- Sometimes your parents may not be able to look after you for some reason
- They can make arrangements for someone else to look after you
- Your parents will still be responsible for you and may need to be involved in decisions about what happens to you
You have a right, as a child, to live with your parents and not to be separated from them, Sometimes, though, your parents may not be able to look after you properly. One of them may have to go into hospital, or they may have to go and live somewhere else, may be abroad, where it’s not possible or practical for you to go. Your parents can make arrangements for you to live with someone else for the times that they can’t look after you. If they can’t make that arrangement, the local authority may step in and help so that you are safe.
Your parents might ask someone who is a close relative or friend to look after you for longer than a few days. This is called ‘Kinship Care’ or ‘Family and Friends Care’.
If your parents ask someone who is not already closely connected to you to look after you, this will be called a ‘Private Fostering arrangement’. Even if this hasn’t been arranged by the local authority, the local authority should still know about what has happened so that it can make sure that you are safe.
If your parents can’t make these arrangements, they may ask the Local Authority (or the local authority may offer) to make arrangements. If you can’t live with someone you are related to, or already know, you may stay with a foster carer.
This is an important decision, even if the local authority is only going to look after you for a short time. You should be able to tell someone what you think and feel about this before the decision is made. When a local authority makes any decision about you, it should listen to your views and take them into account. It should make any decision in your best interests.
There should be a plan in place about what will happen to you, even if it is only for a few days and then you will go back home. The plan should be reviewed regularly and changed if necessary so you are being cared for properly. If it turns out that the local authority needs to look after you on a more permanent basis, they must take action to put that into place so that things are more settled for you.
If your parents don’t want the local authority to look after you, the local authority will have to consider whether to get the police and the courts involved to make sure you are safe. This might mean that you have to live somewhere else. This would only happen if you were being seriously neglected or if your parents were harming you. You can find out more about this in the section ‘My parents aren’t looking after me properly’.
Sometimes, relationships break down, although no one is ‘at fault’. As you get older your ideas may be different to your parents’ ideas and you may get to a point where you can’t live together. If you are 16 or older, you might leave, or your parents might ask you to leave. Your local authority can help make arrangements for you to live somewhere safe, and will help you and your parents to try and improve your relationship. Eventually you may feel able to move back home. Even if you don’t move back home, the steps you take to try and improve your relationship with your parents may help you get things back on track.
You still have the same rights not to be separated from your family, and all the decisions about your care and where you should live start from the basis that ‘your family’ is the best place for you to be cared for, unless there are reasons why this shouldn’t happen.
If you are 16 or 17 and being looked after by the local authority with your parents’ agreement, things change a little. The local authority can carry on providing you with accommodation even if your parents want you to go home. (If you are under 16 and the local authority is looking after you with your parent’s agreement, your parents can stop this arrangement at any time).
If you are 16 and do not want to continue being accommodated by the local authority, you can leave the accommodation and go and live somewhere else.
If you’re 16 or 17 and find yourself in a situation where you are ‘homeless’ – or at risk of homelessness – perhaps because your parents have asked you to leave home, the local authority should recognise your right to be cared for by your family and try and help resolve any problems you have with your parents or the people with parental responsibility for you. If your family is treating you badly, you should be helped to find somewhere else to live.
If you’re 16 or 17 and don’t want to live at home anymore, find out about alternatives here.