If someone other than family are looking after your child or you are looking after someone else’s child you could be privately fostering and you must inform your Local Authority.
A private fostering arrangement is a private agreement where the intention is for it to last for 28 days or more, for a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) to be cared for by someone who is not a parent or close relative.
A close relative is a sibling, grandparent, aunt and uncle by blood or affinity (marriage or civil partnership). It is private fostering irrespective of whether any money is changing hands; the Local Authority has no financial responsibility.
In cases where close relatives are looking after a child and they request help for children's services. 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. The period for which the child is cared for should be continuous, except occasional short breaks of less than 27 days.
Local authorities do not formally approve or register private foster carers, but they have a duty to make sure that children who are, or will be, privately fostered are kept safe and well. Within each Local Authority there must be someone who has expertise in private fostering.
The Local Authority must promote public awareness of the requirement for the family or relatives of the child, the prospective private foster carer and any member of the public or professional to notify the Local Authority of these arrangements.
Although the day to day care of the child can be delegated to the private foster carer, parental responsibility remains with whoever had parental responsibility previously.
The practicalities of this must form part of the agreement with the private foster carer at the start of the arrangement.
Parents should be encouraged to remain as closely involved as possible in their child’s life and to keep the child up to date with what is happening in their family of origin.
Please note "the Southwark judgment" indicates that in certain circumstances it is possible for a private fostering arrangement to be established without the parents meeting the private foster carers.
Anyone who proposes to privately foster a child must notify the appropriate local authority at least 6 weeks before the date on which the private fostering arrangement is to begin. If it is to begin sooner than that, they must inform the local authority immediately. Failure by a private foster carer or parent to notify a local authority of a private fostering arrangement is an offence.
The parents or private foster carer must tell the Authority that the placement has started within 48 hours of the arrangements taking place. If you have not heard by the date the arrangement is due to start the Authority must check what is happening. Any notification required under the regulations must be given in writing and may be sent by post.
If you would like more information or if you would like a member of our Fostering Team to contact you to discuss matters, please complete our Foster Carers Application of interest form.