Private fostering

Are you looking after someone else’s child? Find out what to do and the support available.

1 What is private fostering?

Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or 18 if they are registered disabled), is cared for by someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. 

Close relatives can include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Some examples of when this type of arrangement might occur include:

  • children living with friends of the family on a long-term basis following family breakdown or a parent’s ill health
  • children whose parents work unsociable hours making it difficult for them to use day care
  • overseas students who are living with a carer or ‘host family’ for 28 days or more
  • children attending boarding school who live with another family during school holidays
  • a teenager living with friends or in the home of a boyfriend or girlfriend.  

Private fostering is very different from the care of children provided by local councils through approved foster carers. Because these types of arrangements are made without the input of the local authority, we need to be made aware of them. That way we can ensure the child is living in a safe environment and that everyone involved – including the child - is happy with the private fostering arrangement.

It also gives us the opportunity to signpost the private foster carer to support and advice.

2 How to notify us about a private foster arrangement

All councils are legally required to ensure children who are privately fostered are being cared for by a suitable carer in an appropriate environment.

This is important as we want to make sure the child is safe and well-cared-for, and can thrive in their private fostering family.

Whether somebody else is looking after your child, or you are looking after someone else’s child, please get in touch.

3 What support we offer

Once we are aware of a private fostering arrangement, we will:

  • allocate someone to discuss the child's needs – this will include making a number of visits to the child and the private foster carer to assess the arrangement
  • offer support, including help when needed, to develop childcare techniques with carers
  • provide information on after-school, weekend and holiday activities
  • support befriending and mentoring activities 
  • direct you to legal advice, drug and alcohol services and a range of support services if required.

4 What birth parents must do

  • Notify the local authority of the arrangement in writing six weeks before the placement starts, or within 48 hours of the placement taking place. It is an offence not to do so.
  • Retain parental responsibility, initiating and participating in decision-making.
  • Complete a written agreement with the carer and local authority giving the private foster carer written permission to seek emergency medical treatment for your child.
  • Provide the carer with as much information as possible, such as health records, dietary preferences, school records, hobbies, religion and ethnicity.
  • Maintain appropriate financial arrangements with the carer so they can look after your child. 

In some cases it may not be possible for you to know how your child is being cared for. When you notify the County Council of the private fostering arrangement we will regularly visit the private foster carer and child and let you know how things are going.

5 What private foster carers must do

  • Notify the local authority of the arrangement in writing six weeks before the placement starts or within 48 hours of the placement taking place. It is an offence not to do so.
  • Work with the social worker to make sure the child is in a safe environment.
  • Comply with all checks, such as safety checks and those undertaken by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
  • Continue to work in partnership with the child’s birth parents and the local authority to ensure the child continues to thrive. This will include regular visits by a social worker.

6 Unauthorised private fostering

If you know a child is being privately fostered without us knowing, please don’t ignore it. It is likely that everything is fine but there is a legal duty to inform the County Council – please see our page on how to notify us.

Last updated:
5 December 2018

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