Private fostering

Professionals working with children and young people have a shared responsibility to work together to ensure that all privately fostered children are well cared for and are safeguarded from harm.

Professionals can play an important role in helping to identify private fostering arrangements and providing information to carers and parents who may be unaware of their responsibility to notify the Local Authority.

What is private fostering?

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without being instigated by a local authority) for the care of a child under 16 years old (or 18 if he/she has a disability) by someone other than a parent or close relative with the intention that it should last more than 28 days. A private foster carer maybe a friend of the family or the child’s friend’s parents or someone unknown who is willing to privately foster a child. A private foster carer is not a parent, step parent, legal guardian, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle.

Examples

  • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family
  • Children on holiday exchange
  • Teenagers who have broken ties with their parents and are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives
  • Children living with host families whilst studying

Timescales

By law, Children’s Social Care must be informed about all private fostering arrangements, within the following timescales:

  • If the child is not yet living with private foster carers - Six weeks before the arrangement is due to start
  • If the child will move in with private foster carers in less than six weeks  - immediately
  • If the child is already living wit private foster carers - immediately

What is my responsibility?

Private foster carers are legally required to notify their council but many do not, often because they do not know that they have to. This means that Children’s Social Care is unable to check whether the child is being properly cared for.

It is vital that Children’s Social Care is aware of such arrangements so that they can safeguard and promote the welfare of potentially vulnerable children. Ideally, notification should come from the parent and carer but professionals can also play an important role, as they are often the people who have the first contact, in explaining to private foster carers and parents that they have a duty to notify the local authority.

If you know that a child is being privately fostered, encourage the carer or parent of the child to notify us. By doing so you may help to ensure that the welfare of the child(ren) concerned is safeguarded and promoted.

What the Local Authority will do

  • Visit the child and private foster carer
  • Advise and support private foster carers, parents of privately fostered children and privately fostered children
  • Determine if the private fostering arrangement promotes a child’s welfare and protects them from harm
  • Help make sure the child’s racial, cultural, linguistic and religious needs are being met.

Contact

Please contact the children's team.

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