Private Fostering

What is private fostering?

Private fostering is very different from the care of children provided by local councils through approved foster carers. The child would not be one that is looked after by the local council under the Children Act 1989.

Children under 16 (or 18 if disabled) are classed as privately fostered when they are cared for on a full-time basis by adults, who are not their parents or a close relative, for a period of 28 days or more.

A close relative is defined as grandparent, brother, sister, step parent or uncle (brother of one's father or mother, an aunt's husband) or aunt (sister of one's father or mother, an uncle's wife).

Usually a birth parent chooses and arranges private foster placements, which could take many forms. These include children coming from abroad to access the education and health systems, children living with a friend's family after

separation, divorce or arguments at home, teenagers living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or people who come to this country to study or work, but antisocial hours make it difficult for them to care for their own children.

It is estimated that about 10,000 children in England are privately fostered.

What are the rules governing private fostering?

Privately fostered children are protected by the Children Act 1989 (Part IX) and associated regulations.

What are the responsibilities of local councils?

Local councils have clear responsibilities and accountabilities towards privately fostered children. Responsibilities are discharged through a series of home visits and a link worker may be appointed to oversee the arrangement.

The purpose of home visits is to ensure that the children are well cared for in a safe and suitable environment. There may also be help and support available, through the local council and other agencies, to assist the carer(s).

If, however, the local council thinks that a placement is unsuitable, and the child could not be returned to the parents, then the council would have to decide what action to take to safeguard the child's welfare. This may include providing support to the carer, but may also, in some circumstances, mean taking the child into care.

What are the responsibilities of professionals?

Studies show that local councils are often not notified when, by private arrangement, a child is being looked after by someone other than a relative. This means that social care departments may not be in a position to protect privately fostered children who are at risk of abuse or neglect. Professionals working with families have a responsibility to notify the Local Authority of any private fostering arrangements they become aware of.

Private foster carers are legally required to notify their council but many do not, or do not know that they have to. This means that social care departments are unable to check whether children are being properly cared for.

In Kirklees it is vital that that the Safeguarding & Specialist Provision Service is aware of such arrangements so that they can safeguard the welfare of potentially vulnerable children. Ideally, notification should come from the carer or parent, but professionals can also play an important role in identifying these arrangements and in getting key messages across to carers and parents who may be unaware of their responsibilities.

If you know that a child is being privately fostered, and you think that the local council is unaware, please notify the Local Authority or encourage the carer or parent of the child to do so. You will not be breaching confidentiality, and may help to secure the welfare of the child(ren) concerned. It is good practice to inform the carer and/or parent that you are making a referral, but not doing so should not delay your referral.

Any professional who becomes aware that a child is being privately fostered should call Duty and Advice on 01484 414 960.

A Single Assessment is not required.

What will Kirklees Local Authority do once they have been notified of a private fostering arrangement?

Upon notification, it is up to the Safeguarding & Specialist Provision Service, in conjunction with other agencies, to satisfy themselves that the welfare of privately fostered children is promoted and that they are safe. The service also has to be satisfied that the private foster carers are suitable and ensure that the carers receive any support and guidance that they may need to help them care for the child.

The Safeguarding & Specialist Provision Service will conduct an initial and core assessment. Children, young people, parents and carers and professionals known to the child/young person will be involved in all aspects of the process.

Attention will be given to the suitability of the private foster carer and the assessment will also consider a range of other factors, such as:

Safeguarding is given priority. The assessment takes account of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and searches with other agencies about all adult members of the household.

A child or young person can be removed from a private foster placement if there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

Although the primary responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child rests with the parent, the regulations are intended to help protect vulnerable children who are likely to be cared for longer term in households other than their own.

What are the responsibilities of birth parents?

What are the responsibilities of a private foster carer?

How can private foster carers get support?

Private foster carers may approach their local council for help and support with looking after the child(ren) in their care.

Updated on: 24/01/2019

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