Private fostering

Private fostering means looking after someone else’s child who is not related to you, for 28 days or more.

Other rules:

  • the child should be under 16 years of age or under 18 years if disabled
  • you may be helping a relative or friend by caring for a child for some time. Perhaps you are looking after a child who is studying in this country or who is a refugee

A private foster carer might be:

  • extended family e.g. cousin or great aunt
  • family friends of the privately fostered child
  • someone with no relation to the family – who is willing to privately foster a child
  • however, close relatives such as an aunt, grandparent, step-parent, brother or sister looking after a child would not be regarded as a private foster carer

Common examples of private fostering arrangements

  • children from overseas whose parents are working or studying in the UK
  • young people who have chosen to live away from their family
  • refugee children
  • children whose parents have made private arrangements for them to be looked after by someone else
  • children who attend boarding school and do not return to their parents during holidays
  • children coming from abroad to access education or health resources in this country

What to do if the private fostering arrangements apply to you

If you know or are unsure about whether you are privately fostering a child or whether your children are being privately fostered, please call 020 8583 3426 for further information and advice.

If you are a private foster carer

  • you must notify us 6 weeks before a child comes to live with you or
  • notify us within 48 hours of the child coming to live with you if arrangement have been made in an emergency
  • you must notify us if a child is already living with you and you haven’t advised us previously
  • you must notify us at least 48 hours before a child leaves your care
  • when the child moves on you must tell us where they are moving to

If your child is being privately fostered

  • notify us of the private fostering arrangement at least six weeks in advance, or within 48 hours of your child being privately fostered and at the end of the arrangement
  • exercise parental responsibility by participating in all decisions about your child
  • provide the prospective carers with as much information about your child as possible, including information about their health, dietary preferences, education, hobbies, religion and ethnicity
  • it is your responsibility to ensure that the proposed private fostering placement is suitable for your child

If you are privately fostering a child

  • the private foster carer must provide us with relevant information about their privately fostered child and also some information about themselves and other members of their household
  • a social worker will arrange a visit and speak to the carer and members of the household to ensure the arrangements are satisfactory for the privately fostered child
  • a social worker will also visit the parents, wherever possible
  • we will ensure that you are provided with all the information you need including details of advice and support available to you, the child and the child’s parents

What professionals should do if they become aware of a privately fostered child

  • professionals should ensure that children’s services know about all private fostering arrangements
  • this includes a wide range of people who come in contact with children including teachers, religious leaders, doctors and health visitors. Professionals should also encourage the child’s parent or carer to notify children’s services
  • you will not be breaching confidentiality by notifying children’s services, but you will be helping to safeguard a child

For further information or to discuss your situation with a social worker contact us.