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Looking after someone else's child

Most children are brought up by one or more of their parents, but where this isn’t possible some children and young people are being cared for full time by a relative or friend.

Sometimes a relative or friend will be approved as a local authority foster carer, but the majority will be looking after children under different arrangements.

Family and friends carers play a significant role, allowing a child or young person to stay in the care of someone they know and trust, often at a time when things at home are not going well.

We have a duty to help and support family members and friends who are looking after someone else's child. The type of help and support offered will depend on the needs of the child and the nature of the arrangements that parents or the local authority have made with extended family or friends.

You can find more information about the different options in Annex A of 'Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities'.

We've developed policies and procedures setting out the help and support that is available to family and friends carers in the following circumstances. See our family and friends care procedures.

Informal family and friends arrangements

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family and parents may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.

These arrangements do not need to be agreed by the local authority but help and support may be available depending on the child's needs.

Private fostering

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, step-parent (including civil partnerships), sister or brother and the child is to be cared for in that person's home for 28 days or more.

Find out more about private fostering.

Family and friends foster care (also known as connected person's foster care, and formerly known as kinship foster care)

A connected person is a relative, friend or other person connected with a child, for example, child minder or teacher. For such placements the national minimum standards for foster care will apply, and the connected person must be fully assessed as a foster carer for the child by 16 weeks of the placement being agreed with the local authority.

Child arrangements orders (formerly known as residence orders)

A Child Arrangements Order (CAO) is a court order which gives parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made, usually lasting until the child is 18.

Parental responsibility is then shared with the parents but it gives the holder the right to have the child live with them.

Special guardianship orders

Special guardianship is considered when a child needs permanent care outside their birth family, and there are no plans for the child to return.

It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption. It gives the holder parental responsibility and the right to have the child live with them.


Adoption is a way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents. It's a legal procedure in which all the parental responsibility is given to the adopters.

An adopted child loses all legal ties with their first mother and father (the 'birth parents') and becomes a full member of the new family, usually taking the family's name. Find out more about adoption.