If another person's child lives with you, then you could be a private foster carer – so find out more about the role and responsibilities.
What is private foster care?
If another person's child lives with you, then you could be a private foster carer. The Children Act 1989 requires you to inform your local council.
If you think you are already a private foster carer, you must
get in touch with your local children's services district office straight away - Call 01670 536400
You are making a private foster care arrangement if you are:
- a parent asking for someone else to look after your child full-time for more than 28 days
- thinking of looking after someone else's child full-time, or are presently doing so, for more than 28 days and you are not a close relative
This plea is part of the ongoing national campaign Somebody Else’s Child
, which is run by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF
). The campaign aims to raise awareness of private fostering. In particular, BAAF is targeting professionals working with children.
Children under 16 years old (18 years old if disabled)
Information for parents
If you’re a parent you must tell us if:
- they are going to stay with the carer for more than 28 days
- the carer is not a close relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling)
- if the carer does not have parental responsibility from the court
You don't need to tell us if:
- your child will be away from you for less than 28 days
- they are in a residential home, boarding school or hospital
- the local authority has placed them with approved foster carers or adopters
You must tell the council between six and 13 weeks before the child goes to live with the new carers, except in an emergency, when you should tell us within 48 hours. If the child is already with a private foster carer and the council does not know of this arrangement, then you should notify the council straight away.
Information for carers
tell us if you are not a close relative, e.g. a grandparent, aunt, uncle or a sibling. You must also tell us if you don’t have parental responsibility and the child has been, or will be, with you for more than 28 days. You do not have to tell us if the child is placed with you by a local authority.
Information for children and young people
Sometimes your mum, dad or other very close relative asks someone to look after you for a while. If you stay in this person’s home for more than 28 days, roughly one month, this is known as private fostering. If you think you are in a private fostering situation, then have a chat with your parent and carer and let them know that you should get in touch with the council.
Why is it necessary to inform the local council?
Privately fostered children need to be looked after to a high standard and protected from possible harm. The local authority has a duty to check private foster carers are suitable for the job. This means we must:
- carry out checks (with the carers' permission) with other professionals, or referees who know the carers, and with the Disclosure and Barring Service
- check accommodation is safe and suitable
- where appropriate, provide the parent and carer with necessary help and support
Private foster carer disqualification
Generally, there are a number of circumstances where people are not allowed to look after other people's children. Examples of the main reasons for being disqualified are:
- a child of the individual has been the subject of a care order, or there has been an order removing a child or preventing the individual looking after a child
- the person has been convicted of certain offences
- the person has been concerned with a voluntary or registered home, which has been removed from the register
- the person has been refused registration as a childminder
What will happen after you have notified the district office?
Step 1: A social worker will contact you to arrange a home visit. This normally occurs within seven working days of your notification being received. All family members need to be present during the visit. During the visit, the social worker will complete a form based on the information you provide to check all aspects of the child's welfare are being addressed. They will arrange for you to provide written consent for a variety of checks to be made with other agencies. You will also need to provide the names and addresses of two referees who can comment on your suitability to act as carers.
Step 2: After the visit, you will receive a letter from the children's services directorate advising you of whether or not the placement has been approved. If approval is refused, the letter will include details of the right to appeal to the courts against the decision.
Children's services can impose requirements on private fostering arrangements, such as the number, sex and age of children, standards of equipment or accommodation and any arrangement for the care of a child. Children's services can prohibit someone from privately fostering children when they are of the opinion the person, premises or both are unsuitable.
Step 3: If the placement is approved, the social worker will arrange for the child's parents to give you authorisation to seek general medical treatment for the child and ensure the child is registered with a doctor and dentist. The social worker will also ensure you are given a copy of a form detailing the child's medical history.
Step 4: The social worker will visit you and the child on a regular basis to check the arrangements. Visits will take place within the first few weeks of the placement, then every six weeks in the first year and then every three months thereafter. The social worker will also visit at other times if you ask them to. The social worker will, if possible, also visit the child and their parents to obtain their views about the placement.
You will be expected to tell the social worker if there are any changes in the fostering arrangements, including the ending of the placement.
Contact Children's Services
Northumberland information on private fostering: