Private Fostering – advice for practitioners
A child or young person is privately fostered if they are under 16 (or 18 if disabled) and looked after by someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. The person looking after the child is called a private foster carer.
Whenever private arrangements like this are made, both the parent and the carer must notify the local authority of where the child is living; however, most private fostering arrangements go un-notified.
Parents and carers are required by law to inform the local authority if they have a private fostering arrangement in place; but many people do not know they are private foster carers because they have made what they consider to be ‘informal arrangements’.
Health Visitors and School admission staff are more likely to become aware that a child is not living with their immediate family. The MSB Private Fostering flowchart (Nov 2019) will support agencies to identify and take appropriate action; we also have a 7 minute briefing to raise awareness.
If you know anyone who is involved in, or are aware of, a privately arranged care situation for any child or young person living in Manchester, please encourage the carer and/or parent to contact Children’s Social Care.
To find out more visit the Manchester City Council Private Fostering page on their website at www.manchester.gov.uk – where you will also find their Private Fostering Statement (2014).
If you are a professional and you are aware of a private fostering arrangement you have special duties in relation to the private fostering arrangements – to find out more refer to the Privately Fostered Children section of the GM safeguarding procedures and the City Council’s website.
Practitioners and Private Fostering
- they become aware of a private fostering arrangement which is not likely to be notified to the local authority; or
- they have doubts about whether a child’s carers are actually their parents, and there is any evidence to support these doubts.
When children’s social care becomes aware of a privately fostered child, they must assess the suitability of the arrangement. They must make regular visits to the child and the private foster carer.
MCC children’s social care should visit and see the child alone unless this is inappropriate; they must visit the parent of the child when reasonably requested to do so. The child should be given contact details of the social worker who will be visiting him/her while s/he is being privately fostered.
Private Fostering checklist for practitioners
Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity).
Do you know about the duty to notify?
There is a duty on the part of parents and carers entering into private fostering arrangements to notify their local authority. This is in order to safeguard and protect the child’s welfare as well as ensuring that the child, carer and parent are receiving appropriate support and help.
There is no legal duty for others, including professionals who have contact with children, to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement. However, as a professional you have a responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. You should encourage the carer/parent to notify the local authority.
Should you suspect that this has not happened, you should discuss this with the carer/parent, ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child (depending on age and understanding), and request their permission to contact the local authority. If permission from the carer/parent is not given, you should still contact the local authority.
Are you worried about confidentiality?
If you are confident that the carer/parent has not informed the local authority of their private fostering arrangement, your actions should ensure that the child’s welfare and safety come first. A child in a private fostering arrangement who is not brought to the attention of the local authority may be a child potentially at risk. You will be acting appropriately by informing the local authority.
For children’s social care, do you know who your nominated private fostering lead is?
Each local authority must monitor its private fostering duties and must nominate a private fostering officer for that purpose. This person is likely to be at managerial level. Their responsibilities will include promoting awareness of private fostering; ensuring systems for assessment, decision-making and support; and reporting annually to the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board.
Do you know who can give you specialist advice about private fostering?
The local authority nominated private fostering lead is likely to be the person with specialist knowledge although, in some local authorities, there may be other private fostering social workers with knowledge and expertise.
Identifying when a child is privately fostered
- has the child mentioned that they are no longer living at home / living with someone else?
- is the child accompanied to school/nursery/clinic by someone other than a parent/recognised carer?
- is the carer vague about the child’s routines/needs?
- has a patient turned up at the GP surgery with a new child/ series of different children?
- has a child in class at school disappeared?
- is there anything unclear on files/records about the child’s living arrangements?
- is the child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled)?
- is the child living with someone other than a parent, someone with parental responsibility or a relative?
- do you know what the child’s living arrangements are (who with, for what purpose)?
- is it clear who the child is living with, and what relation the person is to the child?
- has the child been living, or is likely to live, away from home for more than 28 days, or a series of days totaling 28 days or more?
- has the child come from overseas? Do you know the reason for the child’s entrance to the UK?
- is the child in the UK for the purpose of education?
- is the child an unaccompanied asylum seeker?
- do you think that the child may have been trafficked?
- is the child healthy? Consider: physical and mental well-being and development
- is the child safe from harm? Consider whether the child’s basic needs are being met: care, safety, warmth, stability, guidance and boundaries
- is the child developing well? Consider: development, participation and progress at nursery/school
- does the child have a positive relationship with their carer? Consider: attachments, relationships with adults/peers
- is poverty impacting negatively on the child? Consider: housing and home conditions, income
- is the child a ‘child in need’? Any concerns relating to the above may indicate that the child is a ‘child in need’.
The MSB Private Fostering flowchart (Nov 2019) will support agencies to identify and take appropriate action.
Private Fostering Regulations
The regulations are intended to make sure that all children who do not live at home are safely cared for and their carers are supported and can be found on the gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-standards-for-private-fostering
Private Fostering policy, guidance & legislation
MSB partners should follow private fostering section of the GM safeguarding procedures at greatermanchesterscb.proceduresonline.com and refer to Manchester City Council’s Statement of Purpose on Private Fostering on its website at www.manchester.gov.uk/caring_for_someone_elses_child
The responsibilities of schools regarding private fostering are set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education available from the gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/keeping-children-safe-in-education
Private Fostering Legislation:
- Children Act 1989 – Private Fostering available at www.gov.uk/children-act-1989-private-fostering
- Children Act 1989 – Fostering Services available at www.gov.uk/children-act-1989-fostering-services
- The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 available at www.legislation.gov.uk/
More information and awareness raising
More information can be found on their website at corambaaf.org.uk/private-fostering.
The Child Law Advice Service provides legal advice to parents, carers and professionals. their website explains the law relating to situations where a child goes to live with a person who is not their parent or a ‘connected person’ and explains the duties of the local authority to assess the suitability of the prospective private foster carer and provide support where necessary.
Find out more on their website at childlawadvice.org.uk
The LawStuff website provides free legal information to children and young people. LawStuff is run by Coram Children’s Legal Centre who can provide more detailed information both over the phone and online.
For advice about private fostering in a format accessible to young people visit their website at lawstuff.org.uk
Downloads available on this page: