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Access to expert legal advice is vital for kinship carers especially at the start of your kinship journey, when you need to carefully consider and understand your options. You need to understand the long-term implications of any legal orders you apply for – ideally through accessing independent advice and guidance at the earliest stage.
Kinship Carers Liverpool has been working with some family law solicitors locally to establish the Liverpool Kinship Legal Advice Network. The aim is to work to build up expertise of the legal advice sector in the city around kinship legal orders and the challenges around this. We are working with partners nationally to inform and campaign for policy change to support all kin carers.
Liverpool Kinship Legal Advice Network: Solicitors’ Listing: one of resources we have developed for prospective and current Kinship Carers is a listing of those solicitors who have an expertise in this area of family law. The List can be downloaded by clicking on the attachment in the Resources Box on the right.
Liverpool Law Clinics – we work in partnership with the two Law Clinics in the city, at John Moores University and the University of Liverpool. Both offer pro bono/free Family Law Legal Advice sessions and you may be able to access these if eligible. In very high demand, these services are usually term-time only are staffed by qualified solicitors volunteering their time, supported by law students. The University of Liverpool also runs a term time advice clinic for parents or carers of a child with disabilities or long-term illness in relation to access to services and education. Find out more by contacting them direct – see contact details in the resources box on the right.
If you are a grandparent or other family member raising a child who is not your own, you may wish to consider applying for a legal order to formalise the situation. A legal order will confirm that the child is to live with you and give you the right to be involved in making decisions about their care and upbringing. Kinship legal options are often complex. We advise you to take advice at the earliest possible stage about your options and the implications related to becoming a kinship carer.
Private arrangement – this is an informal arrangement where a child is looked after by close relatives and there is no legal order in place – the arrangement is made privately between the carer and parent(s).
Private fostering – this is when a child under the age of 16 or under 18 if they are disabled is looked after by someone who is not their parent or a ‘close relative’. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer for 28 days or more.
Kinship Fostering – this is an arrangement where the local authority have legal responsibility for a child and place them with a family member or friend who is a foster carer for that child.
Special Guardianship Order (SGO) – this is a formal court order that was introduced in 2005 which allows parental control over a child by individuals other than the parent. This could be a grandparent, close relative or family friend.
Family Rights Group is a national charity which provides free confidential advice to families who are involved with local authority children’s services or need help from those services. Its website provides very detailed information to help you navigate some of the complexities of kinship care. This includes a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section which you can access here: Thinking of Becoming A Kinship Carer – FAQs. A full list of very detailed Advice Sheets related to kinship care are also provided by the Family Rights Group: Advice Sheets Listing
Grandparents Plus is a national charity providing a wide range of advice, an online forum and support for kinship carers. Its website is a good starting point to start to get to grips with the different types of legal orders related to kinship care:
The website has detailed information and advice on family and children law matters in England. A very useful section on Kinship Care Legal Options explains the law surrounding an arrangement whereby a child goes to live with a relative, friend or other connected person. It explains the duties of the local authority to assess the suitability of a Family and Friends Carer and provide support where necessary. It also has a section on court processes in private family law cases, and practical advice on representing yourself in court. The helpline is for advice on more complex matters and clarifying questions.