Under the Children Act 1989, there is a legal requirement for local authorities to be notified of any private fostering arrangements. Children's Social Care, within the local authority, has a duty to undertake assessments and checks, and also provide support and advice to the child and to the private foster carer.
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if the child is disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, for 28 days or more. 'Close relatives' are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or by marriage).
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 a child of a family they do not know. It is not a private fostering arrangement if the placement was made by a social worker who has intervened on behalf of the local authority.
Private fostering legislation
The duties of local authorities in relation to privately fostered children are laid out in Part IX of the Children Act 1989. The Act places a duty on parents and private foster carers to notify the local authorities of a private fostering arrangement. It also states that the local authority has a responsibility to satisfy itself that the child is being safeguarded and their welfare promoted, and that their carers are given appropriate advice and support.
Examples of private fostering arrangements
- A child from overseas who is sent to live with a family in this country for health care or education.
- A teenager living with a friend's family because of a breakdown in relationship with their own family.
- Teenagers living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- A child staying with friends because their parent is in hospital and there is no one else to look after them.
- Children living with a family as a result of parental separation or divorce.
The majority of private fostering arrangements will not place a child at risk, some will not ensure that a child is properly safeguarded. Therefore the Children Act 2004 made amendments to the Children Act 1989 to tighten up notification requirements and the duties of local authorities. This now includes promoting awareness in their area of the notification requirements, and monitoring their effectiveness in responding to notifications.
There is a legal obligation to inform a local authority or a private fostering arrangement. If you want further advice or to tell us about your private fostering arrangement or know of anyone in a private fostering arrangement please contact: Children's Social Care MASH Team on 0161 253 5678.