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Private Fostering

Private fostering is a safeguarding issue you must report

Private fostering is a private arrangement where a child, under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability), is looked after by a person who isn’t their parent nor a close relative, on a full-time basis for over 28 days. Private fostering does not necessarily involve any payment to the carers. It can happen for a range of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Parents are unable to care for the children (homelessness, imprisonment or in hospital)
  • Adolescents that have moved out of their family’s home (residing with friends or partners family)
  • Children that have family overseas and are placed in the UK for religious, economic or educational reasons.

Risks

Whilst private fostering can be a positive and supportive response by the community around a child, we know that privately fostered children are more likely to experience many forms of abuse and neglect.

You must notify the Stronger Families Hub 01895 556006 if you know of, or even suspect, a private fostering arrangement. Timely assessment and support for the child and the carers is a vital safeguarding intervention to prevent or manage risk. Sometimes private fostering arrangements are hidden from professionals, even with false documentation. Professional curiosity in discussions with the carers and children is important if you have any doubts about whether a child’s carers are their parents or close relatives.

Legal background

The Victoria Climbie Enquiry recommended that the Government take further steps to strengthen Private Fostering arrangements and it clearly made a case that private fostering is a safeguarding issue. The Government responded with several new policies and guidance to this effect, but most notably: The Children Act 2004 (s44), Children (Private arrangements for fostering) Regulations 2005, Every Child Matters as well as National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering.

Although Local Authorities are charged with several duties, all partner agencies, parents and private foster parents have duties to ensure that privately fostered children are protected and that they are compliant with legislation.

It is a legal requirement for people who make arrangements for a child to be privately fostered to notify the local authority of their intentions at least 6 weeks in advance, or in emergency cases, immediately after the child becomes Privately Fostered.

The Parents and the private foster carers must notify the local authority.

Private foster carers should also notify the local authority of any changes in their own circumstances whilst they are caring for the child or young person.

Private foster carers also need to let the local authority know when a child or young person leaves their care, giving the name and address of the person who will be providing for the care of the child going forward.

The national minimum standards for private fostering

The national minimum standards summarize the duties on Local Authorities, parents, carers of privately fostered children as well as other agencies or professionals. These minimum standards are set to ensure compliance with the Children Act 1989 and it is these standards on which the Local Authority shall be inspected as part of the announced inspections on vulnerable children which take place on a 3 yearly cycle.

The London Borough of Hillingdon must:

  • Ensure that a child is in a suitable, vetted and safe private fostering arrangement (standard 3).
  • Must put procedures in place to ascertain how well they are performing their duties under this legislation (standard 7).
  • Regularly visit a child, his/her private foster carer, and should provide help and advice where necessary (standards 4, 5 and 6).
  • Set out its private fostering duties in a statement (standard 1).
  • Inform all relevant persons (Standard 2) of their duties as specified in the Children Act 1989.

 

To report a private fostering arrangement please contact Stronger Families Hub 01895 556006 or refer online via this link.