Have you agreed to have someone else's child stay with you? Are you a parent who has asked someone to take in your child? Do you think this arrangement may go on for 28 days or more, even with occasional breaks?
If the answer to these questions is 'yes' you may have made a private fostering arrangement.
This applies to all young people aged under 16 and all disabled young people aged under 18. It applies to all children living in the UK no matter which country they come from – even if they plan to return home one day.
It is not private fostering if a child goes to stay with a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a brother or sister or a stepparent. It is not private fostering if the child is just going to be away for a one-off period of a few days or even a week or two.
What you should do
If you have made a private fostering arrangement you must:
- if you are the parent or carer then you must tell children's services six weeks before the child moves in
- if the child is already living with the carer or about to arrive then let them know immediately
- if you are in any doubt about whether or not what you are doing is private fostering, call for advice
- if you have any concerns about the welfare of any child don't delay call now
- if you work with young people and families and become aware of a private fostering arrangement you should advise the parent or carer to inform children's services and you should pass on their details
Our legal obligation
The law (Children Act 1989) says that local authorities must make sure all children in their area are safe and well looked after.
The law also says that it's an offence for a parent or carer not to inform the local authority of private fostering arrangements.
Children could end up in situations where they are mistreated or abused so children's services run checks to help prevent this.
Your private fostering arrangement may be a good option for everyone concerned. Children's services will offer support and will not interfere unless they need to.
What happens if you don't tell anyone?
If you don't tell anyone about your private fostering arrangement you will be breaking the law and could be prosecuted.
Worse than this, you could be putting a child's safety and wellbeing at risk.
If you are a carer, you could be putting yourself at risk and missing out on a lot of help and support.
Parents and carers are both responsible for informing children's services about their plans for a child – firstly by phone and then in writing.
Parents remain legally responsible for their children and must make adequate financial arrangements for them. They must be consulted about important things like school and health matters.
Carers must keep a child safe and well and make sure they attend school.
Children's services are responsible for checking arrangements to make sure children are well looked after.
Everyone who works with children and families is responsible for reporting private fostering arrangements.
The need for private fostering
A private fostering agreement might be needed because:
- parents living in other countries may send their children to Britain so they can benefit from school and health facilities
- sometimes children choose to leave home – perhaps parents have split up and a new partner has moved in
- teenagers may move in with another family – at a friend's house or with a boyfriend or girlfriend's family
- sometimes parents can't cope for a time and decide that their children would be better off with someone else
What we will do
When you get in touch to tell us about your private fostering arrangement we'll ask you to give us all the details.
A social worker will then visit the carer and talk to them about how well they will be able to look after the child. The social worker will advise parents and carers how best to meet a child's needs and will visit regularly during the time of the arrangement to make sure everything is still okay.