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Private fostering

Private fostering is when a child's parent or guardian arranges for them to be cared for and live with someone else, who is not a close relative.

This applies where:

  • The child is under 16, or if disabled is under 18 
  • The arrangement will be for 28 days or more or 
  • The arrangement is for less than 28 days but is one of a series of days that all together add up to 28 days 
  • The person who will look after them is not a close relative of the child (for example is not a brother, aunt or grandparent)

You must tell children’s social care if your child is going to be cared for by a private foster carer or you are going to foster a child.

Why it is important to tell us
Who should tell us
How to inform children's social care
What happens after children's social care have been notified
Responsibilities of the parent
Responsibilities of the private foster carer

Why it is important to tell us

By notifying children’s social care you will help keep your child safe.  You may think you know the person well who you want to look after your child.  However, we can ask for information from other agencies which you as a parent would be unable to obtain.

Who should tell us

A parent, carer or anyone else who has been involved in making the arrangements should tell us if there are plans for a child to be privately fostered. In some circumstances, another adult with an interest in the child may tell us.

You must inform children’s social care no later than 6 weeks before a child is to go and live with a private foster carer. 

Where a child is placed in an emergency you should inform children's social care within 48 hours.

If your child is already being cared for by a private foster carer or you are already privately fostering a child then you must tell us as soon as possible.

It is an offence not to notify children's social care of a private fostering arrangement. 

How to inform children's social care

To speak to someone about private fostering or notify us of a private fostering arrangement, please contact us on: 

8.45am to 5pm Monday to Friday (except weekends and bank holidays).

For emergencies which cannot be safely left until the following working day, telephone the Emergency Duty Team on 0300 123 6722.

You need to give details of:

  • The child’s details: name, current address, sex, date and place of birth, religion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background
  • The name and address of the child’s parents, those with parental responsibility and anyone else who has been involved in making the private fostering arrangement
  • The name and address of the proposed foster carers and their addresses over the past 5 years
  • The reason for and proposed length of the proposed private fostering arrangement
  • The date the fostering arrangement is to begin or when it began

What happens after children's social care have been notified

A social worker will visit the child within 7 days of receiving notification of a private fostering arrangement. This is so that children’s social care can assess whether or not the arrangement is suitable. They will check that the property is suitable and safe and, with the carer’s permission, arrange for checks on the adults living within the home to be made (everyone aged over 16).

If children’s social care feel that a private fostering arrangement is unsuitable they can take action to stop it. They can also ask for certain requirements to be met before a placement goes ahead. Carers can appeal to a court if they are unhappy with such actions.

Support

A social worker will offer support and advice to the carer, parent and the child. They can help to advise on making the arrangement in the best interests of the child, including making sure that education and health needs are met and that there is ongoing frequent contact with family members. They can advise on making a written agreement.

There may be financial help available for the carer such as Child Benefit and the social worker will be able to provide details of the local benefits agency office and any training available.

A child who is privately fostered is entitled to the same level of protection as any other child who is living away from home with another family. They will receive help and advice and regular visits from a social worker to check on their well-being, education and health registration.

Responsibilities of the parent

You will keep responsibility for your child and it is your responsibility to make sure that the planned private fostering placement is suitable for your child. You should remain involved in making decisions relating to your child’s needs.

You will also need to:

  • Inform the carer of your child’s likes, dislikes, school, doctor, hobbies, religion, ethnicity, cultural background and any other needs
  • Make suitable financial provision for the care of your child
  • If possible, make a written agreement with the carer about the care of your child, including proposed length of time, financial arrangements, health and educational needs and what you would wish to be consulted on
  • Keep in frequent contact with your child
  • Check that your child is being well looked after
  • Inform children’s social care within 48 hours when your child leaves a private fostering carer, informing them of the name and address of the person who is now looking after the child

Responsibilities of the private foster carer

As a private foster carer you will be expected to:

  • Work with the parent to plan the child’s care, including any financial arrangements, health and education and what the parent does or does not wish to be consulted about on a day-to-day basis. A written agreement is best
  • Make sure the child is happy and healthy and that his or her needs are met
  • Work with children’s social care staff to discuss the child’s care, to allow regular visits to your home and for the child to be seen alone
  • Agree to police and other statutory checks being undertaken
  • Inform children’s social care within 48 hours if the situation in your home changes and/or if the child goes to live with someone else or returns to live with a parent. You must provide the name and address of the person who will be looking after the child

You will not have parental responsibility for the child as this will remain with the parent.