Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or 18 if they have a disability) is looked after for a period of 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility. Close relatives include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
People become private foster carers for all sorts of reasons. Private foster carers can be a friend of the child's family, or be someone who is willing to care for the child of a family they do not know.
There are a variety of reasons why a parent may be unable to care for their own child on a short or long term basis and a private fostering arrangement can be a positive response from friends and the local community to a family in need of support. However, any child separated from their parents is potentially vulnerable and therefore workers and volunteers all have responsibilities to ensure the alternative care they receive meets their welfare and safety needs.
By law, the local authority must be told about all private fostering situations. The child's parents, private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform the council as soon as they are made aware of it.
It is then the council’s legal duty to make sure all private fostering arrangements are safe for the child or young person. Once informed of the arrangement the council will check the suitability of private foster carers, to make regular visits to the child or young person and to ensure advice, help and support is available when needed.
Private foster carers are legally required to notify the local authority but many still don't know that they have to. This means the necessary arrangements to ensure the child or young person's welfare is safeguarded are not made. Workers from all agencies need to help by ensuring they are proactive in identifying and notifying the council of private fostering arrangements that they are aware of.
If you know a child or young person is being privately fostered and you think we are unaware please notify the relevant authority or support the parent/carer to do so.
The council has a duty to ensure that the arrangements are suitable for the child and that the child is safe. They will assess the private foster family including health checks and accommodation checks.
People involved in private fostering must make contact in the following timescales:
Torbay Council Opens in a new window must be told about all private fostering situations. The child’s parents, private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform the local council.
Any professionals who come across a private fostering arrangement also have a duty to notify Torbay Council Opens in a new window if they do not believe this has already been done.