Last updated:
21 July 2016

Private fostering

Information about private fostering and who to inform about a private fostering arrangement.

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 and provided accommodation for 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative. Close relatives include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Private fostering is very different from the care of children provided by local councils through approved foster carers.

There are a number of situations where private fostering occurs, or is required. Reasons for private fostering include:

  • younger children placed with friends of the family on a long-term basis following family breakdown or 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 in boarding schools who live with another family during school holidays
  • a teenager living with friends or in the home of a boyfriend or girlfriend.  

2 How to notify us about a private foster arrangement

All councils are legally required to make sure 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.

Please let us know if somebody else is looking after your child, or you are looking after someone else’s child.

3 What support can we offer?

We can:

  • allocate someone to discuss the child's needs
  • 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.

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 those undertaken by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

6 Unauthorised private fostering

If you know a child who is being privately fostered without us knowing, please don’t ignore it. It is likely that everything is fine, but it is a legal requirement that the Council is informed.

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