Welcome to the Family and Friends’ Carers’ discussion board and thank you for your post. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that you and your family are experiencing.
You have stepped in to care for your grandchildren and have been looking after them for several months. It sounds as if both parents have their difficulties including health problems and the children’s mother is also living with a person who poses a risk to children so cannot safely care for the children.
I don’t know if the children already had a social worker before you had to take on their care? Or if children’s services became involved when you began caring for your grandchildren? Either way, they certainly have a social worker now as there is a child protection plan
in place due to concerns about risk from their parents.
You are right to highlight the need for support for yourself and the children and as there is a child protection plan in place children’s services certainly should be considering how best to support you. You can also ask other members of the core group to emphasise your need for support too.
I think from what you said that the children’s father initially contacted you saying that he could no longer care for the children and that you collected them from school on that basis. If this is the case then the arrangement would have begun as a private arrangement
if it was made between a parent and a grandparent, with no social work involvement. If I have misunderstood though please do post back to clarify.
However, if children’s services played a major role in making the arrangements for you to care for the children, for example, asking you to care for them (either that day or at the conference which I think followed soon after), if they have put restrictions around contact with their parents and said they cannot go home, and if there was no discussion about finances/you did not agree that you did not need financial support – then it might be that it should be treated as a voluntary arrangement under Section 20
, where a parent is in agreement with this. In this case you would need to be assessed and temporarily (later fully) approved as a foster carer for the children.
You could ask children’s services (in writing) now to assess you as a kinship foster carer – if you are temporarily approved as a foster carer you would be paid and supported in the same way as an unrelated foster carer and if successful any fostering allowance should be backdated to the date the children were ‘placed’ with you by children’s services.
Children’s services can also support children and their carers, where they assess this to be necessary, through their child in need
This is a complex area though and it would be a good idea if you rang to discuss your situation more fully with an adviser on our Freephone advice helpline on 0808 801 0366 Mon-Fri 9.30 – 3.00.
Please see these advice sheets: relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency
which explains the different ways in which family and friends can care for children, family and friends care: being assessed as a foster carer
, support from children’s services for relatives and friends looking after someone else’s child
and social security support for relatives and friends looking after someone else’s child
It may be that children’s services offer a family group conference
to help make plans for the children. This can be a good way also to identify what support is needed and to push for this.
It is really important that you are not left unsupported or pushed into an arrangement including applying for a legal order such as a Child Arrangements Order(CAO)
or a Special Guardianship Order (SGO)
that you are not happy with or without a support package being put in place. You will usually have a stronger argument for support in the form of a CAO or a SGO allowance if you have been treated as a kinship foster carer first.
You should be able to find a copy of your local authority’s family and friends care policy here
I hope this is helpful. Please do post again or call to take this forward.