Ask the expert: Are you looking after someone else’s child?

Do you know a young person who is not living with their immediate family?

Oct 18 2017

Are you looking after someone else’s child?

Children sometimes need to live away from their parents when the family needs help, perhaps during a parent’s hospital stay, or if parents work abroad.  When this is the case, it’s important that the County Council is notified of the private fostering arrangements, as our Children’s Safeguarding expert explains.

What is ‘private fostering’?

If a young person is being cared for by someone who is not their parent or a close relative, for 28 days or more, by a private arrangement, this is called ‘private fostering’. The term applies to children under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled).

Why do families need to tell the County Council if they make a private fostering arrangement?

Private foster carers must inform the local authority, under Private Fostering Regulations, to comply with the law. In Hampshire, this means telling Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council. 

If a carer doesn’t realise they have entered into private fostering arrangements, and doesn’t tell us, it means the children do not have access to support from the Council, in what may be an unsettling situation for them.

If we know about the arrangement, we are able to check on the children, ensure they are safe and well, and confirm that their wellbeing is being put first in whatever arrangements have been made. Advice and information is also available to the carers, to help them ensure the arrangements meet the individual needs of the child. 

What kind of situation can lead to private fostering?

Private fostering often happens when families are trying to help each other. Common reasons for private fostering arrangements include parents being in hospital; being temporarily away with work, or on a long holiday lasting 28 days or more; or living abroad. Private fostering also sometimes occurs when there is a family conflict and a child is living elsewhere to be away from parents or relatives.

If you are looking after a close relative, do you need to tell the County Council?

The law only applies when a young person is cared for by someone outside their immediate family. Adults can care for an immediate relative, such as a brother, sister, grandchild, step-child, niece or nephew, without needing to notify anyone. If the child is your immediate relative, you can still contact Children’s Services if you want to, if you feel you need some advice.

I think a child I know is being privately fostered. I don’t know whether the County Council has been notified. What should I do?

If you think a child is being privately fostered, you must tell us. If we do not already know about the arrangement, we can contact the family to learn more about their situation. If we find a child is being privately fostered, we can make sure the child is safe and well, and keep in touch with their carers to provide advice and support.

Private fostering arrangements are usually found to be safe and appropriate for children, and can often be the best solution when a parent is unable to be there, particularly when the carer is someone the child knows well, who can provide stability and continuity.

We would only seek to make alternative arrangements for a child if we found that the child’s needs were not being met. By notifying us of a private fostering arrangement, you ensure that the child has access to support if it’s needed.

How do I notify, or seek advice from, the County Council about a private fostering arrangement?

Call children’s services on 0300 555 1384 or email childrens.services@hants.gov.uk to speak to us.