Private fostering occurs when a child or young person aged under 16 years, or 18 years if the child is disabled, is looked after for 28 days or more by someone who is not a parent, guardian or close relative. The term 'close relative' includes parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents.
It is a private arrangement made by a parent - or those with parental responsibility for a child - for someone to care for the child because they are unable to do so.
There are many reasons why a child may need to be in a private fostering arrangement for either a short period or longer term. These could include:
- A child living with a friend of their family because of separation, divorce or arguments at home.
- A teenager living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- A child living with a school friend's family because of family breakdown.
- A child needing to be cared for because his/her parent has a long-term illness and is unable to look after the child.
- A child being sent to this country by his/her parents who are living overseas, for education or healthcare reasons.
Why do social workers need to be involved?
Under current legislation local authorities have a duty to check that all children who are living in private foster care arrangements are safe and well cared for. In the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, the responsibility for children living in private foster care arrangements within the borough is shared between the Children's Services Teams in the Early Help and Safeguarding Service.
Our duties include:
- Checking the suitability of private foster carers and investigating the circumstances surrounding each private fostering arrangement.
- Making regular visits to each privately fostered child in his/her foster home, to check on his/her welfare and monitor the overall standard of care provided. This includes listening to the child's wishes and feelings.
- Ensuring that private foster carers get the advice and support that they need to keep the children who are placed with them safe and well.
- Providing preventative and support services where appropriate.
Any agency that becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement must immediately notify the local authority in writing of the arrangement and must inform the parent and private foster carer of their intention to do so. Therefore, if you believe that a child is possibly being privately fostered and you do not know if the local authority is aware, please contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 01628 683150 or email MASH@achievingforchildren.org.uk. You will not be breaching confidentiality as this duty to inform us of your knowledge of a private arrangement is covered by the Children in Need Information Sharing Protocol.