General FAQ

Kinship Care: How Is It Different From Regular Foster Care?

Kinship care can be beneficial for children for various reasons. After all, it provides them with a stable and secure home environment with someone they already know and trust. It can also help children and young people keep their connection with their birth parents, which is important for their sense of identity and belonging.
What Is Kinship Care?

Kinship care is an arrangement where a child or young person is cared for by a relative or close family friend when their birth parents are unable to look after them. Depending on the circumstances, kinship care can be either temporary or permanent.

While they aren’t classified as foster care placements, which involve an approved unrelated/unknown foster parent caring for a child, there are guidelines to how these arrangements work.

What Happens When a Child Is in Kinship Care?

A child can end up in a kinship care arrangement for two reasons – either they have been removed from their birth parents’ care due to concerns about their safety and welfare, or it may have been voluntary. This is where birth parents recognise they are unable to provide the level of care their child needs, allowing a relative or friend to care for them instead.

There are many types of care that involve friends or family, including:

Informal kinship care

This is when a family member looks after a child who can’t be cared for by the birth parents, not at the request of the local council.

Formal kinship care

When a family member or friend looks after a child who can’t be cared for by the birth parents at the request of the local council. In these arrangements, the local authority takes on financial and parental responsibility for the child.

Private fostering

If the carer is not a close relative of the child (such as a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or step-parent) and the child is under 16, then the arrangement is called private fostering. In these arrangements, the local authority does not provide financial support.

Child arrangements order

Child arrangements orders are legal orders where the court decides where a child will live, while special guardianship orders are legal orders where the court appoints a carer as ‘Special Guardian’ for a child until they turn 18. The local authority sometimes pays an allowance to these types of carers.


Every child deserves a safe and loving home.

Help for Kinship Carers

In most cases, it is the local council who provides support in the case of kinship care arrangements.

Depending on the formality of the arrangement, support may include:

Child benefits
Child tax credits
Help caring for a disabled child
Help for special education needs
• Fostering allowances for formal kinship care
• Fostering allowances for special guardians


Learn more about kinship care and access resources and support at:

Grandparents Plus: Around half of kinship carers are grandparents, but this non-profit offers advice and support for all kinship carers.
The Family Rights Group: This charity works with parents and relatives with children in need.
Buttle UK: Provides grants for parents in need, including carers.
Coram Children’s Legal Centre: Provides free legal advice as part of their mission to promote and protect children’s rights.

At Compass Fostering, we help members of the community train to become confident foster carers for children in need. If you’d like to find out more about what we do, please get in touch.

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