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What Is Kinship Care?

What Is Kinship Care?

By definition your kin is a relative or family member. This week in Scotland, it is Kinship Care Week. This legal insight highlights the important role kinship carers play for families in our communities.

Ideally children will be raised by their parents whether those parents be married, separated, single or same sex. Fundamentally the law and the State has no place to be involved in how a family looks after its own.  The ethos of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 is that the court is not expected to make any order in relation to parental rights and parental responsibilities unless it is necessary and better to do so, than not at all. 

Navigating life and parenting is not straightforward for all. For example a parent may be struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or a number of downward spiral problems that lead to significant concerns for the welfare and safety of any child in that parent’s care. This may lead to state intervention via the local authority Social Work Department and/or the Court. Various paths may lead to this intervention. It may be via the Childrens Hearing System where an interim supervision order or a compulsory supervision order is made. It could be that a permanence order is applied for by the local authority and granted by the court where it is not possible for the child to be returned home. It may be that the court has had to grant a Child Protection Order or an emergency protection order to safeguard the child. Lastly, it may come about through a “section 25” voluntary arrangement where the parent consents or requests that the child is accommodated elsewhere. 

Where the local authority has had to intervene, the child is deemed a “looked after child”. The local authority assumes the responsibility to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, promotes contact with family members where appropriate and provides guidance, advice and support to the child.   Being a looked after child caught up in the System on a long term basis is not helpful for any child. If there are suitable family members willing and able to assist with looking after the child then that will be the natural and preferred route to follow. The family member assessed for kinship care could for example be, an older sibling, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This hopefully allows for some normality and familiarity for the child who may be experiencing all sorts of emotional anxiety as to why they are no longer with the parent or parents. During this period the kinship carer will have financial and practical support from the social work department and while they can take some day-to-day practical decisions about the arrangements for the child, they have no parental right and parental responsibilities in respect of the child. 

If there is no likelihood of returning to the parent’s care, there may be a recommendation that the child is placed with the kinship carer on a permanent basis.  This is achieved by the kinship carer applying to the court for an order for parental responsibilities and rights and a residence order to demonstrate that he or she is in a position to have the child live with them. It is sometimes known as a Kinship Care Order in these circumstances. This effectively removes the child from the System, he or she is no longer deemed a looked after child and the family life carries on without the previous State interference. This is the explanation in simple terms. For kinship carers obtaining such orders enables them to take more significant decisions such as applying for a passport for the child or managing the child’s property such as opening bank accounts. For the child it gives security and stability that their home is with their family. 

As above, just as life may have been difficult to navigate for the parent who is unable to parent, kinship caring is an enormous ask of a family. The looked after child may be coming into a home where there are already children, a sleepover for a night may be exciting but a longer term stay may put a strain on relationships and space. The child may be managing their own emotional traumas at being separated from their parent and not be able to compute why they are living somewhere else, even if it is familiar surroundings. The kinship carer may feel overwhelmed with the enormity of a task that was never expected in their life plan.  It is important that while there is no longer that State support, it is recognised that  emotional and practical support may still be needed for both the child and the kinship carer going forward to ensure the best outcome for all members of this family unit. 

So, a huge shout out to the kinship carers in our communities. You provide succour and support to the vulnerable in the family and do so because it’s family. Here’s to a successful Kinship Care Week.

About the author

Angela Wipat
Angela Wipat

Angela Wipat

Legal Director


For more information, contact Angela Wipat or any member of the Family team on +44 1738 472763.