What is Private Fostering?
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a close relative. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, expected to last 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity).
Why is it important?
The law requires parents, prospective private foster carers and anyone involved in arranging for a child to be privately fostered to notify Coventry City Council of the arrangement. However, many private foster carers (prospective and actual) parents and those working with children and families are not aware of the notification requirements. As a result, many private fostering arrangements remain hidden, leaving some children vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
Coventry City Council has produced a leaflet for the public and safeguarding professionals to raise awareness of the need to report private fostering arrangements.
What sort of children are privately fostered?
- Privately fostered children come from all walks of life they can include:
- Children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
- Children whose parents have gone away
- 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.
The parent’s responsibility
If your child is being looked after by someone who is not a close relative, and this is likely to continue for more than 28 days, the law requires you to notify your local council.
The carer’s responsibility
If you are likely to be looking after someone else’s child for 28 days or more, the law requires you to notify your local council.
Your responsibility if you are working with children and families
You have a responsibility to notify Children’s Services if you become aware of any private fostering arrangements. Private fostering arrangements can be hard to identify – don’t be afraid to be curious. For example:
- One of the parents at your school has turned up with a child referred to as a “niece” or “nephew” who is staying with them for a little while
- A child in your class mentions they are staying with a stranger or distant relative
In a healthcare setting
- A patient turns up with a child you have not seen before
- A patient turns up with many different children on a regular basis that they refer to as “nieces” or “nephews”
- A child mentions that the person they are with is not their parent
The Council’s Responsibility
All councils, including Coventry, are legally required to make sure that children being privately fostered are well cared for, safe and that their needs are being met. Coventry City Council will:
- Speak with Parents
- Speak with the child and the carers and assess their situation
- Provide advice and support and regular visits to the child and the carers
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.
To notify Coventry Children’s Services about a private fostering arrangement, or for any further advice, call 024 7678 8555.