What is a private fostering arrangement?
A private foster child is a child who has been placed, through a private arrangement, with a family which is not related to the child, and the following conditions are met:
- the child is aged under 16 years, or in the case of a disabled child is under 18 years;
- the child is being cared for and accommodated by a person other than a parent, a person with parental responsibility, or a relative. A relative means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage) or step-parent;
- the child has been, or will be, cared for and accommodated by the person concerned for at least 28 days;
- the child is not looked after by a local authority or on behalf of a voluntary organisation;
- the child is not living in premises in which a parent, a person who has parental responsibility for the child, or a relative who has taken on the care of the child, is living.
Do you need to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement?
Yes. Many young people in a private fostering arrangement, parents or private foster carers are not aware that there is a legal requirement to notify the local authority of such an arrangement for their child.
If you know of a child living in a private fostering arrangement, please contact the customer service centre on 01482 395500 to make a referral.
A quick guide to private fostering is available to download:
What are the statutory requirements?
Local Safeguarding Children Partnership functions also include a specific remit to promote the safety and welfare of children who are privately fostered.
Part IX of the Children Act 1989 sets out the duties of the local authority in relation to privately fostered children. The Act places a duty on parents and private foster carers to notify the local authorities of a private fostering arrangement and on the local authority to respond by satisfying themselves that the welfare of the children is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, and that those caring for them are given appropriate advice.
National minimum standards on private fostering were introduced on 1st July 2005 which can be downloaded:
The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 can be downloaded:
What are the reporting requirements?
The following people all have a legal duty to notify the local authority of a proposed or actual private fostering arrangement:
The private foster carer must notify the local authority at least six weeks before the arrangement is to commence. If the arrangement is to commence within six weeks the notification must be given immediately.
The notice must also be given immediately if the child is being privately fostered but prior notice was not given, e.g. if the child was placed in an emergency, or if it was not anticipated that the arrangement would continue for 28 days or longer.
A parent, or any person who is involved in making the arrangement must notify the local authority as soon as possible after the arrangement has been made.
A parent, and any other person with parental responsibility for the child who has not been involved in making the arrangements, but is aware of the proposed arrangement must notify the local authority as soon as they become aware of the arrangement.
The notification is made to the local authority where the child will be fostered, and must include information about the child, the child’s parents and the carer as well as details of the expected length of, and reasons for the arrangement.
Can parents/carers be disqualified from a private fostering arrangement?
A local authority can prohibit certain individuals from privately fostering a child such as a parent who has had a child removed from his/her care, or has been prevented from having a child live with them by order of a court, such as a care order made under section 31(1)(a) of the Children Act. 1989.
Others include anyone who
- has been involved in managing, or had a financial interest in, a voluntary or private children’s home which was deregistered;
- has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, in respect of nursery, day care, or childminding;
- has had prohibitions imposed in relation to private fostering;
- holds a conviction for various offences against a child which are listed in regulations;
- lives in a household where any person who is disqualified in accordance with the above is also living or is employed.
- A person is not automatically banned from privately fostering. In very exceptional circumstances, the local authority can decide that the prohibition should not apply.
The local authority also has powers to prohibit a person from privately fostering when the premises where the child will live are not considered to be suitable.
Are there restrictions on private fostering arrangements?
There are legal restrictions on the number of children that a person may foster, usually a maximum of three unless the children are siblings or the local authority has granted an exemption from the usual fostering limit.
The local authority can also impose “requirements” on a private foster parent which must be adhered to.
A requirement could relate to:
- the number, age and sex of the children;
- the standard of accommodation and equipment which must be provided for the child;
- the care arrangements.
What’s the role of Children’s Social Care?
On being notified of an arrangement, the local authority must consider:
- the suitability of the foster carer to provide care;
- how the specific needs of the child will be met;
- how the parent or person with parental responsibility will exercise their parental responsibilities.
The task is to assess the suitability of the private fostering arrangement and not to approve or register the private foster carer. The assessment should be informed by consultation with all relevant agencies involved with the carer and their family
In cases where the local authority is not satisfied that the welfare of child is being safeguarded and promoted it must:
- take whatever reasonable action is necessary to enable the care of the child to be undertaken by the parent, a person with parental responsibility for the child, or a relative, unless they consider this would not be in the child’s best interests;
- consider whether they should take any action in respect of the child, in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act 1989. This could include providing services under section 17 of the Act or initiating action under section 47 to protect the child.
There is a duty to monitor the arrangement, and the child must be visited on a regular basis. The social worker must ensure that the child is registered with a GP, and appropriate arrangements for the child’s education are in place.
The social worker has a duty to provide the private foster carer with whatever advice and guidance is necessary to assist them in caring for the child. The social worker should liaise with relevant agencies such as health and education, who may need to provide the child and carer with extra support to meet any additional needs.
What is the role of other agencies?
All professionals involved with children and young people have an important role to play in relation to privately fostered children.
They can make a significant contribution in safeguarding these children by:
- identifying children who are being privately fostered. Professionals should become familiar with the definition of private fostering in order to be alert to this possibility when a child or young person appears to be living with someone who is not his/her parent. Clarification should be sought from the carer regarding their relationship or legal status to the child/ young person. The carer should be advised of their legal responsibility to notify the local authority of the arrangement. Failure to notify places the child at risk, and the professional should check with children’s social care that the arrangement has been notified;
- contributing to the assessment of the suitability of the arrangement by providing relevant information about the child or carer when this is requested by children’s social care;
- monitoring the child’s welfare and progress, and providing support and guidance to child’s carer in accordance with the agency/professional remit;
- ongoing liaison with children’s social care to address any welfare concerns or unmet needs the child may have.
Where can I find out more?
The Department for Education also has further information on private fostering arrangements: