Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or under 18 if disabled) goes to live with someone for 28 days or more by private arrangement (without the involvement of a local authority) with someone who is not a:
- Close relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or step parent)
- Guardian or a person with parental responsibility.
Private foster carers might be:
- Friends of the child’s family
- Someone willing to care for the child of a family they don’t know; or
- Relatives not mentioned in the list above, for example a cousin or great aunt.
If your child is being privately fostered, or you are a private foster carer the law says you must tell us about it. Please do not worry if you have been privately fostering for sometime, but were unaware of your duty to let the local authority know. We will not take legal action against those who have acted in good faith.
If you are in any doubt about whether or not what you are doing is private fostering ask us for advice.
Examples of private foster care arrangements:
- Children sent to this country for education or health care by parents or guardians living overseas
- Teenagers living with a friend’s family as a result of problems at home
- Children on holiday exchanges
- Children whose parents’ study or work involves unsociable hours, which make it difficult for them to use ordinary day care or after school care.
Why let us know:
- A child could be at risk
- It is an offence for the carer and parent not to notify the local authority
- If you are a private foster carer, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk and miss out on help and support.
When you contact us:
- We will ask for full details about your private fostering arrangement
- A social worker will visit the carer and talk to them about how well they will be able to look after the child. The social worker will ask the carer to fill out a consent form so we can make legal checks with other agencies such as the Disclosure and Barring Service
- The social worker will advise parents and carers how best to meet a child’s needs and what support is available
- The social worker will talk to the child about their wishes and feelings if they are old enough
- A social worker will visit regularly during the time of the arrangement to make sure everything is OK
- We have the right to stop a person from private fostering if they, or their home, are not suitable
- If we think something is not satisfactory we can insist that the carer sorts out the problem, for example by fitting fire guards or smoke alarms.
Who is responsible for what?
- Parents and carers are both responsible for informing us about their private foster care plans for a child
- Parents remain legally responsible for their children and must make adequate financial arrangements for them. They must be consulted about important things like school and health matters
- Carers must keep a child safe and well, make sure they go to school and carry out any duties agreed with the parents. They must allow a social worker to visit the child and their home
- Childrens Services are responsible for checking arrangements to make sure children are well looked after.
- Everyone who works with children and families, for example teachers and children’s health workers, has a duty to let us know about any private fostering arrangements they are aware of.