Last updated: 02/12/2020
There is a legal requirement for local authorities to be notified of any private fostering arrangements. Children’s social care has a duty to undertake assessments and checks, and to provide support and advice to the child and to the private foster carer.
Under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 private foster carers and anyone with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or have a child privately fostered. A private fostering arrangement is one made without the involvement of the local authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if special needs have been identified) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts - whether of full blood, half blood or by marriage.
If you have been looking after someone else's child for 28 days or more, the law requires you to notify your local authority.
Examples of private fostering
Someone you know may have someone else’s child living with them. There are different reasons as to why they may have been asked to look after the child.
- Children sent to this country (e.g. for education or health care) by parents who live overseas
- A teenager living with a friend’s family because they don’t get on with their own family
- Children living with a friend’s family because their parents’ study or work involves unsociable hours or travel, making it difficult to use ordinary day care or after-school care
- Children staying with another family because their parents have separated or divorced
- A child from overseas staying with a host family while attending a language school, or overseas students at boarding school who stay with a host during the holidays
- Asylum seeking or refugee children
Signs of a potential private fostering arrangement
Do you think you know a child being privately fostered? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Whether you’re a neighbour, teacher, nurse or anyone else who has contact with children there are some signs to look out for:
- A child not previously known suddenly appears to live in a neighbourhood, attend a facility or join a community group without explanation
- A child suddenly disappears without warning or explanation
- A child says that they are staying with someone other than a parent
- A number of children are staying in a household seemingly not related
- Requests for services to different children referred to as ‘nieces’ or ‘nephews’.
What to do if you think a child is being privately fostered
When a practitioner becomes aware of the possibility of private fostering:
- If possible, talk to the adult(s) - unless you think it might expose the child to risk of harm
- If they are not willing to make the notification themselves, tell them that you have a duty to do so
- Teachers, health and other professionals must notify Children's Social Care of any private fostering arrangements that come to their attention.
- The practitioner has a duty to:
- Check with the local authority that a notification has been made
- Contribute to the assessment of the suitability of the arrangements
- Monitor the child’s welfare and progress and stay involved in the ongoing liaison with the local authority
- As professionals we have a duty to work together in sharing vital information, which could help to safeguard vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.
- Find out more about our local arrangements here: https://www.proceduresonline.com/achievingforchildren/p_private_fost.html
- Should you require further information please do not hesitate to call the Fostering Team on 01628 683201 and ask to speak to Angela Moore, Team Manager or Beccy Ede, Supervising social worker and private fostering lead.
If you know that a child is being privately fostered and you do not know if the council are aware, please notify the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 01628 683150 option 5 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org as well as encouraging the carer or parent of the child to do so. You will not be breaching confidentiality. This duty to inform us of your knowledge of a private arrangement is covered by the children in need information sharing protocol. Please do let the parents or carers know you are notifying SPA, but not if you think this will put a child at risk.