What is Private Fostering?
Private Fostering is when a child is being cared for by someone who is not their parent or a close relative. It is a private arrangement made between the parent and carer and occurs when the child is under 16 (18 if disabled) and they have lived with the carer for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles. Private Foster Carers may be from the extended family such as a cousin, or great aunt, a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child or someone previously unknown to the childs family who is willing to take on their care.
Families find Private Foster Carers themselves and the responsibility remains with the parents to ensure that they find suitable carers. When a child is privately fostered, parents still have parental responsibility. This means they should make decisions about the child.
Someone could be looking after your child, or you could be looking after someone else's child because the child...
- is living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- is staying with another family because their parents have separated or divorced.
- has had an argument at home.
- is sent to this country, for education or healthcare by parents who live overseas.
- is living with a friends family because their parents study or work involves long or unsociable hours.
- is at boarding school and staying during the holidays.
- is on a language school or holiday exchange.
What do I need to do?
You must tell Childrens Services at least six weeks before a child comes to live with you. If the child comes to live with you in an emergency situation you must tell Childrens Services within 48 hours of this happening You can do this b calling the team on 01642 771500.
If a child is already living with you, and you have not told Childrens Services already, you must do so immediately.
What does it mean for the child?
Children in private foster placements have the same rights to protection and access to services as children living in their family home. The Local Authority being notified means that:
- They can carry out safeguard checks;
- They can investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrangement;
- They can listen to the child or young persons wishes and feelings;
- Where appropriate, they can provide preventative and support services; and
- Where appropriate, they can provide support services after the end of the private fostering arrangement.
What are the Local Authority's responsibilities?
Although it is a private arrangement, there are certain duties and responsibilities under the Children Act 1989, Children Act 2004 and the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 to ensure that children who are privately fostered are protected. It is the job of the Local Authority to check that these regulations are being observed.
By law the Local Authority must make regular visits to make sure that children are safe and well cared for. The Local Authority has to check various aspects of the private fostering arrangement, including carrying out checks on the private foster carers and their premises, to make sure that the arrangement is a suitable one. The Local Authority must also provide advice to private foster carers. The Local Authority do not approve private foster carers but they have the power to stop a person from privately fostering if the care is not suitable, or the accommodation is not suitable. On the other hand, if they consider something is not satisfactory, they can make the carer take action to sort out the problem, for example, by installing fire guards or smoke alarms.
What will Children's Services do?
They will visit the parent and the Private Foster Carer to discuss the arrangements being made for the child. They will visit the private foster home to check the situation is suitable and safe for the child. When the child is living with the Private Foster Carer, they will visit regularly to make sure that the child is safe and well looked after. They will be available to speak to parents, carers and the child if they need advice and/or support about the arrangement, for example with education and health care, any religious, cultural and language needs and to ensure that the child is able to keep in touch with their family. They will also make sure financial arrangements are in place to cover the cost of caring for the child and advise on benefits.
What you should do next
The Private Fostering Checklist
Do you think you are part of a Private Fostering arrangement? If you answer 'Yes' to any of the questions below, you may need to get in touch with us. You can do this by calling the team on 01642 771500.
Is the child being provided with accommodation by someone other than a parent, a person with parental responsibility or a close relative?
Do the parents agree with the arrangement?
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Are the child's parents or the person with parental responsibility living in separate accommodation from the young person?
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Has the young person been accommodated for a period of more than 28 days? If not, is the intent to accommodate the child for a period of 28 days or more?
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If the placement is less than 28 days, is it one in a series of placements that add up to more than 28 days?
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The child is not a 'looked after child' where the Local Authority has arranged and paid for the placement.
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Our Private Fostering information leaflets also contain further information. You can download them by using the link below: