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Fostering Options

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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.

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.

However, if you don’t tell your local authority that you are a private foster carer, you can be fined or even go to prison.

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.

If you’re a private foster carer
You must inform your local authority. Ideally you would do this at least six weeks before your foster child comes to live with you. If you move home or a child leaves your home to live with someone else, you must also tell the local authority of these changes. If you don’t do these things, you might be fined and could even go to prison.

Remember it can be hard for a child or young person to live apart from their birth parents or family. You will need to give them extra support and understanding. It’s also important that you treat your foster child as a welcome addition to your family. If you have children of your own living with you, then they too may need support and assurance.

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.

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.

Private Fostering - Flyer for parents / carers (Click on the link)

Click on the related files below to view further information on:

  • A flyer for children and young people

Private Fostering Statement of Purpose (Procedure D11) - Click on the link

Adobe - To view these documents you will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download a free copy go to

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