Release date: 4 July 2018
Private fostering means looking after someone else’s child who is under the age of 16, or 18 if they have a disability, for 28 days or more. This type of situation may arise for various reasons including a parent’s ill health, an overseas student living with a ‘host’ family or a teenager living with a friend of the family.
To ensure the child is safe and happy, the local authority should always be notified of this type of private arrangement – unless they are a close relative such as a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle.
West Sussex County Council is using Private Fostering Week (Monday 9 July to Sunday 15 July) to highlight the help available to any private fostering families.
Sue and her partner look after a friend’s teenage son. Sue said: “We realised a family we had known for some time were struggling to cope so we offered to privately foster their teenage son. He has been living with us for over a year now.
“From being a nervous, wary child, he is learning trust and developing into a vibrant, loving, happy teenager, full of opinions and ideas. There are challenges but also huge rewards.
“Right from the start we have received excellent support from West Sussex children’s services. We are assigned a social worker who specialises in private fostering and who regularly visits us all and is always contactable should any need arise.”
While this is a private arrangement, legally the parent and carer must notify their local authority – in this case West Sussex County Council - to ensure the child or young person and the family has the correct support.
Stephen Hillier, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “These children often go under the radar and we need to ensure they are thriving in their environments.
“It’s really important that people let us know if they have a private fostering arrangement - we aren’t looking to interfere but we do need to make sure the child is safe, well cared for and happy.
“Everyone has a role to play when it comes to looking after children so if you hear about a child who is being privately fostered, please let us know. We can then assess and provide support to the carers and children or young people, providing guidance or help as needed.”
To notify the county council of a private fostering arrangement call 01403 229900, email MASH@westsussex.gcsx.gov.uk or visit westsussex.gov.uk and search ‘private fostering’.