Caring for somebody else's child

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

Looking after someone else’s child can bring uncertainty along with the everyday challenges of parenting. You may be unsure where you stand legally, or how you should describe yourself. You may also feel that you could use some trusted advice.

Find support and guidance to help you care for someone else’s child on this page.

Family and friends carers

You are known as a family and friends carer if you are:

  • a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or family friend
  • looking after a child who can’t be cared for by their birth parents.

This is also known as kinship care.

If a social worker didn’t ask you to look after the child, you don’t have to tell Kent County Council the child has come to stay with you.

If you’re giving full-time care to a child, visit the Kinship website for detailed information and guidance. Or read advice and contact a professional for support on the Family Rights Group website.

Private foster carers

You are known as a private foster carer if you are:

  • looking after someone under the age of 16 (18 if disabled) for 28 days or more in a row
  • not a close relative.

Children and young people are privately fostered for lots of reasons, including:

  • they have parents living or working abroad
  • they are in the UK to study at state or language schools
  • they live with another family because they have relationship problems at home.

You must let Kent County Council know if you think you are privately fostering a child. Call us on 03000 41 11 11. For more information, see our page on private fostering.

Foster carers for the council

You are a foster carer if you have been certified by us to care for a child who otherwise does not have a permanent home.

Apply to be a foster carer for us if you:

  • are aged over 18
  • live in Kent or Medway
  • have a spare bedroom (or a cot or small bed in your room for children younger than two)
  • are willing to take a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

To learn more about fostering in Kent, speak to our team or apply to foster a child for us, visit our website.

Learn more or apply to foster on the Kent Fostering website

For a complete guide on how fostering works, visit the Kent Fostering Handbook website.

Child arrangements order

A child arrangements order (formerly known as a residence order) decides who a child should live with. It gives parental responsibility to that person.

Parental responsibility will then be shared with others who already have it, such as the birth mother and birth father. You will all have a say in making decisions about the child’s future.

If a social worker didn’t ask you to look after the child, you don’t have to tell Kent County Council that you have or are applying for the child arrangements order.

A child arrangements order usually ends when the child is 18 years old.

For more information, visit the GOV.UK website page about making child arrangements if you divorce or separate.

Special guardian

You are a special guardian if a formal court order has placed a child or young person with you permanently. This gives you parental responsibility for the child.

Special guardians can be grandparents, close relatives or family friends.

For advice and support, visit the PAC-UK Special Guardianship Support Service website.

Visit the GOV.UK website to learn how to become a special guardian.


You are an adopter if you have legally taken over the care of a child and have parental responsibility.

If you are the adopter of a child, or the parent of a child who has been adopted, visit the Adoption Partnership South East website for support. If you are the adopter of a child, or the parent of a child who has been adopted, visit the want to adopt?

Visit the GOV.UK website to find out how to apply to adopt a child through your council.