Private fostering

Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or 18 if they have a disability) is looked after for 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility.

It is not private fostering if the arrangement was made by Children’s Services, or if the person looking after the child is an approved foster carer.

People become private foster carers for all sorts of reasons. Private foster carers can be a friend of the child’s family, or be someone who is willing to care for the child of a family they do not know.

Common situations may be:

  • children, adolescents and teenagers living apart from their families
  • minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK
  • children with parents overseas
  • children living with host families for a variety of reasons
  • children on holiday exchanges

Notifying children’s services - what the law says

Privately fostered children are not looked after by the local authority.

But by law, we must be informed about all private fostering situations. The child's parent(s), private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to tell us.

People involved in private fostering must inform social services within the following timescales:

​Situation​When you should inform us
​If the child is not yet living with private foster carers
​Six weeks beforehand
​If the child will move in with private foster carers in less than six weeks
​Immediately
​If the child is already living with private foster carers
​Immediately

 Please contact us to find out more or to tell us about a private fostering arrangement.

What will Children’s Services do?

Children’s Services will work in partnership with the child, parents and private foster carer to ensue that the best possible arrangements are in place for the child. This includes:

  • visiting the child and private foster carer
  • helping to make sure that the child’s racial, cultural, linguistic and religious needs are being met
  • offering advice and support to the child, their parents and private foster carer

What should professionals do?

Professionals should ensure that Children’s Services know about all private fostering arrangements.

Professionals should also encourage the child's parent or carer to notify social services.

Are you a child in private foster care?

For more information about what private foster caring is, who to talk to if you are not happy with your foster carer, and what foster carers help you with, please see the leaflet below.

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