Private Fostering – Keep Social Work Teams Informed

Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board has launched an information campaign to highlight the issue of ‘private fostering’ and identify where these arrangements are taking place. Anyone who is looking after a child when they are not a close relative or legal guardian is legally required to let their local Children and Families social work team know.

Private fostering is very different from the care of children provided by local councils through approved foster carers. It occurs when a child under 16 (or 18 if the child has a disability) is looked after for more than 28 days in a private care arrangement.

It happens for all sorts of reasons – a child may fall out with their parents and go to stay with a friend, a teenager might move in with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend, parents who live abroad might send their child here for education or health care.

Private fostering is not illegal, but by law, the local Children and Families social work team must be informed of any arrangements. They will then work in partnership with the child, parents and private foster carer to ensure that the best possible arrangements are in place for the child.

They should be informed six weeks before the arrangement begins or immediately if it already exists. Anybody else who becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement is also asked to let the teams know. This is not a breach of confidentiality; it is simply helping to safeguard a child.

It is estimated that more than 12,000 children in England and Wales are privately fostered. Kitty Ferris, Service Director for Targeted and Specialist Services in Knowsley Children’s Services said: “Privately fostered children are one of the largest groups of vulnerable children in Britain.

“As a local authority we have a legal duty to make sure they are safe and well looked after and that their needs are being met. We are also able to help and support the child’s parents and private foster carers. It’s so important that these children are not forgotten.”