Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability) is living with someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. This might be a friend, a great aunt, a cousin or someone else known to the child or young person. A close relative is defined as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or step-parent by marriage. This type of arrangement is completely different to fostering arrangements where children and young people are placed with local authority approved foster carers, or via friends and family (kinship care) foster carers. Private Fostering
Many private fostering arrangements remain unknown to the local authority and this is a cause for concern as privately fostered children and young people, without the safeguards provided by law, are a particularly vulnerable group.
There are many reasons why children and young people are privately fostered. Such examples include those listed below.
- Parental ill health
- Children or young people who visit this country from overseas for education or health care purposes.
- Children or young people who are living with a friend/boyfriend/girfriend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home.
- Children or young people whose parents work or study long or antisocial hours.
- Children or young people on school holiday exchanges that last more than 28 days.
- Children or young people who are on sports or music sponsorships living away from their families. A parent or an agency, such as a college or sports academy, would normally make such an arrangement.
What does it mean for you, if you are privately fostered?
Children or young people who are privately fostered have the same rights to protection and access to services as children living at home with their family. Notifying the local authority of a private fostering arrangement ensures that:
- An assessment and safeguarding checks can be made to ensure that the private foster carer is a suitably safe adult carer for the privately fostered child or young person.
- The private fostering arrangement is monitored to ensure that the privately fostered child or young person’s well-being and individual needs are appropriately met.
- Privately fostered children and young people’s wishes and feelings are listened to and promoted by the local authority.
- Regular support visits to the privately fostered child or young person take place to monitor and promote the progress of the private fostering arrangement and provide support services where appropriate.
What are the council’s responsibilities?
To keep children and young people safe and support families, Leeds City Council need to make regular checks of private fostering arrangements. This is because the local authority has a legal duty to safeguard the wellbeing of children and young people (The Children’s Act 1989, Private Arrangements for Fostering Regulations 2005). If the care of the child / young person or the accommodation is unsuitable, the local authority can prevent or stop a child or young person being privately fostered. The local authority can also make sure the carer rectifies a problem, for example, fitting smoke alarms or fire guards in the home. They can also give advice and support for private foster carers and to parents involved in the arrangement.
What are the responsibilities of parents and private foster carers?
- When a child or young person is privately fostered, the child or young person’s parents retain parental and financial responsibility.
- The law states that anyone directly involved in arranging the placement must notify the local authority about the arrangement six weeks before the start of the private fostering arrangement or in emergency situations within 48 hours of the placement beginning.
- Private foster carers are responsible for carrying out any duties agreed with the parents and must allow a representative of the local authority to visit the child or young person at the premises where the child or young person is being privately fostered, to make sure the child / young person is safe and well cared for. Children and young people must been seen and spoken to alone during these visits unless it is considered inappropriate to do so.
- Parents are expected to be fully involved in planning for the future of their child or young person and it is advisable that a written agreement is drawn up between the parent and the carer outlining the essential aspects of the arrangement.
If you are aware of, or involved in a private fostering arrangement you should notify Leeds City Council about the private fostering arrangement please call: 0113 222 4403 or you can email email@example.com
Further information is available on www.leeds.gov.uk