West Sussex County Council is raising awareness of private fostering – and is appealing for people with arrangements to come forward.
Private Fostering Week runs from Monday 6 July until Sunday 12 July and aims to raise awareness of the advice available to families who may be privately fostering.
Private fostering means looking after someone else’s child (aged up to 16, or 18 if they have a disability) – unless you are a close relative of that child - for 28 days or more. A close relative is classed as a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle.
This situation may arise for a variety for reasons – for example due to the parent’s ill health, an overseas student living with a ‘host’ family or a teenager living with a friend of the family.
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 is being properly looked after.
Anna and her husband look after a friend’s son.
Anna said: “When my friend had her baby she struggled to cope. We saw her regularly and offered her lots of support. She then got a job in London and started working long hours so I suggested her son stayed with us.
“When he started school we got a letter that had to be signed ‘parent’ or ‘guardian’ and I couldn’t put myself down as either. I was relieved to find out from the County Council that our arrangement was called private fostering and that there was support and advice available.
“He sees his parents regularly and they talk on the phone all the time but he has continuity with us. And knowing that the council is aware of this arrangement gives us peace of mind.”
Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life, added: “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 our children – whether you are a teacher, doctor, youth worker, family member or neighbour.
“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.”
Find out more about private fostering on the County Council’s website.