Identifying and notifying private fostering arrangements
Know the legal definition of private fostering
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity).There is a duty on the part of parents and prospective carers entering into private fostering arrangements to notify their local authority. This is in order to safeguard and protect the child’s welfare as well as ensuring that the child, carer and parent are receiving appropriate support and help.
Ensure that the agreements you have with local host families include consideration of private fosteringThe host family should be aware that if they accommodate a child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled) for a period of 28 days or more they are entering into a private fostering arrangement. Host families should understand that the local authority has a duty to ascertain whether the arrangement is suitable and to keep in touch with the child and themselves throughout the duration of the child’s stay. The host and any member of their household over the age of 16 will have to have enhanced CRB checks.
Be aware of timescales for notifying private fostering arrangementsYou have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the children who come under your protection whilst attending your language school. If a child staying with a host family will be in a private fostering arrangement, you should notify the local authority as soon as possible after the arrangement has been made. An officer from the local authority must then visit the host within seven working days of receiving the notification, see the premises and meet with the host and other members of their household. Within 42 working days the local authority must make a decision about the suitability of the arrangement. In the event of the arrangement being deemed unsuitable, you will need to make alternative living arrangements for the child in consultation with their parents. See FAQs
Understand the role of the local authority in supporting private fostering arrangementsThe local authority private fostering officer is there to support the child and the host family and to ensure that the child’s welfare is safeguarded during their stay. It is not their intention to be over-intrusive but they have a duty to ensure that the arrangement continues to meet the needs of the child. The private fostering officer will arrange to visit the host family at least once every six weeks and see the child on their own. They may be able to advise on helping the child cope with homesickness, or ways in which the family can help the child maintain contact with their culture and religion. They are also there for the child to have someone else to talk to about any worries they may have.
Inform the local authority of the child’s needs.You may have information about a child’s special needs in relation to their physical or mental health, their emotional or behavioural functioning, or a physical or mental impairment. Seek permission of their parents to pass this information on to the private fostering officer when you notify them of the proposed accommodation with the host family. The local authority may be able to offer advice and support to the child and the host family.
Know what to do if you are concerned about the wellbeing of a child accommodated with a host familyIf you are concerned about the wellbeing of a child living with a host family, discuss this with the private fostering officer who has a continuing responsibility to ensure that the child’s needs are being met whilst living with this family. The child’s distress may indicate that they are homesick or feeling lonely, but it may also indicate that they are not receiving appropriate care from their host or that there is an underlying problem that has not been identified.
Understand the rules about confidentialityAre you worried about breaching confidentiality? Before sharing information with the local authority, you will want to consult with the parent and host. If they are unwilling for information to be shared, you need to consider your responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the child. If you believe that sharing the information will ensure the safety and welfare of the child, you are acting responsibly and within the law.
If you suspect that a child is being harmed or is at risk of significant harm and urgent action is required you should follow your school’s Child Protection procedures and notify the local authority or the police immediately.
Follow guidance about 'What to do if you are worried a child is being abused' published by the Department for Education
Keep in touch with the local authorityTo help staff and host families learn more about private fostering, invite the local authority private fostering officer to meetings and events. Attend local authority awareness-raising events. Take up opportunities to attend training on private fostering through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB). Use your contact with the local authority to forge links with other organisations, for example faith and community groups for those children separated from their culture and religion.
Include information about private fostering in your publicity materialsInformation in your publicity materials and on your website will help ensure that parents and host families are aware of the implications of children being accommodated for a period of 28 days or more, and the role of the local authority in safeguarding and supporting these arrangements.
Find out more about private fostering