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Looking after someone else's child and step-parent adoption

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.

For every child growing up, their family and friends are important for the love, care and support they provide, not just to them, but to their parents in caring for them.

When parents are under pressure, for whatever reason, if they can draw upon support from their family and friends, most will get through and family life will continue. For some, however, their circumstances result in them being unable to care adequately for their children and arrangements may be made for them to be cared for by friends or family members.
Family and friends often start to care for other people’s children in a crisis or emergency situation. Sometimes the care will begin as a short term measure, but gradually or subsequently become open-ended or permanent. Family and friends carers may provide a series of planned short episodes of care for children, for instance whilst a parent is working away or undergoing medical treatment, or children may come and go at short notice in response to the chaotic lifestyle of their parents. Such circumstances can be very challenging for the carers and normal family relationships may be strained, not just between the carers and the child’s parents, but with other siblings, children of the carers and extended family members.

The arrangements will most often be a private matter (what the government describes as ‘informal arrangements’) but may sometimes involve Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children’s Services. Some arrangements will be temporary, others may be planned to be – or become – permanent, such that it is appropriate to consider formalising them through the courts.

For further information about different types of family and friends care arrangements, please read the Family & Friends Care Policy.

Private fostering is very different from other forms of fostering as it is private arrangement which is agreed informally between members of the public. Private fostering covers all children and young people under the age of 16 (18 if they have disabilities) who live with someone who is not a relative for longer than 28 days. It does not include children and young people who are Looked After by the local authority and cared for by approved foster carers.

There are a wide range of reasons why private fostering takes place. For example:

  • “My daughter’s friend is having some problems at home so she’s staying with us for a few months”
  • “Our son’s girlfriend has moved in with us”
  • “We rent our spare room out to language students”

Many people privately foster without being aware of their responsibilities.

  • You must notify the local authority at least six weeks in advance, or in the case of emergency placements, within 48 hours of the child or young person arriving.
  • You must also notify the local authority when a child or young person leaves your care, letting us know why they have left and the name and address of the person they are moving on to.

If you are the parent of someone who is privately fostered you must:

  • Continue to participate appropriately in key decisions about your child
  • Provide the person who is caring for your child with as much information about him/her as possible. For example, their health records, school records and dietary requirements
  • Ensure that the local authority has been informed of the arrangement

Our responsibilities

  • Check on the suitability of private foster carers and ensure a good standard of care
  • Make regular visits to offer support to both the child and the private foster carer
  • Ensure that advice it made available when needed
  • A specially trained social worker will undertake an assessment of the private foster care arrangements and offer any support available.
  • If we feel there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person is at risk of harm we will remove them from the private fostering placement.

In order to help us safeguard the welfare of potentially vulnerable children we ask all professionals working with children and young people to ensure they are aware of private fostering. We also ask professionals to help us by informing carers and parents involved in private fostering arrangements of their responsibilities. If you are aware of any private fostering arrangements please inform us, or encourage the carers or parents involved to do so, as soon as possible.

Support for private foster carers

  • There may be financial support available for Private Foster Carers through Section 17 of the Children Act which provides assistance to children in need.
  • Private foster carers can also access local support networks, including foster carer support groups run by the local authority
  • Private foster carers may be able to claim a range of benefits including child benefit and working tax credits. Your local Benefits Agency Office can provide more information.

For further detail you can download the booklets on this page. Contact us by calling 0800 052 0078 or by emailing [email protected]

Adoption as a step parent will result in the holder of the Adoption Order becoming the childs/ren legal parent forever and being granted parental responsibility. The Order will end the legal relationship between a child/ren and the other parent and their wider family, which includes the child losing out on maintenance and inheritance rights. The childs/ren surname will also be changed unless the court declines this.

This Order will remain in force even if you and your partner divorce or separate. An Adoption Order application is recognised in the courts as a very important decision for a child and as such the court will only make this Order if it is satisfied that it is in the child's best interests.

How do I apply to adopt my step child/ren?

If you are interested in adopting your step child then you have a duty to notify us (Local Authority) three months prior to submitting an application to court. We will then assess the perspective adopter and provide a copy of the assessment to the court. There is also a fee for this assessment. To declare your intention to adopt your step child/ren please write to: The manager of the Kinship Team, Cambridgeshire Professional Development Centre, Foster Road, Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, CB2 9NL.

What does the assessment involve?

In order to be approved as an adopter we (Local Authority) will complete an assessment about you and your family called an Annex A report. The assessment looks at the following:

  • Your step child's needs both now and in the future, their wishes and feelings and what is considered to be in their best interests.
  • The report also considers the views and roles of everybody with parental responsibility
  • The report considers the applicants suitability to adopt which includes their capacity to care for a child, their personal history and the relationship with the other parent and whether or not any other Order should be considered in line with what is in the best interests of the child/ren.

Who will undertake the step parent adoption assessment?

A step parent adoption assessment is undertaken by a Social Worker from the Kinship Assessment Team. The assessment process will normally take between 6-10 weeks and will then be either provided directly to the court if we are directed to do this or to the lead applicant.

How much does the assessment cost?

Applicants are required to pay £69 for their application which covers the cost of both DBS checks and seeking references. Payment of this sum does not guarantee a positive assessment, however is required in order to proceed with your application.

For further information, please contact the Kinship Assessment Team on 01223 699768 or email [email protected]

A key consideration in any arrangement is who has parental responsibility for the child and the extent to which those caring for him or her are able to make day to day and more long-term decisions about them.

Parental responsibility is described in law as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property’.

All mothers and most fathers have parental responsibility, though parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not. Fathers will usually have ‘PR’ if they are or were married to the mother or named on the child’s birth certificate. Otherwise, they might make a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or seek a Parental Responsibility Order (or another order that provides ‘PR’) through the court. If there is any uncertainty about who has parental responsibility for a particular child, or someone is wondering how to obtain it, independent legal advice should be sought.

Where arrangements involve young people over sixteen, they will have more say about what happens to them and will normally be able to consent to matters on their own behalf.

Family Friends Care Policy November 2018

This document outlines the different ‘family and friends care’ arrangements that can occur and explains the legal situation, the responsibilities of the carers and, where appropriate, the role of Children’s Services.

Size: 469.71 KB File format: pdf

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