View Working Together View Working Together

2.3.7 Safeguarding Children Subject to Private Fostering Arrangements


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Duties of the Local Authority
  3. Signs that a Child is Privately Fostered
  4. Duties of Agency Partner Practitioners


1. Introduction

A private fostering arrangement is one that is made without the involvement of a Local Authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. A close relative is defined as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.

Children’s Social Care Service has a legal responsibility to ensure that the welfare of children who are, or are proposed to be privately fostered within the Borough is being, or will be satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, as detailed in the Children Act (1989), the Children Act (2004), and The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.

Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group which includes:

  • A child who is living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home;
  • Teenagers who are living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend;
  • A child whose parent’s study or work involves unsociable hours and they are unable to use ordinary day care;
  • A child who has been sent to this country for education or health care by birth parents living overseas;
  • Asylum-seeking and refugee children over the age of 16 years (N.B.: Asylum seeking and refugee children should not be privately fostered if they are under the age of 16);
  • Teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short–term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Language students living with host families.


2. Duties of the Local Authority

Under the Children Act 1989, carers who want to look after a child on a private fostering arrangement and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency.

It is the duty of every local authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of the children, who are privately fostered within their area, is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This includes an initial visit to the child and private foster carers within one week of receiving notification that the placement has started and subsequent assessment under the Assessment Framework. In Rotherham this visit is conducted by the Duty and Assessment Team in partnership with the Family Placement Team.

The local authority must also arrange to visit privately fostered children at regular intervals (minimum six weekly). For more information about the process see Flowchart of the Notification Process for a Privately Fostered Child.

Children who are privately fostered are entitled to the same safeguards as other children and young people, and in particular to the essential safeguards for children who are living away from home or in temporary accommodation – see Children Living Away from Home (including Children and Families Living in Temporary Accommodation), Essential Safeguards.

When there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child who is privately fostered the local authority and all the other agencies have the same duties to make enquiries as they do to any other child. The concerns must be reported to MASH where the private foster placement is located in accordance with the Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.


3. Signs that a Child is Privately Fostered

The local authority can only act when it becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement and it has become clear since the introduction of the Act that there are many such arrangements that do not come to its attention. Whilst the majority of private fostering arrangements will not place a child at risk, there will be some who are not properly safeguarded. Therefore it is essential that awareness is raised of the notification requirements, and the effectiveness of this is monitored to ensure that children are safeguarded when necessary.

Becoming aware that a child is being privately fostered requires vigilance by practitioners. Teachers, health (particularly GPs and Health Visitors) and other professionals should notify the MASH – see Referring Safeguarding Concerns About Children Procedure, Contact the MASH, of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been or will be notified.

For more information see Private Fostering Leaflets.

There are some signs that may indicate a child is being privately fostered.

In the neighbourhood:

  • A child not previously known suddenly starts living with a neighbour;
  • A child who lives in the neighbourhood suddenly disappears;
  • A neighbour has a number of different children staying with them.

At school, in an early years setting, or youth club:

  • A parent has a ‘niece’ or ‘nephew’ staying with them for a while;
  • A child suddenly disappears without warning;
  • A child says they are staying with a friend or relative, or even a stranger;
  • A child says that there is another child staying at home with them.

In the doctor's surgery or at a health clinic:

  • A patient attends with a child who has not been seen before;
  • A patient attends regularly with different children who they refer to as their ‘niece’ or ‘nephew’;
  • A child mentions that the person they are with is not their parent.


4. Duties of Agency Partner Practitioners

All practitioners involved with children and young people have an important role in relation to privately fostered children. This may include those working with adults, such as probation officers or substance misuse workers, where children may also be present in a household.

If you think that a child may be privately fostered, you can make a significant contribution to safeguard the child/ren by:

  • Talking to the adult(s) caring for the child. Check if they are aware of the legal obligation to notify the MASH that they are caring for a child. They may not know that what they are doing is private fostering;
  • Give them a leaflet about private fostering - see Private Fostering Leaflets;
  • Reassure the carer that if they have been caring for the child for a while, they will be approached sensitively. The local authority wants to support and help private fostering arrangements as well as fulfil its legal obligation in regard to safeguarding children;
  • If the adults are aware of the need to notify but refuse to comply, then you should say you have a duty to pass on this information. Consent is not required;
  • If in doubt you should ask to see birth certificates and / or asylum registration cards, or refer directly to the MASH for consultation.

You also have a duty in relation to:

  • Check with MASH to ensure that the arrangement has been notified, as failure to notify can place a child at risk;
  • Contribute to the assessment of the suitability of the arrangement by providing relevant information about the child or carer when this is requested by the Duty and Assessment Team or Family Placement Team;
  • Monitor the child’s welfare and progress, and provide support and guidance to the child’s carer in accordance with your agency’s or practitioner remit;
  • Be involved in ongoing liaison with the child’s social worker or the Family Placement Team to address any welfare concerns or unmet needs of the child.

End