Children in care of others

Children may live in the care of others under a variety of arrangements without the formal badge of "being looked after". These children may face specific risks and it is important we can identify the different arrangements there may be.

Families are diverse and have many different forms in the UK. Sometimes they find a ‘fit’ that is best for them and children grow up in the care of grandparents, friends, ex-partners, the local authority, adopters or others. This can provide children with opportunities they otherwise would not have received but can also mean the child is vulnerable.  It is therefore important that we are all able to identify the living arrangements for children in school.

Where children are not with their parents we should try to understand how the child came to be living with a person other than their parents in the first place, and what it means for both the day to day experiences and longer-term outcomes for that child.

Different types of care

Schools have a responsibility to ensure they know the legal status of the child and anticipate challenges and difficulties that may exist.  Our resource pages take you through the different types of care and what this means for the child:

  • Private fostering – where it is planned for a child to live with someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more.
  • Children in the court system – the situations where a child may find themselves in the court system and the implications of this.
  • Children in care – where the local authority share parental responsibility with the parents.
  • Adopted children – where children are legally the children of the adoptive parents and the parental responsibility of birth parents is extinguished.
  • Children living with family or friends under no formal arrangement – these are children who are living elsewhere under ad hoc arrangements that may by new, but equally may have been established for some time and become accepted as the norm.

Schools should...

  • ensure applications and registration forms are written in an inclusive way;
  • ask who holds parental responsibility for a child;
  • ensure staff, especially DSLs, head teachers and administrative staff, understand the concept of parental responsibility;
  • ensure staff understand the range of potential legal arrangements they may come across;
  • ensure staff understand the law around private fostering and notify local authorities of such arrangements;
  • anticipate potential challenges, open conversations about these with carers, and plan to reduce their impact;
  • provide additional support to children living in these arrangements.
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Questions to ask

Do you know:

  • who the adults are that the child lives with?
  • if the child is not living with parents why this is?
  • who can give permission for day trips / residential trips?
  • who can give consent to medical treatment?
  • who should be receiving copies of school reports?
  • if there are any restrictions on people having contact with the child and what status these have (e.g. are they as a result of a court order)?

In some cases it may be useful for you talk to the child and their carers and construct a genogram to help identify who is related to a child and how.  Alternatively working with a child to create an ecomap may provide a useful insight into who they see as important in their lives.

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Join safeguarding network for more information raising the awareness of different family structures in schools.

  • Training resources for Safeguarding Leads to use in team meetings;
  • Reference documents for additional information;
  • Handouts for school staff summarising each topic;
  • Quizzes to test staff understanding.
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