Private fostering is very different from the care of children provided by the Council through approved foster carers.
It happens when a child under 16 (under 18, if disabled) is cared for, for more than 28 days, by an adult who is not a relative, in a private arrangement between parent and carer. This doesn’t include a child who is looked after by the local Council.
Usually a birth parent chooses and arranges private foster placements, which can take many forms. These can include:
- children coming from abroad to access the education and health systems
- children living with a friend’s family after separation, divorce or arguments at home
- teenagers living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend
- people who come to this country to study or work, but antisocial hours make it difficult for them to care for their own children.
Privately fostered children are protected by the Children Act 1989 (Part IX) and associated regulations. The regulations are intended to help protect vulnerable children who are likely to be cared for long term in households other than their own.
The private foster carer must:
- tell their local council that they intend to foster a child at least six weeks in advance or, where an emergency placement is made, within 48 hours of the child’s arrival
- tell their local council when a child leaves their care, stating why and giving the name and address of the person into whose care the child has been moved.
The birth parents must:
- Keep parental responsibility for the child
- give the prospective carer as much information about the child as possible, for example health records, dietary preferences, religion, schooling, and ethnicity
- tell the local Council about the private fostering arrangement, if the prospective carer has not already done so.
The local Council must:
- check on the suitability of private foster carers
- make regular visits to the child to ensure the child is well cared for in a safe and suitable environment
- ensure that advice is made available when needed, to both the private foster carers and the birth parents
- observe the overall standard of care
A child can be removed from a private foster placement if there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.