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What private fostering is, who is regarded as a private foster carer, how private fostering is different from other fostering arrangements, what to do if you think a child should be privately fostered and where you can get more information.
What is private fostering?
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if disabled) is being looked after for more than 28 consecutive days by someone who is not a parent, person with parental responsibility or a close relative. Private foster carers may be adults from the extended family such as a cousin or great aunt/uncle. They may also be a friend of the family or other connected person.
Since the Children Act 2004, it has been a legal responsibility for a local authority to know about children and young people who are privately fostered. Local authorities have a duty to assess and monitor private fostering arrangements to make sure the child or young person is safe and their needs are being met.
Whilst the parent retains parental responsibility for the child or young person, the private foster carer becomes responsible for the day-to-day care of the child in a way which promotes his or her welfare. It is important that the parent and private foster carer agree on how the child will be cared for.
Who is regarded as a close relative?
A close relative could be a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether directly related by blood or related through marriage).
When is the arrangement not regarded as private fostering?
A child is not privately fostered if the person caring for him or her has done so for fewer than 28 consecutive days and does not intend to continue looking after the child for longer than that. If the child visits their parent or has an occasional overnight stay, this will not break the period of the private fostering arrangement, as long as the intention is for the child to return to the same private foster carer.
How is this different from other fostering arrangements?
A private fostering arrangement is different from a local authority foster placement because the local authority is not involved in making the arrangement and is not paying for the child's care.
What are the common situations that result in a child being privately fostered?
Children are often cared for in a private fostering arrangement for a variety of reasons such as:
a child or young person living with a family friend as a result of their parents breaking up, family break down, a parent’s ill health or in situations where the parent is serving a custodial sentence
a child or young person living with their friend’s family
a young person living with their boyfriend or girlfriend
a teenager who is estranged from their parents due to difficulties in their relationship
children or young people from overseas may be staying with their extended family or may be living with a host family whilst attending language schools or undergoing medical treatment.
children or young people may also have parents who are working or studying in the UK and living away from their child or young person’s home area.
children and young people who are asylum seekers or refugees, or may have been brought into this country by child traffickers, may be living in a situation that would be regarded as private fostering.
What should I do?
Parents who arrange for children to be cared for by private foster carers, and the private foster carers who are offering to look after someone else's child, have a duty to inform the local authority in advance, or as soon as possible afterwards, about the arrangement.
If you become aware of a child who is being cared for in a situation that may meet the criteria for it being a private fostering arrangement, you should inform the local authority about the arrangement.
You should do this using the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Early Help and Safeguarding Hub.
What responsibility does East Riding of Yorkshire Council have?
East Riding of Yorkshire Council has a responsibility for assessing and monitoring private fostering arrangements. Responsibility for ensuring the welfare and safety of children who are being privately fostered rests with the council’s Children and Young People’s Safeguarding and Support Services and is undertaken by a private fostering social worker within the children’s safeguarding teams.
A social worker will visit the household where the privately fostered child is being cared for to ensure that the arrangement is suitable. Checks will also be made in respect of the private foster carers to ensure that they are suitable to look after the child. As part of the assessment, the social worker will speak with the child and his or her parents to get their views and wishes and to make sure the child’s racial, cultural, language and religious needs are met. At the end of the assessment, a senior manager in the council’s Children and Young People’s Safeguarding and Support Services will determine whether the arrangement is suitable and is able to meet the child's needs.
If the arrangement is suitable, a social worker from the children's safeguarding team will visit regularly to monitor the arrangement and provide advice.
If the private foster carer, or their household, is regarded as unsuitable, the local authority can take action to prohibit the private foster carer from caring for the child.
Where can I find out more information?
Further information about private fostering for parents, children, private foster carers and professionals can be found on the East Riding Safeguarding Children's Partnership (ERSCP) website.