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Private Fostering

Private fostering refers to an arrangement for caring for a child under the age of 16 that is made without the involvement of a local authority. Private fostering arrangements can also be made for the care of a child over 16, if that child is disabled. The arrangement is made between the child’s parent with the intention that the arrangement should last for 28 days or more and that it is considered to be a continuous arrangement.

Not everyone can be a private foster carer for a specific child. A parent or close relative cannot become a private foster parent. A close relative is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage) or step-parent. If a close relative becomes involved in caring for the child, it is considered kinship care. A member of the extended family such as a cousin or great aunt can be a foster carer.

Parental consent for private fostering is expected although there are certain circumstances such as an unaccompanied asylum seeker or a trafficked child where young people are able to make their own arrangements. One of the common situations involves young people choosing to drift from a friend’s place to another friend’s place, relying on those families for food and shelter. It may be that their home life is not working out well for them and they don’t know how to look for support from schools or relevant agencies. It helps to know how the law can help. If you are aware of a child in need of assistance, notify children’s social care.

A privately fostered child can be vulnerable which is why the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering 2005 were established to allow the local authority to assess private carers. Prior to this, there was no requirement for anyone to check up on the welfare of a child in such a situation. The National Minimum Standards guidelines set out the role of the local authority in private fostering which is to ensure that the arrangement safeguards the child.

Parents and carers should notify the local authority when a private fostering arrangement is made. Even though the local authority is not involved in the parent’s decision to place the child with a private carer, it is responsible to make sure that the new home meets the needs of the child.

In private fostering, the parent or the person with parental responsibility is the one who makes any decisions about the child even though the child is not living with them. The parent may delegate some decisions to the private foster carer. It makes daily life easier if the fostering parent can decide on immunisations, visits to the doctor or dentist, and school trips without consulting the parent. However, if the parent decides to override the decision that was made, he or she can do so.

When it comes to the question of who is responsible for the financial care of the child, that is the responsibility of the parent. The private foster carer can check into what, if any, welfare benefits to which they might be entitled because the child is living in their household such as a Child Tax Credit but the parent is the one who is responsible for the cost of maintaining the child.

If you would like more information or advice, contact Capstone Foster Care or your local authority. Privately fostering a child can be rewarding but it can also be challenging to work with a child, providing education and other services without having decision-making rights.

Capstone Foster Care can be contacted on 0800 012 4004 or simply click here.

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