Private Fostering Arrangements
What is Private Fostering?
Private fostering is when children and young people under the age of 16 years or under 18 if they are disabled, are cared for on a full time basis by a person who is not their parent, who does not have parental responsibility or who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. A relative is defined in the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, uncle or aunt (whether by full-blood, half-blood or by marriage or civil partnership), sibling or step-parent.
Who are not close relatives?
Family friends, cousins, great aunts and great uncles do not count as close relatives (As defined in the Children Act 1989). There are many circumstances in which an unmarried partner becomes the carer for a child. A parent’s unmarried partner is not a step-parent in this context. It is a common misunderstanding and parents/carers are often unaware of the legal requirements to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement.
Caring for someone else's child is not private fostering when the arrangement is made by the Local Authority, or when the person looking after a child is an approved foster carer.
What are examples of private fostering arrangements?
The fostering arrangement is made privately between the parent and the person looking after the child or young person.
Lots of different situations count as private fostering, including:
- A child or young person whose parent (s) cannot look after them because of illness, work or study long or antisocial hours;
- A child or young person are living with a friend’s family because of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
- A child or young person are living with their partner’s family;
- A child from abroad sent to stay with another family in the UK for education or heath care by their birth parents;
- An asylum seeking or refugee child;
- Children who may have been trafficked into the country
- A child or young person who, having broken ties with their family, is staying with friends or other non-relatives usually on a short term basis;
- A language student living with a host family; or
- A child or young person staying with a family while attending a school away from home.
Who needs to tell us about a private fostering arrangement?
You should encourage parents/carers to notify Lewisham Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Team. If you feel that we have not been made aware by parents/carers, then you should notify Lewisham MASH Team:
Phone: 020 8314 6660
What happens next?
- When the private fostering team have this information a social worker will contact the parents and carers to arrange a visit to explain the legal requirements and procedures for private fostering.
- The Private Fostering Social Worker must visit the child and private foster family within 7 days of being notified.
- The Private Fostering Social Worker will do safeguarding checks on the host family and complete a private fostering assessment in regards to the carers’ suitability to look after that child within 42 days, this is not a Single Assessment.
- If the private fostering assessment is suitable and proves to promote child’s welfare, subsequent visits must be carried out in the 1st year of the arrangement at intervals of 6 weeks, in the 2nd & subsequent years, visits must take place every 12 weeks and more often if required not necessarily with parental consent.
- Private fostering assessments and visit reports must be completed after every visit & authorised/signed off at a managerial level however this remains a private arrangement.
Important things to note
- Parents retain Parental Responsibility (PR) and their consent will be needed for everything done for that child including medical appointments, haircuts etc. If Early Help is deemed to be appropriate, parental consent will be needed for this. The Private Fostering Social Worker may liaise with parents in some circumstances in order to help facilitate this type of consent being given.
- If Social Care say that it is not suitable for that child to return to their family home at any stage, then this is not a Private Fostering case and Children’s Social Care involvement will be necessary.
- If a child already has a Social Worker and is open to Lewisham Children’s social care, you will need to inform their Social Worker of the child’s new living arrangements. The Social Worker will then notify the Private Fostering team so they can assess the private foster family, the child’s allocated Social Worker will retain full case responsibility.
- If the arrangements are unsuitable, it will be necessary to consult with the Service Manager who may seek legal advice, with a view to considering initiating prohibiting procedures. Parents will be advised to make alternative arrangements for their child and a further referral made to MASH if necessary.
Where can I find more information?
Private Fostering social worker: Angela Duah
Tel: 0208 314 6523
Lewisham council website: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/socialcare/children/fostering/private-fostering
Lewisham Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) Team
Telephone: 020 8314 6660
Coram baaf: https://corambaaf.org.uk/practice-areas/kinship-care/information-kinship-carers/what-private-fostering
Practitioners should, in particular, be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who are privately fostered – Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018, p13)
Questions to consider asking to help you identify a child who is Privately Fostered
- Do you suspect that a child may be privately fostered?
- Has the child mentioned that they are no longer living at home / living with someone else?
- Is the child accompanied to school/nursery/clinic by someone other than a parent/recognised carer?
- Is the carer vague about the child’s routines/needs?
- Has a patient turned up at the GP surgery with a new child/ series of different children?
- Has a child in class at school disappeared?
- Is there anything unclear on files/records about the child’s living arrangements?
- Is the child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled)?
- Is the child living with someone other than a parent, someone with parental responsibility or a close relative (A relative is defined in the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, uncle or aunt (whether by full-blood, half-blood or by marriage or civil partnership), sibling or step-parent.)
- Do you know what the child’s living arrangements are (who with, for what purpose)?
- Is it clear who the child is living with, and what relation the person is to the child?
- Has the child been living, or is likely to live, away from home for more than 28 days?
- Has the child come from overseas? Do you know the reason for the child’s entrance to the UK?
- Is the child in the UK for the purpose of education?
- Is the child an unaccompanied asylum seeker?
- Do you think that the child may have been trafficked?
Additional Information for Professionals:
How is private fostering different to foster care?
Foster care is when children are placed with foster carers through arrangements made by Local Authorities. All foster carers have been approved by a Local Authority or independent fostering service provider prior to caring for any children.
Private fostering arrangements are made without the involvement of the Local Authority – they are usually made by the parents of the child or another adult or on some occasions by young people themselves. Although the Local Authority is not involved in making these arrangements, it is important that they are notified about them.
Why should a Local Authority be made aware of private fostering arrangements?
Safeguarding the child
Privately fostering a child is always a big responsibility, and the Local Authority has a duty to oversee the arrangements to promote the welfare of the child and to ensure they are protected. It is important that the carer has a good understanding of the child's needs.
Taking on the care of someone else's child is not often straightforward. Misunderstandings and conflicts can easily arise, even between friends. Living away from their parents for any length of time can present challenges to children and their carers, and the Local Authority can support them both.
Further information can be found from the Lewisham council website: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/socialcare/children/fostering/private-fosteringwebsite.
Coram BAAF: https://corambaaf.org.uk/practice-areas/kinship-care/information-kinship-carers/what-private-fostering?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0MG26pmM-AIVgQsGAB2ZsATwEAAYAiAAEgJuJvD_BwE