When a child or a young person is temporarily looked after by someone other than their parent, in that person’s home as part of their family, this is called fostering. There are two different types of fostering – public fostering and private fostering.
Public fostering means that the local authority chooses an approved foster carer to look after a child or young person.
Private fostering is a private arrangement to look after a child or young person, made between family members or friends and family.
'Are you looking after someone else's child?' (resources no 13) A parent / carer leaflet is available on the SCB resource page
A private fostering arrangement is in place if:
- the child or young person is under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled);
- the child or young person is, or will be looked after, by an adult who isn’t a close relative - for example, someone who isn’t their parent, parent’s brother or sister, step-parent, grandparent, brother or sister;
- the arrangement has been made by the parent themselves and not the Local Authority; or
- the child or young person will be, or has already been, living with that person for more than 28 days.
It is estimated that over half of all private foster carers don’t know that they have to tell their local authority that they are a private foster carer. Parents might want their children to be privately fostered for lots of different reasons. For example:
- They work or study long hours.
- They live abroad and want their child to be educated or get medical treatment in Britain.
- They have fallen out with their child or teenager, and feel their relationship has broken down.
- A teenager has moved in with their boyfriend/ girlfriend's parents.
- The child or young person lives in an independent school, even during school holiday time.
- A parent’s home circumstance has changed and they need support for a short period of time – by asking someone else to take care of their child/children.
Why you need to inform the local authority.
The majority of private foster carers are excellent, and they provide their foster child with the care and support that they need. Unfortunately, in the past, there have been some cases of children and young people who have been treated badly. Because of this, the law says that the local authority must visit you as they have a duty to check that the child or young person living with you is safe and well. However, they can also provide you with valuable information, help and advice should you need it.
If you are privately fostering a child / young person you must must telephone 01782 235100 to tell them of this arrangement
What else should you remember?
Before a child/young person comes to live with you, find out about them from their birth parents - for example, whether they have any medical problems or whether they need a special diet. Remember to register the child with your own doctor when they come to live with you. Also, keep in contact with your foster child’s birth parents, so you know where they are living and they know that their child is being cared for. It’s not always easy being a private foster carer - even if you’re good friends with the birth parents, things can still go wrong. That’s why you all need to be clear about what you expect from each other.