Private Fostering is when a child up to 16, or 18 years if the child is disabled, is in the care of someone:
- who is not the parent
- who does not have parental responsibility
- who is not a relative of the child
The term 'private fostering' applies only if you look after someone else's child full time and for a period of more than 28 days.
Parents often pay the foster carer for looking after their child. However, even if there is no payment, it is still classed as a private fostering arrangement.
The law insists that you tell your local council if you care for a child under such a private arrangement or someone other than yourself is looking after your child.
Why are children privately fostered?
There are many situations where children are privately fostered. These could involve:
children sent to this country for education or health care by birth parents from overseas
children living with a friend's family as a result of a parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
a teenager living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend,
children living with host families for any number of reasons
people who come to this country to study or work, but antisocial hours make it difficult for them to use ordinary day care.
children and young people living apart from their families
minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK
children with parents overseas
How is private fostering different from other types of fostering?
When some children cannot live with their own family or if they have problems at home, the local authority will arrange for a foster carer to look after them. When children are privately fostered it is the parents or very close relatives rather than social workers, who choose the place where they live. Even when this happens, the private foster carers and parents still must follow rules and regulations to ensure the children in their care are safe and well cared for.
Local authority duties and responsibilities
Every social services directorate in the country has a legal duty under the 1989 Children's Act to safeguard the wellbeing of privately fostered children.
We must ensure that the child's needs are being met which means that they are:
• safe and well looked after
• receiving a proper education
• being encouraged to reach their full potential
• keeping in touch with the people who are important to them
• living with someone who helps them value their culture and sense of identity
• properly supported when they become independent.
Despite this, many private fostering arrangements remain hidden leaving children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. This was highlighted by the death of privately fostered schoolgirl Victoria Climbie.
Please remember that if you are involved in a private fostering arrangement, and you do not notify us, you are now committing an offence and could incur a fine.
In Newcastle all children who are privately fostered will have an allocated social worker who is responsible for ensuring their welfare is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. There is a statutory requirement for the social worker to visit and see the child at least every six weeks during the first year of the arrangement and at least every 12 weeks following that.
All private fostering arrangements in Newcastle are reviewed by the Independent Reviewing Officer (Private Fostering).
Letting us know
You must inform us if someone other than yourself is looking after your child. You should do this at least six weeks before your child goes to live with private foster parents. You should contact us with the details of each/any child who is coming to live with you at least six weeks before the move.
Or if you are currently privately fostering or know of somebody who is, please contact our initial response service
What if I already privately foster but did not know that I had to tell Children's Social Care?
You should contact us and let us know the situation. One of our social workers will assess the arrangements you already have in place and will explain anything else that needs to be done.
What must I do if I am planning to have my child privately fostered?
As a parent you must tell us of your plans. You should do this at least six weeks before your child goes to live with private foster parents. If your child goes to live with private foster parents because you have an emergency, you must tell us as soon as possible.
What should professionals do if they are aware of somebody being privately fostered?
Professionals such as teachers, doctors, health visitors and the Police who come into contact with children should make sure that we are aware of individual private fostering arrangement when they come to their attention.
Informing Social Services is not a breach of confidentiality. You may even be helping to safeguard the welfare of a child.
Where can I find further information about private fostering?
You can find out more information about private fostering using the links below.
• Do you live with somebody else? Information for children and young people (Pdf, 241kb)
• Is somebody else's child living with you? Information for private foster carers (Pdf, 227kb)
• Is your child living with somebody else? Information for parents (Pdf, 226.7kb)
What is private fostering? (Pdf, 259.6kb)