If a child under the age of 16, or a disabled child under 18, is living for more than 28 days with an adult who is not their parent or close relative (step parent, grandparent, sister or brother, aunt or uncle), this is called private fostering. A carer could be from extended family, a family friend or someone unknown to the child.
Private fostering is an arrangement between a parent and a carer. This arrangement does not involve the council and the child is not in care.
It is not private fostering if the person is already an approved foster carer.
Private fostering could be:
- Children having to live with a family friend after their parents have divorced
- A young person staying with a friend’s family because of arguments at home
- Children sent to the UK from abroad for education or healthcare
- Looking after children of parents who work anti-social hours
- Children on extended holiday exchanges
Staying longer than 14 days in a residential school during holiday time is also considered private fostering.
Legally a child’s birth parents and the people who will be looking after the child have to tell their local council that private fostering is happening. This should be as soon arrangements are in place for the child to stay at least 28 days – ideally six weeks before fostering begins, or 48 hours in emergency situations.
If you are privately fostering, your child is privately fostered or if you know of a child who is being privately fostered, please inform your local council:
- Kingston or Richmond: call the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 020 8547 5008
- Windsor and Maidenhead: Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01628 683150
Then a social worker will speak to the child’s parents and visit the private foster carer’s home to speak with them and the child. They will also offer advice and support to the carer if they need it, or take appropriate safeguarding action.