Looking after someone else's child

You can get support and financial help if someone else’s child is living with you full time.

Your arrangement may be known as either:

  • family and friends care (often called kinship care)
  • private fostering

Contact your local council to check what services and financial support they provide.

Family and friends carers

You’re known as a family and friends carer if you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or family friend looking after a child who can’t be cared for by their birth parents.

You must be approved as a foster carer if the local council has officially asked you to look after a child.

If the local council didn’t ask you to look after the child you don’t have to tell them the child has come to stay with you.

If you’re giving full-time care to a child, you can get information from:

Find out about how to get a charity grant from Buttle UK for a child or young person.

Private fostering

You’re a private foster carer if both the following apply:

  • you’re not a close relative, ie grandparent, brother or sister, uncle or aunt or step-parent
  • you’re looking after a child who’s under 16 (under 18 if they’re disabled) for more than 28 days in a row

You must tell your local council about this arrangement.

What to expect

A social worker will visit you and the child to make sure the child is safe and being properly cared for.

The social worker will do background checks on you. They can also offer help and support.

You must tell your local council if you’re a parent and you’ve asked someone who isn’t a close relative to look after your child.

Child Benefit

You can apply for Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and other benefits that parents get.

Children with disabilities, learning and behavioural problems

You can get help if you’re looking after a disabled child.

You can get extra help at school for a child with special educational needs (SEN).

Your local council can help you find support for a child with emotional problems.

Get parental responsibility for the child

If you want to care for a child long term, you can get parental responsibility for the child by applying for a child arrangements order or special guardianship order.

You may also be able to adopt the child.

Having parental responsibility means you can:

  • get unpaid parental leave
  • choose the child’s school
  • agree to the child’s medical treatment
  • look after the child’s finances and property
  • apply for a passport for the child
  • stop the child being taken abroad without your permission

Get legal advice from Coram Children’s Legal Centre.