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Private Fostering

What is Private Fostering?

A private fostering arrangement is essentially an arrangement between families/households, without the involvement of a local authority, for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if the child has a disability) by someone other than a parent or close relative (close relatives are parents, step-parents, siblings, siblings of a parent and grandparents) for 28 days or more. This could be an arrangement by mutual agreement between parents and the carers or a situation where a child has left home against their parent's wishes and is living with a friend and the friend's family.

The period for which the child is cared for and accommodated by the private foster carer should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break.

Privately fostered children are a diverse, and sometimes vulnerable, group. Groups of privately fostered children include:

  • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
  • Asylum seeking and refugee children;
  • Teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Children of prisoners placed with distant relatives;
  • Language students living with host families;
  • Trafficked children

Private foster carers and those with parental responsibility are required to notify the Local Authority (LA) children's social care of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered or where a child has been privately fostered in an emergency.

There will be circumstances in which a privately fostered child experiences physical, sexual or emotional abuse and/or neglect to such a degree that it constitutes significant harm.

Significant harm can be defined as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and/or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful that there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.

Teachers, health and other staff working with children should make a referral to LA children's social care and the police if:

  • They become aware of a private fostering arrangement which is not likely to be notified to the local authority; or
  • They have doubts about whether a child's carers are actually their parents, and there is any evidence to support these doubts (including concerns about the child/ren's welfare.

It is likely that LA children's social care will not have been notified of most private fostering arrangements.

When LA children's social care become aware of a privately fostered child, they must assess the suitability of the arrangement. They must make regular visits to the child and the private foster carer.

LA children's social care should visit and see the child alone unless this is inappropriate; they must visit the parent of the child when reasonably requested to do so. The child should be given contact details of the social worker who will be visiting him/her while s/he is being privately fostered.

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 and the amended s67 of the Children Act 1989 strengthens the duties upon local authorities in relation to private fostering by requiring them to:

  • Satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted;
  • Ensure that such advice as appears to be required is given to private foster carers;
  • Visit privately fostered children at regular six weekly intervals in the first year and 12 weekly in subsequent years;
  • Satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the private foster carer, and the private foster carer's household and accommodation. The local authority has the power to impose requirements on the foster carer or, if there are serious concerns about the arrangement, to prohibit it;
  • Promote awareness in the local authority area of the requirement to notify, advertise services to private foster carers and ensure that relevant advice is given to privately fostered children and their carers;
  • Monitor their own compliance with all the duties and functions in relation to private fostering, and to appoint an officer for this purpose.

Private fostering can place a child in a vulnerable position because checks as to the safety of the placement will not have been carried out if the local authority is not advised in advance of a proposed placement. The carer may not provide the child with the protection that an ordinary parent might provide. In many cases, the child is also looked after away from a familiar environment in terms of region or country.

Further information

Helpful websites: 

Somebody Else's Child: A National Private Fostering Campaign:

Please contact the Referral and Assessment Service (RAS) for advice and to make a referral.

Children's social care Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub


Tel: 024 7678 8555

Fax: 02033 648 443

Customer Service Centre
3 Upper Precinct

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