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Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled) is cared for under a private arrangement by someone who is not their parent or a close relative, and the arrangement lasts for 28 days or longer. A close relative is: a grandparent, aunt or uncle, sibling or stepparent.
When a child is being privately fostered, the child’s parents and the private foster carer must tell children’s services. It is an offence not to notify children’s services. Parents and private foster carers often do not know this.
A social worker will visit the private foster carer’s home within seven days to make sure the placement is suitable. They will need to be satisfied that the child is safe and well cared for. They will speak to the private foster carer and other members of the household. They will also speak to the child. The social worker will continue to visit the child regularly for as long as the child is privately fostered.
When a child is being fostered privately, parental responsibility remains with the child’s parents. It is not shared with the private foster carer, although the private foster carer can make day-to-day decisions.
Private fostering situations can arise for a number of reasons. For example:
- A child who is sent to this country for health care or for education and their birth parents are living overseas
- A child who is living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation or arguments at home
- A teenager who is living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend.