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​Private Fostering

Professionals working with children and young people have a shared responsibility to work together to ensure that all privately fostered children are well cared for and are safeguarded from harm.

Professionals can play an important role in helping to identify private fostering arrangements and providing information to carers and parents who may be unaware of their responsibility to notify the Local Authority.

What is private fostering?

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without being instigated by a local authority) for the care of a child under 16 years old (or 18 if he/she has a disability) by someone other than a parent or close relative with the intention that it should last more than 28 days. A private foster carer maybe a friend of the family or the child’s friend’s parents or someone unknown who is willing to privately foster a child. A private foster carer is not a parent, step parent, legal guardian, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle.

What is my responsibility?

Private foster carers are legally required to notify their council but many do not, often because they do not know that they have to. This means that Children’s Social Care is unable to check whether the child is being properly cared for.  It is vital that Children’s Social Care is aware of such arrangements so that they can safeguard and promote the welfare of potentially vulnerable children. Ideally, notification should come from the parent and carer but professionals can also play an important role, as they are often the people who have the first contact, in explaining to private foster carers and parents that they have a duty to notify the local authority.

I am looking after my cousin, so that’s not private fostering, is it?

Yes it is. The law only defines ‘close relatives’ as grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts or step-parents who are married or in a civil partnership. 

What do I have to do?

If you are involved, or likely to be involved, in a private fostering arrangement and have not already told us, you should get in touch with the Integrated Contact and Referral Team on 0151 907 8305. If you are in any doubt as to whether the regulations might apply to you, you should seek advice from the Integrated Contact and Referral Team.

As the parent retains responsibility for the child, it is very important that the parent and private foster parent agree on how the child will be cared for and how the placement will be financed. 

This is a private arrangement so why would the Council become involved?

One of the aims of the Children Act 1989 is to ensure the welfare of children, particularly when they are looked after by someone other than their own families. As a result, where a child is in a private foster home, parents and carers have to let their local authority know. You could be breaking the law if you fail to do so. 

What does the Contact and Referral Team do?

The Contact and Referral Team has a number of duties and responsibilities in connection with private fostering.  A social worker will want to help you to keep the child safe and well by:

  • Ensuring your home and household are suitable to care for the child. This will involve the Disclosure and Barring Service and National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) checks.  We also write to your GP as part of these checks.
  • Offering support and advice about looking after someone else’s child and how to meet the child’s physical, emotional, educational and cultural needs.
  • Assisting you in working together with the child’s parents for the benefit of the child.
  • Taking action if the care provided is unsatisfactory.

If you are involved, or likely to be involved, in a private fostering arrangement and have not already told us, you should get in touch with the Integrated Contact and Referral Team on 0151 907 8305. If you are in any doubt as to whether the regulations might apply to you, you should seek advice from the Integrated Contact and Referral Team.
 
We have produced a series of leaflets with more information about private fostering:

Annual Report

  • Private Fostering Annual Report

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