4.24 Privately Fostered Children
In May 2014, this chapter was updated in relation to the Single Assessment Framework.
- Private Fostering - Specific Circumstances
- Notifications of Private Fostering Arrangements
- Children with Disabilities
- Orphaned Children
- Unaccompanied Children
- Assessment and Approval of Private Fostering Arrangements
- Supervision, Monitoring and Review of Private Fostering Arrangements
- Cross Boundary Issues
- Notification of Changes in Circumstances
- Ending Private Fostering Arrangements
- Death of a Privately Fostered Child
Appendix 1: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications
Appendix 2: Offences Associated with Private Fostering
|All agencies have a responsibility to identify private fostering arrangements and to notify the local authority at the earliest opportunity.|
The Children Act 1989 Section 66 defines a 'privately fostered child' as:
A child who is under 16 years, or 18 if disabled, who is cared for and provided with accommodation in their own home by someone other than:
- His or her parent;
- Another person who is not his or her parent but who has Parental Responsibility for him or her;
- A child's relative - defined by the Children Act 1989 Section 105(1) as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full or half blood or by affinity (marriage) or civil partnership), or step parent.
And the child has been or is intended to be cared for and accommodated by that person for 28 days or more.
A child is not privately fostered if they are cared for in any of the following:
- Children's residential home/unit;
- School in which the child is receiving full-time education - residential or boarding school (but see 2.1 below in relation to school holidays);
- NHS hospital where the child is a patient for 28 days or more;
- Residential care home, nursing home or psychiatric nursing home or in a home/institution provided, equipped or maintained by the secretary of state.
Nor is a child privately fostered if:
- The child is looked after by the local authority;
- Placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt the child under arrangements made by an adoption agency in line with adoption legislation.
If a period of care lasts for 27 days or less but if it is intended that further periods are planned which total 28 days or more then private fostering procedures apply.
A break for a short period e.g. a weekend would not affect the total calculation of the number of days of placement. Such a break does not constitute the end of a private fostering arrangement.
Children under the age of 8 years cared for continuously for a period up to 27 days, which includes overnight stays, are subject of child minding regulations. If this timescale is exceeded then this becomes a private fostering arrangement. The calculation of whether this period exceeds 27 days includes weekend and short stays that together total 28 days or more over a 12 month period.
A person who from the outset intends to foster a child for 28 days or more becomes a private foster carer on the day on which the child is first cared for.
A private foster carer becomes responsible for day to day care which promotes the safety and welfare of the fostered child. Overarching responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of a privately fostered child remains with the parent or person with parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is not transferable.Children's Services are required to satisfy themselves that where private foster care arrangements are made, they are safe and satisfactory in every respect, and meet the needs of the child. The child does not become a 'Looked After' Child.
2.1 Schools/Sports Academies
Where a child under 16 years is a pupil at a school or sports academy and lives at the school during school holidays for a period of more than 2 weeks, (s)he should be regarded as a privately fostered child.
The person who proposes to care for one or more children at the school will be treated as a private foster carer. They must give written notice to Children's Social Care for the relevant area giving the estimated number of children concerned and not less than 2 weeks before the arrangement commences.
Children's Social Care for the relevant area may exempt any person from giving notice - for a specific period or indefinitely. Exemption may be revoked at any time by notice in writing.
Where a child ceases to be privately fostered the school shall give written notice to Children's Social Care for the relevant area.
Where a privately fostered child dies the school must notify the parent, person with Parental Responsibility and Children's Social Care for the relevant area immediately.
On other occasions a parent may make arrangements for children from abroad who are being educated in this country, to be cared for by friends or family or 'host' families during weekends and school holidays. These arrangements may constitute private fostering if they are to be for more than 27 days during a year and are not with relatives as defined by the Children Act 1989.Guardianship organisations who arrange placements with host families have a duty to notify Children's Social Care in the area in which the host family lives if the placement is intended to last for more than 28 days. Children's Social Care's key relationship is with the private foster carer in these circumstances and not the organisation.
2.2 Summer Schools
When an organisation arranges a summer school where children are to stay either at the school or with host families for 28 days or more this constitutes a private fostering arrangement and Children's Social Care for the relevant area should be notified.
2.3 Language Schools
Children attending language schools that are cared for by 'host families' for a period of 28 days or more, should be regarded as a privately fostered and Children's Social Care for the relevant area should be notified.
2.4 Cultural Exchange Visits
Children often come to this country on cultural exchanges arranged by their schools. In these circumstances children often stay with 'host' families and these arrangements may come under the remit of private fostering.The schools arranging these visits should formally notify Children's Social Care in whose area the host family resides prior to the arrangement starting.
2.5 Children Accessing Medical Treatment
Children sometimes come to this country to access medical treatment and are sometimes unaccompanied. Parents or other organisations may have made arrangements for the child's care which constitutes private fostering. The parent and organisation have a duty to inform Children's Social Care for the relevant area, but it is expected that health professionals will make the necessary notification in these circumstances.
3.1 Making a Notification
Private Arrangements for Fostering Regulations (2005) Regulation 3 require that:
- Any person who proposes to privately foster a child must notify Children's Social Care for the relevant area of the proposal at least 6 weeks before the date on which the private fostering arrangement is to begin or immediately if the arrangement is to start inside 6 weeks or has already started;
- Any person, parent or person with Parental Responsibility who is involved in arranging for a child to be Privately Fostered must notify Children's Social Care for the relevant area at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start or as soon as possible after the arrangement is made if this arrangement is to start within six weeks or has already started;
- A parent or person with Parental Responsibility for a child who is not involved in arranging for the child to be privately fostered but who knows that it is proposed must notify Children's Social Care for the relevant area as soon as possible after they become aware of the arrangement.
Notifications of proposed, perceived or existing private fostering arrangements may come from a parent, prospective or existing private foster or from a professional.
If made by a professional, the notification must include as much information as possible.The professional making the notification should inform the known parties that they have made the notification because they have a legal obligation to do so. Therefore, they do not need consent before making the notification.
3.2 Immediate Response to a Notification
On receipt of a notification that a child is to be or is being privately fostered Children's Social Care for the relevant area is responsible for ensuring that receipt is acknowledged and an assessment is conducted.
As part of this, as well as the usual checks, they will:
- Undertake an initial visit to the premises where it is intended the child will be privately fostered or where the child is already being fostered within 7 working days;
- Speak with the private foster carer and all members of the household making sure to confirm and record details of all members of the household, including children already living at the home;
- Speak with the child whom it is proposed will be privately fostered, alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate (an interpreter should always be used where the child's preferred language is not English);
- Speak to and, where possible and practical, visit the parents or person with parental responsibility for the child;
- Discuss the need to contact other practitioners or organisations for information to inform the assessment;
- Contact the local authority where the child lived previously (including where the child has moved from overseas) and seek historical information from services in that area.
Where private fostering arrangements have been made and are in place without the prior notification to Children's Social Care for the relevant area, consideration should be given to whether the parent or person with Parental Responsibility should resume care whilst further assessment is undertaken.
Clearly this decision will be influenced by a number of factors including how long the child has been living with the private foster carer, the relationship and attachment between the private foster carer and the child, and the child's wishes and feelings.
Whatever decision is taken it should be clearly recorded on the child and private foster carers records along with the reasons for reaching the decision. This decision should be endorsed by a senior manager in Children's Social Care. If a decision is made for a child to remain with private foster carers during the assessment process, the child's social worker must ensure the child is visited on a weekly basis pending the outcome of the assessment.
If the initial information indicates that the current private fostering arrangement is not safe or the child may be suffering, or at risk of suffering, Significant Harm then child protection processes should be initiated and the immediate safety of the child addressed.Where the initial information gathering and visits identify the proposed arrangement may be unsuitable, consideration should be given as to whether any requirements, prohibitions or disqualification should be urgently implemented without any further assessment being completed. For further information on using these processes refer to Appendix 1: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications.
Private fostering arrangements for children with a disability (up to the age of 18) should be assessed using the same processes as set out above.A disabled child who has been privately fostered after the age of 16 years qualifies (even if he is no longer privately fostered) for advice and guidance until the age of 21 years in the area in which he is resident. Children's Social Care may advise, assist and befriend the young person if they request such support. Assistance may be in kind or in exceptional circumstances include financial support. This support will be provided by the relevant Leaving Care Team.
There may be occasions when children become Privately Fostered because a parent has died and the other partner has no legal responsibility for the child or is not a relative as defined by Section 105 (1) Children Act 1989. In these circumstances if the intention of the surviving partner is to continue to provide care for the child, they should be advised to seek legal advice in relation to applying for either a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order.
Children's Social Care should make every effort to identify and contact a surviving parent, close relative or someone with Parental Responsibility and, if appropriate, assess this as a Private Fostering Arrangement until the conclusion of legal proceedings.If the surviving partner does not wish to provide care and there are no relatives who can assume the parenting role, then it is likely that Care Proceedings would need to be issued.
Where an unaccompanied child is identified as living in, or about to enter, a private fostering arrangement a notification should be made to Children's Social Care for the relevant area.Children's Social Care should make every effort to identify and contact the parent, close relative or someone with Parental Responsibility. Where a suitable person cannot be identified it is likely that Care Proceedings will need to be initiated.
Purpose and Outcome
It is important that the Children's Social Care assessment of a private fostering arrangement determines:
- The needs of the privately fostered child in order to determine whether they should remain with the private foster carers or should be returned to the care of their parent or person with Parental Responsibility or alternative arrangements made;
- Whether the child is normally resident within its area and where this is not the case establishes and makes contact with the home area;
- The potential for supporting or rehabilitating the child within their own family;
- A proposed plan to ensure the needs of the child are met - where the analysis indicates that the child is a Child in Need, the plan should clearly identify this and the steps to be taken to address the child's needs.
The assessment should ensure that formal police checks on all members of the household, 16 or over, are completed and two personal references sought and visited for the private foster carers.
The assessment of private fostering arrangements should recommend the suitability of the arrangement and clearly identify:
- The evidence for the recommendation;
- If there are any needs the arrangement cannot meet;
- Where an exemption to the fostering limit is required;
- The need for any requirements, prohibitions or disqualifications.
The completed assessment should be shared with all parties and a copy provided to the parent/person with Parental Responsibility, the private foster carer and where appropriate the child.
Where the private fostering arrangement continues, a written agreement should be drawn up between the private foster carers and the parent or person with Parental Responsibility regarding the day to day care of the child, financial maintenance, pattern of contact and expected duration of the placement.
Approving Private Fostering Arrangements
On completion of the assessment, it will be the responsibility of a senior manager within Children's Social Care for the relevant area to reach a decision about the suitability of the arrangement.
The frequency of social work visits to a privately fostered child should be determined by the circumstances of the case and should take place whenever reasonably requested by the child, private foster carer or parent/person with parental responsibility. However visits should be carried out as a minimum:
- Within one week of placement (or of notification of placement);
- Not less than every 6 weeks during the first year of placement;
- Not less than every 12 weeks after the first year of placement.
Every visit should be recorded. Visits should be a combination of announced and unannounced visits.It is an offence for a private foster carer to refuse to allow a child to be visited by a social worker.
Should the child normally be resident in another area, but the private fostering arrangement is made in a different area, it is the responsibility of Children's Social Care where the private foster carers reside to assess and approve the arrangement. However it will be important for the "home" Children's Social Care to be notified of the arrangement and their views sought as to the suitability. The relevant manager must discuss the case with the relevant manager in the home authority in order that clear roles and responsibilities can be defined.Where a child has ongoing social work involvement with the home authority, the Children's Social Care for the area where the private foster carers live should discuss this with their equivalent in the home area as to how best to proceed with the assessment.
Private foster carers must notify the local authority of certain changes of circumstance. Preferably this should be done in advance or within 2 working days of the change happening. These notifications should be made in writing and can either be via email or letter.
The following notifications are required:
- Any change of the private foster care address;
- Any person who begins or ceases being a member of the household;
- Any new conviction, disqualification or prohibition of any person living in the household or employed in the household;
- If the private fostering arrangement ends, stating the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved;
- Death of the privately fostered child. In this case the carer must also notify the parent or person with parental responsibility.
In the event that the private foster carer has moved with the privately fostered child to another area, or a Local Authority area in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the social worker must notify the receiving authority in writing and the following information provided:
- The name and new address of the private foster carer;
- The name of the child who is being privately fostered;
- The name and address of the child's parents or person with parental responsibility;
- Any particular health or education needs of the child; it may be relevant to share information in relation to the Assessment and any review.
The social worker should ensure that all relevant agencies, including the home authority (where relevant) and individuals are made aware of any changes in circumstances for the child.Where a privately fostered child is identified as being missing with their private foster carer the usual process for alerting agencies locally and nationally of a missing child should be initiated.
The parents or person with Parental Responsibility of privately fostered children are required to notify the Local Authority if they intend to end the private fostering arrangement. The notification to end the arrangement should include the name and address of the persons into whose care the child has moved and their relationship to the child. These notifications should be made in writing and can either be via email or letter.
If a child dies, the private foster carer must immediately notify the parent and Children's Social Care of the death. If this is a sudden death the police will be involved and Sudden Unexpected Death Of Child (SUDC) procedures will be initiated.
The social worker should inform their manager of the child's death. Contact should be made with the carer and parents to offer support and advice.
The Local Authority has the power to impose requirements on private foster carers as to the:
- Number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered. Part 6 of Schedule 8 Children Act 1989 prescribes the usual fostering limit to not more than three children. This applies to private fostering arrangements; this limit does not apply if all the children are siblings;
- Standard of accommodation and equipment to be provided for them;
- Arrangements to be made with respect to health and safety;
- Particular arrangements which must be made for a particular child.
The Local Authority must inform private foster carers of the imposition of a requirement in writing with reasons, informing them of their right to appeal and the time limit for doing so. It is advisable to inform the private foster carer of the intention to implement a requirement advance to allow time for informal negotiation and compromise. Legal advice should be sought when seeking to impose a requirement on a private foster carer.
Requirements do not have effect while an appeal is pending. If a private foster carer does not comply with a requirement the local authority should consider whether it is appropriate to impose a prohibition.
Examples of requirements:
- You must ensure opportunities for the child to have play and other experiences which reflect his/her own race and culture;
- A file should be maintained with all records pertaining to child/family;
- Additional safety requirements are.......
The local authority has the power to prohibit individuals from privately fostering children if they are of the opinion that:
- The person is not suitable to privately foster a child;
- Their premises are not suitable for private fostering;
- It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child for them to be accommodated by that person in those premises.
Local Authorities are encouraged to use the power of prohibition where it is necessary to enforce requirements. Legal advice should always be sought when considering imposing a prohibition.
A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specifying reasons and providing information about the right to appeal and the time limit for the appeal.
The child's parents should be fully informed and advised to remove the child from the private fostering arrangement. In some circumstances the authority may need to consider taking action to safeguard the child's welfare e.g. if the parents are not in the country or are in custody.
Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed are disqualified from private fostering, from carrying on or being employed in a childrens home, voluntary home, day care or child minding. Where it is known a prohibited person is working in one of these settings all reasonable steps should be taken to notify the setting. This may include seeking advice from the Local Authority Designated Officer.Local authorities may cancel a prohibition if they are satisfied that the prohibition is no longer justified.
A person is disqualified from private fostering under Section 68 of the Children Act 1989 if they have been:
- Convicted at any time of 'specified' offences which include; abduction of children, offences relating to child minding and day care, relating to previous private fostering, relating to voluntary homes and children's homes, offences relating to importing of indecent images of children and an offence by virtue of Sex Offenders Act 1997;
- Convicted of an offence against a child;
- Subject of an order with respect to a child so as to remove the child from his/her care or prevent the child from living with them i.e. Care Orders or equivalent, Supervision Order with a residence requirement etc;
- Refused registration in relation to a voluntary home or a children's home or was concerned with the management of or had a financial interest in a voluntary or children's home the registration of which was cancelled;
- Subject of a prohibition;
- Refused registration in respect of the provision of nurseries or day care or for child minding or had any such registration cancelled.
Offences and penalties in relation to private fostering are covered by S70 Children Act 1989. It is an offence to:
- Fail to give the notice required under the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 without reasonable excuse, within the time specified; or to provide any information required without reasonable excuse, within reasonable time;
- Make, or cause to be made any statement in the notification which is known to be false or misleading in a material particular;
- Fail without reasonable excuse to comply with any requirement imposed by the local authority;
- Care for a child whilst disqualified or prohibited from private fostering without the consent of the local authority, whilst living in the same household as someone who is disqualified or prohibited from private fostering or at which a person who is employed is disqualified or prohibited from private fostering;
- Refuse to allow a privately fostered child to be visited by an authorised officer of the local authority; or to obstruct such an officer in inspecting premises in which a child is privately fostered or in which it is proposed to privately foster a child and from seeing the child there;
- Publish as advertisement offering to undertake or arrange for a child to be privately fostered unless it states the person's name and address.