What professionals need to know about 'Private Fostering' 4th - 10th July 2016
What is 'Private Fostering'?
If a child or young person under the age of 16 (or 18 if they have a disability) is being cared for by someone who is not their parent or close relative for 28 days or more, this is classified as a 'private fostering' arrangement. Close relatives include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and step-parents.
'Private fostering' should not be confused with official fostering placements provided by Independent Fostering Agencies run by private companies.
It is not private fostering if:
The carer is the child’s legal parent;
The carer has parental responsibility;
The carer is an approved foster carer and the arrangement was made by social workers;
The arrangement lasts for less than 28 days.
Some examples of Private Fostering situations include:
A teenager living with friends or in the home of a boyfriend or girlfriend;
Younger children placed with friends of the family on a long-term basis following family breakdown or parent’s ill health;
Overseas students who are living with a carer for over 28 days;
Children in boarding schools who live with another family during school holidays;
Children needing to be cared for because their parent(s) work away from home.
Your Role as a Professional
Understanding the law:
The law says that the Local Authority must be told about all private fostering situations.
The child’s parent(s), private foster carer(s) or anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform Northamptonshire Children’s Services. However, private foster carers are often unaware of the legal requirements which can leave potentially vulnerable children at risk.
Recognising a 'private fostering' arrangement:
Education and health professionals are often the first people to become aware of private fostering situations.
Use the checklist below (also available on the NSCB website) to help you identify a current or impending arrangement that comes under the private fostering regulations. If the answer to the questions below is ‘yes’, then it is likely that a private fostering arrangement is in place:
Is the child/young person under 16 years (or under 18 years if disabled)?
Are they being provided with accommodation by someone other than a parent, relative or a person with parental responsibility?
Are the parents in agreement with the arrangement?
Has the child/young person been accommodated for a period of 28 days? If not, is the intent to accommodate for a period of 28 days or more?
Are the child’s/young person’s parents/persons with parental responsibility living in separate accommodation from the child/young person?
Taking the correct action:
Professionals becoming aware of a private fostering arrangement have a duty to satisfy themselves that Northamptonshire County Council has been notified:
Professionals should encourage the child's parent or carer to notify the authority.
Professionals should also consider contacting Northamptonshire County Council to ensure that the notification has or will be made.
You will not be breaching confidentiality by notifying us, but you will be helping to safeguard a child.
If you think you know a child who is being privately fostered please contact the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to notify or seek further information about private fostering.