A child is privately fostered if they are under 16 (18 if disabled) and looked after by someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more.
Whenever private arrangements like this are made for children, it is the duty of both the parent and the carer to notify the local authority where the child is living. Most private fostering arrangements continue to go un-notified.
The person looking after the child is called a private foster carer.
A child looked after by the local authority is not a privately fostered child.
Haringey's Private Fostering Team
If you have any questions about private fostering, don't hesitate to contact the private fostering team.
Private Fostering Team
River Park House
225 High Road
Tel: 020 8489 4470
Information for professionals
Private Fostering Checklist
Do you know what private fostering is?
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a ‘close relative’. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, for 28 days or more. 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 services, do you know who your nominated private fostering officer 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 officer 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:
- Do you suspect that a child may be 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 totalling 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’. Children’s services should be notified of concerns
Download the Private Fostering Checklist (PDF, 171KB).
Private Fostering Regulations
The government re-introduced private fostering regulations in July 2005, making it a legal duty for private foster carers and parents to notify the council if:
- They intend to privately foster
- They already privately foster
The council is the one in which the private foster carers live.
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.
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 about your tasks, please refer to the Private Fostering Information (PDF, 478KB).
Professionals and Private Fostering
Teachers, health and other staff working with children should make a referral to LA children’s social care and the police if:
- They become aware of a private fostering arrangement which is not likely to be notified to the local authority
- They have doubts about whether a child’s carers are actually their parents, and there is any evidence to support these doubts
It is likely that LA children’s social care will not have been notified of most private fostering arrangements.
When LA children’s social care become 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.
LA 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.
Information for residents
Are you a Private Foster Carer?
Checklist for private fostering arrangements:
- Have you been looking after a child who is not your own, for a total of 28 days or more?
- Are you about to look after a child who is not your own for a total of 28 days or more?
- Does someone else look after your child in this way or are they intending to do so?
- Is this child under 16 years old or is the child disabled and under 18 years?
- Is the person who looks after your child a friend, cousin, great aunt/uncle, neighbour, a parent of a child’s friend, a distant relative or someone else who is not related to the child?
If you answer yes to any of the questions above, you have a duty to notify the council in which you live.
Haringey residents can find more information on the Private Fostering page on the Haringey Council website.
Benefits of letting the council know
Private foster carers will receive support and advice and will have access to information which will help them understand their rights and tasks as private foster carers.
Children and young people will have access to support and information which will help them to understand what the private fostering arrangement means.
Parents will receive valuable advice and information about setting up and maintaining the private fostering arrangement.
Downloads and links