What is it?
It is not always possible for a young person to be looked after by a parent or guardian. Instead of the young person going into care, they may be cared for by family members. This is called kinship care and the people looking after the young person are the kinship carer(s). This is a person who is related to the child or a person who the child already knows.
How do people end up in kinship care?
There are many reasons why young people may end up in kinship care. It is not the case that all young people are in care due to their own behaviour. Some reasons why a young person may become looked after are:
- The loss or death of one or both parents, where no one else is able to look after the young person.
- The young person is seen as being at risk if they stay with their parents for example if the parent is misusing drugs or alcohol.
- A family crisis such as a parent being in hospital and no-one else can look after the young person.
- The young person requests care as a result of feeling unsupported or badly treated at home.
- The young person is subject to legal processes under Youth Justice and Police and Criminal Justice Act procedures.
The government has a basic duty to protect the interests of every young person in Scotland. In a situation where the local authority has direct responsibility for the care of a young person, they are classed as a ‘looked after’ young person.
There are a lot of different laws and terms which can be confusing so this is a brief description of the most common terms which you may come across.
‘Looked after’ - This means the local authority takes on some of the ‘parental responsibility’ for the young person. The young person in kinship care will be cared for by a kinship carer but the local authority still has additional duties towards the child.
Not ‘Looked after’ - The government has a basic duty to protect the interests of every young person so this just means that the parental responsibility for the young person is with their parent/guardian and not the local authority.
Children’s Hearing - A children’s hearing is a legal meeting which is held to decide what needs to be done to help a young person – these often happen in relation to a young person’s care needs.
Child’s Plan - The Child’s plan is an overall support plan looking at the needs of the young person, the suitability of the carer and what help they might need.
Special Guardianship Order - This is when the carer is given legal responsibility for the young person but doesn’t remove responsibility from the birth parents although they only have to be consulted in exceptional circumstances.
Residence Order - This decides where the young person lives, whether that is with a parent, guardian or carer.
All young people have the right to have a say and be consulted about what happens to them. They also have the right to live in a safe environment and have access to education, including additional support if they need it. The local authority cannot place a young person with a kinship carer unless they are satisfied that:
- The placement is in the best interests of the young person and the kinship carer.
- The kinship carer is a suitable person to care for a child.
- They have taken all available information into account.
The kinship carer is entitled to certain benefits which are dependent on whether the young person is ‘looked after’ or not ‘looked after’. When a young person is ‘looked after’ by the local authority, the kinship carer is entitled to money for the care of the young person. When a young person is not ‘looked after’ and in kinship care then the carer is entitled to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
More help and Information
If you are in care then you may face challenges that people who are not in care don’t have to. It is sometimes a difficult experience to go through and other aspects of your life may suffer as a result. School can be tough for several reasons – you may find you have to change schools, or you might find it hard to keep up with all the schoolwork, homework and exams you need to do. If you feel that it is all getting too much and are overwhelmed it is important to talk to someone, whether that is a carer, social worker, teacher or anyone you feel comfortable talking to.
If you want to talk confidentially, call Childline 0800 1111 or visit their website. There is also a Kinship Care Helpline which you can call on 0808 800 0006.
For more information, The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 sets out the guidelines to ensure that the best interests of young people in care are met.