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Private Fostering

Private fostering is an informal arrangement made between private individuals and is different from public fostering which is arranged by and paid for by the local authority.

By law, an arrangement to look after and give a home to someone else’s child is private fostering, if:

  • The child is under 16 years old (or under 18 years, if the child is disabled);
  • The person caring for the child is not a close relative of the child. The law defines a close relative as the child’s grandparent, step-parent, aunt, uncle, brother or sister; and
  • The arrangement is expected to last more than 28 days.

The person making the private fostering arrangement or the private foster carer is required by law to notify their local authority about the arrangement at least six weeks before it starts (or immediately, if it has already started).

Once the local authority has been notified, they have to:

  • Visit the home where the child lives and carry out some checks
  • Make regular visits to make sure the child continues to be safe and well cared for
  • Make sure that advice and support are available to the private foster carer, and
  • Say whether or not they find the arrangement acceptable.

What kinds of private fostering arrangements are there?

At the moment, not much is known about the extent of private fostering across the UK. It is generally agreed that only a small proportion of children in private fostering arrangements are notified to local authorities.

No Simple Answers: Report of the DCSF Advisory Group on Private Fostering 2008-2010 identified many different kinds of privately fostered children. Some of them are:

  • African and African Caribbean children with parents or families overseas
  • Black, white and minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK
  • Children attending language schools who are placed with host families
  • Children at independent boarding schools who do not return home for holidays and are placed with host families
  • Children of members of the Forces who are serving abroad
  • Children brought in from abroad with a view to adoption
  • A large variety of children living apart from their families, some of whom may be ‘on the edge of care’
  • Adolescents and teenagers temporarily estranged from their parents (‘sofa surfers’)
  • Asylum-seeking or refugee children, and
  • Trafficked children.

Your responsibilities

Private fostering is a key area of child protection and privately fostered children are particularly vulnerable if arrangements are not notified to local authorities. All professionals working with children have a responsibility to safeguard privately fostered children. If you become aware of a private fostering arrangement, and you are not confident that it has been notified to the local authority, you should contact the local authority yourself.

If you are aware that a child is being privately fostered, you should encourage the private foster carer to notify the Family Plus Team. Many people won’t be aware that their informal arrangement is even known as private fostering. If you are not satisfied that they have notified the Family Plus Team, you should contact the Team immediately.

Family Plus Team

Tel: 01323 463010

Email: familyplusteam@eastsussex.gov.uk

St Mark’s House, 14 Upperton Road,
Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 1EP