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:
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:
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:
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.
Somebody Else's Child: A National Private Fostering Campaign:
Please contact the Referral and Assessment Service (RAS) for advice and to make a referral.