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Private fostering arrangements
Are you caring for someone else's child? Are you being cared for by someone other than a parent? If so, you could be in a private fostering arrangement.
If you are in a private fostering arrangement, or plan to enter such an arrangement, please read the guidance below and contact the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team. You can email the team or telephone: 020 7332 3621
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Private fostering is an arrangement made between a parent and a carer who is not a close relative to look after and provide accommodation on a full-time basis to a child or young person under the age of 16 (under 18 if they have a disability) for a period of more than 28 days.
Usually, a birth parent chooses and arranges a private fostering placement. Private foster carers do not hold parental responsibility.
If you are living with a private foster carer, your parents and the private foster carer must tell the City of London Corporation’s Children and Families Team that you are living with someone who is not your parent or close relative.
There are various reasons why a parent might arrange for a private foster carer to look after their child:
- a child needs to live away from their family as a result of separation, divorce or disputes at home
- the child has been sent to this country without a parent for education or health opportunities
- the child is a cultural exchange student
- the parents study or work during unsociable hours,which makes it difficult for them to use ordinary child care provisions
If you are unsure whether you or your child's carer counts as a close relative, or you have any other questions about private fostering, please contact the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team on 020 7323 3621, or email the team directly
What do parents need to do to arrange for a private fostering arrangement - key responsibilities?
Under the Children Act 1989, parents must:
- inform their local authority, in this case the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team, of the private fostering arrangement at least six weeks prior to when the fostering begins (in an emergency, within 48 hours of when fostering begins) and when the arrangement comes to an end
- provide the carer with as much information as possible about the child, such as health records, school records, religious and cultural requirements, eating preferences, hobbies, likes and dislikes
- ensure that the private fostering placement is suitable for their child.
Will you lose your parental rights?
- No, as your child is only being looked after temporarily.
- You retain parental responsibility for your child and should be involved in all decisions concerning their development and upbringing.
- Frequent contact with your child is important so you can help make these decisions.
What are foster carers' responsibilities?
People intending to be foster carers must:
- inform the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team of their intention to privately foster a child at least six weeks prior to the child's arrival (in an emergency, within 48 hours of the child's arrival)
- allow a social worker to visit their home and see the child
- provide information to the social worker as required
- allow the social worker to inspect their home and make reasonable recommendations
- report any changes in the household
- comply with any legal requirement
- make an agreement with parents about their expected level of involvement in the day-to-day care and decision-making about their child
- promote the child or young person's welfare in their home
- notify the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team within 48 hours of when a child or young person leaves their care, stating why and giving the name and address of the person into whose care they have been moved.
Will I be able to claim benefits?
Foster carers may be able to claim Universal Credits. To find out more, please email the City of London Corporation's Benefit Team or telephone: 020 7323 3621 / Out of Hours: 020 8356 2710.
Where do I go if I need help or advice?
Contact the City of London's Children and Families Team for advice and to arrange support services.
Email the Children and Families Team or phone 020 7323 3621.
All professionals who work with, or have contact with, children and young people have a shared responsibility to ensure that privately fostered children are well cared for and are safeguarded from harm.
Professionals play an important role by identifying and notifying the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team of private fostering arrangements and by ensuring that parents and carers are aware of their responsibilities.
The Children and Families Team should be notified of all private fostering arrangements based in the City. Please email the team or telephone 020 7323 3621
What is private fostering?
Private fostering is when you are under the age of 16 (or 18 if you have a disability) and you live with an adult (private foster carer) who is not your parent or a close relative such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. Your mum or dad will have agreed that this person can look after you if they are unable to take care of you themselves.
If you are living with a private foster carer, your parents and the private foster carer needs to tell the City of London Corporation's Children's Services that you are living with someone who is not your parent or close relative.
Email the team or telephone: 020 7323 3621
Why are children privately fostered?
There are lots of reasons why children or young people are privately fostered. This could be because:
- your mum and dad are ill or they have to go away for a long time and they cannot look after you. They may ask a neighbour/family friend/cousin/grand aunt or uncle to take care of you until they get better or return home
- your parents could have recently moved to this country to study or work and they might not be able to find somewhere for all the family to live, and they might ask somebody to look after you for a while
- you might have left your own country to go to school or for some medical care in this country. While you stay in this country, you may need to stay with people who are not your family
- your mum or dad may have a new partner you do not get on with, and you might stay with a neighbour or family friend who can look after you for a while until you can go and live back at home.
The local authority's responsibility to you
If you're privately fostered, the City of London Corporation needs to be made aware, as it has a legal duty to ensure that every child living in the City is well cared for and protected from harm. We need to know which children are being privately fostered so that we can check on their safety and wellbeing.
Once we know that you are privately fostered, we will send a social worker to see you in the private carer’s home to make sure that you are safe, well, and happy living with your foster carers.
The social worker will:
- talk to private foster carers and offer any help or support they may need
- get in touch with your parents to make sure they know you are being well looked after
- visit you at least every six weeks during your first year in private foster care.
Afterwards they will visit every three months but you can ask to see the social worker at any time if you have something you want to talk about.
If you or your social worker are not happy with the arrangement, and there are concerns that you are not safe or being properly looked after, we have the power to end the arrangement.
Remember: Your parents or close relatives are still legally responsible for you while you are living with private foster carers. This means that they should still be involved in all the important decisions about your life.
What will living with private foster carers be like?
Private foster carers should look after you as if you were their own child. They must do all the everyday things for you that parents do for their own children such as:
- making sure you are well cared for, including regular meals, warm clean clothes and your own bed
- making sure you go to school
- taking you to the doctor or the hospital if you are sick or injured
- taking you to the dentist so your teeth are looked after properly
- making sure you have the chance to make friends and to enjoy sports and hobbies that you like
- helping you follow your religion and the customs important to you and your family.
Your parents will be able to help your private foster carers understand the things that are important to you by talking with them.
Are there things private foster carers can't do?
Your private foster carer cannot:
- change your name
- change your school
- move you to another family
- take you to another part of this country
- take you overseas to another country.
If you need serious medical treatment, your own parents have to agree to this, unless it is an emergency and your parents cannot be contacted quickly enough.
What if I'm not happy or if I have a problem?
Sometimes you might feel sad or unhappy about being privately fostered.
Children and young people who live away from home often miss their parents and friends. However, if you have a problem, or are not happy where you are living, talk to your social worker about your concerns. They will be able to answer most of your questions straight away or can find out the answers for you.
Don't worry if you find it hard to talk to your social worker about the things that are worrying you. The most important thing is that you have someone you trust that you can talk to. You may find it easier to talk to someone you see every day, like a teacher.
There are also a number of national organisations that can give you support and advice. You can find these on the City of London Corporation's Family Information Service Directory.
The City of London Corporation has a legal duty to ensure that children and young people in private fostering are well cared for and safeguarded from harm. Our responsibilities include:
- checking that prospective carers are suitable to care for the child
- making regular visits to children at their foster home
- ensuring that parents and carers are aware of their responsibilities
- providing support and advice to parents and carers
- offering advice about private fostering arrangements.
By monitoring and supervising private fostering placements, we can help to safeguard children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect.
The City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team should be notified of all private fostering arrangements in the City by contacting 020 7332 3621 or email the team.
Privately fostered children are safeguarded by legislation set out in Part 9 of the Children Act 1989; the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005; and Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 effective 1 July 2005. Standards of care and management for private fostering arrangements are set out in the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering (2005).
It is essential that the City of London Corporation's Children and Families Team is aware of such arrangements so that they can safeguard and promote the welfare of potentially vulnerable children.
Ideally, notification of a private fostering agreement should come from the carer or parent, although professionals, such as teachers and GPs, can play an important role as they are often aware of the situation.
You can find out more about private fostering from the British Association of Adoption and Fostering.