been established and will be maintained.

The parent of a child cannot be appointed as their special guardian. The court will base its decision on whether a special guardianship order (SGO) will be in the child’s best long term interests. The court will also consider if, as well as making the special guardianship order, a contact order should also be put in place. Before the court makes a final decision, a local authority report addressing the suitability of the applicant – plus any other issues deemed relevant by the authority –  will be given consideration.

Once the appointed has been made, the special guardian will assume the complete responsibility for the day to day decisions that relate to the child’s upbringing and welfare. The court may also permit leave for the child or young person to be known by a new surname.

Private arrangement for foster care.

In this situation, the arrangement for foster care is on an informal basis. There are no legal agreements put in place and the child is looked after by individuals other than their birth parents. Most commonly, this involves grandparents or other close relatives. The definition ‘close relative’ will then apply to step-parents, brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles or grandparents.

And the good news at the end of this fostering rainbow…Spring is finally here!

Keep abreast of foster care news: our latest story 

Misconceptions about foster care

March 14th,  2018

“We have been speaking to individuals in the community about what they think fostering is and there are a lot of misconceptions.” These are (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK