Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or 18 if they have a disability) is looked after for a period of 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility. Close relatives include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

People become private foster carers for all sorts of reasons. Private foster carers can be a friend of the child’s family, or be someone who is willing to care for the child of a family they do not know.

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may be unable to care for their own child on a short or long term basis and a private fostering arrangement can be a positive response from friends and the local community to a family in need of support. However, any child separated from their parents is potentially vulnerable and therefore workers and volunteers all have responsibilities to ensure the alternative care they receive meets their welfare and safety needs.

By law, the local authority must be told about all private fostering situations. The child’s parents, private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform the council as soon as they are made aware of it.

It is then the councils legal duty to make sure all private fostering arrangements are safe for the child or young person. Once informed of the arrangement the council will check the suitability of private foster carers, to make regular visits to the child or young person and to ensure advice, help and support is available when needed.

Information for Professionals

Private foster carers are legally required to notify the local authority but many still don’t know that they have to. This means the necessary arrangements to ensure the child or young person’s welfare is safeguarded are not made. Workers from all agencies need to help by ensuring they are proactive in identifying and notifying the council of private fostering arrangements that they are aware of.

If you know a child or young person is being privately fostered and you think we are unaware please notify the relevant authority or support the parent/carer to do so.

The council has a duty to ensure that the arrangements are suitable for the child and that the child is safe. They will assess the private foster family including health checks and accommodation checks.

People involved in private fostering must make contact in the following timescales:

  • If the child is not yet living with private foster carers – six weeks beforehand
  • If the child moves in with private foster carers in less than six weeks – immediately
  • If the child is already living with private foster carers – immediately

Devon County Council or Torbay Council must be told about all private fostering situations. The child’s parents, private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform the local council.

Any professionals who come across a private fostering arrangement also have a duty to notify the council if they do not believe this has already been done.

Devon

If you think you might be involved in a private fostering arrangement in Devon, phone 0845 155 1013 or email mashsecure@devon.gcsx.gov.uk. You can read more about private fostering from Devon County Council here.

Torbay

If you think you might be involved in a private fostering arrangement in Torbay, click download the correct forms below or visit the Torbay website for further information. Or you can call 01803 208100 or email fostercareservice@torbay.gov.uk 

Private Fostering Leaflet

You can read more on this on the Devon County Council website or visit SWCPP

Private Fostering further information

Somebody Else’s Child – A guide to Private Fostering
Private Fostering Leaflet