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5.35 Private Fostering


Caption: contents table
  Legal Basis
  Actions for Safeguarding
  Raising Awareness


  1. A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of the local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than:
    • A parent of the child;
    • A person who has parental responsibility for the child;
    • A close relative to the child.

    with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more.

  2. Private foster carers may be from the extended family, such as cousin or great aunt. However, a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. Grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full or half blood or by marriage) or step-parent, will not be a private foster carer.
  3. A private foster carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child, or someone previously unknown to the child's family who is willing to privately foster a child.
  4. The period for which a child is cared for and accommodated by the foster carer is continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break. If a period of care lasts less than 27 days but further periods are planned which total 28 days or more, then the private fostering procedures apply. A break in the period for the child to visit his/her parents at home for a brief period, e.g. weekend, would not effect the total calculation of the number of days of the placement. Such a break does not therefore constitute the end of the private fostering arrangement.
  5. A child is not privately fostered while they are:
    • Being looked after by the local authority;
    • Placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt him/her under arrangements made by an adoption agency in line with Adoption legislation;
    • A protected child;
    • In the care of any person in compliance with a supervision order made in criminal proceedings under the CYPA1969 or a supervision requirement under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1995;
    • Liable to be detained, or subject to guardianship, under the Mental Health Act 1983(7).
  6. A child is deemed to be privately fostered where a person assumes care in a personal capacity and not as part of their duties in relation to any one of the following establishments:
    • Any children's home;
    • Accommodation provided by or on behalf of any voluntary organization;
    • Any school in which he/she is receiving full-time education;
    • Any health service hospital;
    • Any residential care home, nursing home or mental nursing home;
    • Any other home or institution provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State.
  7. A private fostering arrangement is made by parents or a person with parental responsibility, directly with the private carers not through a voluntary agency or social care department. The arrangement is not paid for nor arranged by the local authority. If the local authority is sufficiently involved in financing and planning such a placement then the arrangement falls within the responsibilities discharged to local authorities for "Looked After Children".
  8. Private fostering is the arrangement made by the parent and the private foster carer. Local authorities do not approve or register private foster carers. A proper balance needs to be maintained between the rights of parents to make private arrangements for the care of their children, and other statutory duties towards privately fostered children.
  9. Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group. They may include:
    • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
    • Children and young people who are staying with friends or other non-relatives;
    • Language students living with host families.

Legal Basis

  1. Privately fostered children are not Looked After Children, and local authorities are not involved in the making of such arrangements. A Privately Fostered Child is not necessarily a 'child in need'.
  2. Local authorities do not formally approve or register private foster carers. However, it is their duty to be satisfied that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.
  3. Under the Children Act 1989 private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency. Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the local authority has been or will be notified of the arrangement.
  4. It is the duty of every local authority to be satisfied that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, and to ensure that such advice as appears to be required is given to private foster carers. In order to do so, they must visit privately fostered children at regular intervals. The minimum visiting requirements are set out in the regulations. They have the power to impose requirements on the private foster carer or, if there are serious concerns about an arrangement, to prohibit it.
  5. The Children Act 1989 creates a number of offences in connection with private fostering, including for failure to notify an arrangement or to comply with any requirement or prohibition imposed by the authority. Certain people are disqualified from being private foster carers.
  6. Local authorities are required to promote awareness in their area of requirements as to notification and to ensure that such advice as appears to be required is given to those concerned with children who are, or are proposed to be, privately fostered. This will include private foster carers (proposed and actual) and parents.


  1. Privately fostered children will be protected from sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect and any concerns will be dealt with in line with procedures in this manual. Persons identified as unsuitable will be prevented from fostering a child privately.
  2. Children's views wishes and feelings will be considered at all times. All assessments of prospective carers will focus on the carers' ability to meet the needs of children. Children's Social Care will work in partnership with parents and children, carers and their families, and other professionals and agencies to ensure that services are provided to meet assessed needs.
  3. Private fostering service provision will be based on fair and equal access and anti-discriminatory practice. The arrangements for the care of privately fostered children will take a holistic and life long view of the child's needs to maximise their life chances. The child's parent and the private foster carers should work in partnership to promote the child's health and education.
  4. All agencies should encourage parents and carers to notify Children's Social Care of any private fostering arrangements and take steps to check that notification takes place. Assessment of Private Fostering Arrangements will be undertaken using the Single Assessment and will be subject to Children's Social Care case management and supervision arrangements.

Actions for Safeguarding

  1. All referrals to notify and request assessment for private fostering must be made through local Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) arrangements, including by social workers already working with a family. The MASH process will involve checks through Police and determine allocation for assessment.
  2. Children's Social Care will arrange for a social worker to visit the parents and talk about their child's needs and the proposed private fostering arrangements. The social worker will also visit the person who is fostering, or intends to foster the child within 7 days of receiving notification and will inspect the accommodation. Everyone over 16 years of age will be required to undergo checks including a Disclosure and Barring Service enhanced check.
  3. If the Single Assessment identifies that the proposed arrangements would not be appropriate for the child, the child's parents will be offered appropriate advice and support to enable them to make alternative arrangements for the care of their child. Parents would also be advised on attachment issues and the desirability of keeping siblings together wherever possible, unless a child had particular needs that needed to be met separately.
  4. The social worker will write a report about the arrangements, and a senior Children's Social Care manager will decide whether the placement should go ahead, and whether any restrictions should be made such as limiting the number of children that the carer can privately foster, or requiring that particular safety measures are taken in the home.

Raising Awareness

  1. Section (7A) of Schedule 8 to the Children Act 1989, inserted by section 44 of the Children Act 2004, places a duty on local authorities to promote public awareness, in their area, of the notification requirements. Local authorities need to develop a programme of communication activities, including local authority staff, and arrange and distribute up to date publicity materials. They also need to make available information on the notification requirements which reflect the requirements of Schedule 1 to the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
  2. Local Authorities, when undertaking awareness-raising activities, should involve other agencies, such as schools and GPs' surgeries, so as to enable professionals in turn to encourage private foster carers and parents to notify the local authority. Other agencies need also to be aware that failure by a private foster carer or parent to notify a local authority of a private fostering arrangement is an offence, and if local authorities are not aware of such arrangements they cannot carry out their duty to satisfy themselves that the welfare of the children concerned is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.
  3. Education, health and other professionals should notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the local authority have been, or will be, notified of the arrangement, so that the local authority can then discharge its duty to satisfy itself that the welfare of the privately fostered child concerned is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This is, of course, a matter of good practice.