City of York Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

3.3 Private Fostering – Practice Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative for more than 28 days and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority. Introduction. The guidance explains the requirement for the local authority to be notified of any private fostering arrangements, and describes the process to be followed by Children’s Social Care staff when they become aware that a child is privately fostered.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in November 2015.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Raising Awareness of Private Fostering Notification Requirements
  3. Designated Manager for Private Fostering
  4. Notifications Regarding Private Fostering Arrangements
  5. Immediate Actions upon Notification
  6. Initial Assessment Visit within Seven Working Days of Date of Notification and subsequent Assessment of the suitability of the Arrangement
  7. Actions where there are concerns about a proposed or actual Private Fostering Arrangement
  8. Statutory Visits to a Child or Young Person in a Private Fostering Arrangement
  9. Review of Private Fostering Arrangements
  10. End of a Private Fostering Arrangement


1. Introduction

‘Private Fostering’ is essentially an arrangement made for the care of a child or young person under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative (close relatives are parents, step-parents, siblings, siblings of a parent and grandparents) for 28 days or more. This could be an arrangement by mutual agreement between parents and the carers or a situation where a child or young person has left home against their parent's wishes and is living with a friend and the friend's family. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent retains Parental Responsibility for the child or young person.

A child or young person who is Looked After or placed in any residential home, hospital or school is excluded from the definition.

Private Fostering arrangements are diverse. However, arrangements which are private fostering include:

  • Children and young people sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
  • Teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Children of prisoners placed with distant relatives;
  • Language students living with host families;
  • Trafficked children and young people.
Where it is unclear whether a care arrangement for a child or young person is or is not a private fostering arrangement, discussion should take place with the Designated Manager for Private Fostering. The Designated Manager may seek legal advice as to whether the arrangement does or does not fall within the statutory definition of private fostering. Learning from this process will then be shared as relevant.


2. Raising Awareness of Private Fostering Notification Requirements

The Children Act 2004 places a duty on local authorities to promote public awareness in their area of the statutory notification requirements regarding Private Fostering. The Designated Manager for Private Fostering is responsible for developing a strategy to raise public and professional awareness about private fostering. This will be done using a range of media, including posters, leaflets, web articles and training opportunities.

Copies of the most up-to-date awareness raising publicity are available on the Children’s Social Care Procedures Forms Library or from the Designated Manager for Private Fostering.


3. Designated Manager for Private Fostering

The Designated Manager for Private Fostering is a statutory requirement. At the point this Guidance is issued, the Designated Manager for Private Fostering is:

Nik Flavell
Principal Advisor
Children’s Social Care 
nik.flavell@york.gov.uk

The Designated Manager has responsibility for co-ordinating the return of required Private Fostering data to the Department for Education and also for producing the Annual Report on Private Fostering.


4. Notifications Regarding Private Fostering Arrangements

As soon as a Local Authority becomes aware of a proposed arrangement to privately foster a child or young person within their area, or where a child or young person is being privately fostered within their area, the Local Authority must assess the suitability of the arrangement.

Whilst local authorities do not formally approve or register private foster carers, they have a duty to satisfy themselves that the welfare of a privately fostered child or young person within their area is being safeguarded and promoted.

Where a child or young person already has an allocated Social Worker, then the private foster carer, those with parental responsibility or any professional working with a child or young person must contact the Social Worker to notify them of the arrangement. The allocated Social Worker will be responsible for carrying out an Initial Visit and Private Fostering Assessment.

Where a child or young person does not have an allocated Social Worker, including those children receiving support from the Child in Need Service, then the private foster carer, those with parental responsibility or any professional working with a child or young person must contact the City of York Referral and Assessment Service (childrensfrontdoor@york.gov.uk)  to notify the Local Authority of the arrangement. A Referral and Assessment Service Social Worker will be allocated to carry out the Initial Visit and Private Fostering Assessment.


5. Immediate Actions upon Notification

5.1 Notification where a child or young person is not yet privately fostered

Where the child or young person is not yet in the care of a private foster carer but it is planned that the arrangement start within 13 weeks, then upon notification of a proposed arrangement by parents, proposed carers, those arranging the care or any professional where the proposal comes to their attention, the Local Authority must determine within 24 hours of the notification whether the proposed arrangement falls within the private fostering procedures. Exceptionally, a Manager may determine that the Local Authority needs to make further enquiries about the arrangement to determine whether it is a private fostering referral. In these circumstances, the ‘statutory clock’ for responsibilities under The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 does not commence until the enquiries have concluded that a Private Fostering Notification has been made.

Upon determination that there has been a Private Fostering Notification, the Local Authority will provide to the person notifying a PF1 Private Fostering Declaration Form to be completed and returned to the Local Authority (available on Forms Library). This Form requests relevant information required from the proposed Private Foster carers. Additionally, the Social Worker will commence an assessment of the arrangements using the Single Assessment document and Private Fostering Assessment Part B (available on Forms Library) to record the assessment.

It is noted that it is locally determined that it is the date of the original notification, rather than receipt of the completed PF1 that will be taken to be the start date for the Local Authority to fulfill its statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child or young person subject to the proposed private fostering arrangement.

Additional to sending out the PF1, the Local Authority will make contact with the parents and proposed private foster carers to advise them that unless there is a need for the arrangement to progress on an emergency basis, the child or young person should not be privately fostered until the Local Authority is able to satisfy itself as to the suitability of the proposed arrangement and make them aware of the powers available to the Local Authority to prohibit or impose requirements on the proposed arrangements before the move of the child or young person.

5.2 Notification – where a child or young person is already privately fostered

Despite publicity to raise awareness about the statutory expectations and requirements of the need to notify the Local Authority of a private fostering arrangement prior to the child or young person being cared for under such an arrangement, it remains likely that a majority of private fostering arrangements coming to the attention of the Local Authority will be made where the child or young person is already in the care of Private Foster Carers.

Upon being made aware that a child or young person is potentially cared for under a private fostering arrangement, the Local Authority must determine within 24 hours whether the arrangement does in fact fall within the private fostering procedures. Exceptionally, a Manager may determine that the Local Authority needs to make further enquiries about the arrangement to determine whether it is a private fostering referral. In these circumstances, the ‘statutory clock’ for responsibilities under The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 does not commence until the enquiries have concluded that a Private Fostering Notification has been made.

Upon determination that there has been a Private Fostering Notification, the Local Authority will provide to the person notifying a PF1 Private Fostering Declaration Form to be completed and returned to the Local Authority (available on Forms Library). This Form includes a request for relevant information required from the proposed carers. Additionally, the Social Worker will commence an assessment of the arrangements using the Single Assessment document and Private Fostering Assessment Part B form (available on Forms Library) to record the assessment.

It is noted that it is locally determined that it is the date of the original notification, rather than receipt of the completed PF1 that will be taken to be the start date for the Local Authority to fulfill its statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child subject to the private fostering arrangement.

5.3 Relevant Information Required within the PF1 from the proposed/actual Private Foster Carers

The PF1 Private Fostering Declaration Form is a City of York Council Form to be sent to the proposed or actual Private Foster Carers for completion immediately upon Notification. The Private Foster carers are required to complete and return the Form with as much information as they are able to provide. The PF1 requires the following information:

  • The full name, gender, date of birth, address, ethnicity, cultural and linguistic background, religion, known communication issues of the child or young person and legal and immigration status of the child or young person cared for or proposed to be cared for under a private fostering arrangement;
  • The name and current address of the child or young person's siblings (if under 18 years of age) and details of the arrangements for their care;
  • The name and addresses of the child or young person's parents and any other person with Parental Responsibility for them;
  • Whether the child or young person’s parents or other person with parental responsibility has given consent for the proposed or actual private fostering arrangement;
  • The name and current address of the proposed or actual private foster carers and their addresses within the last five years;
  • The full name and date of birth of all those within the proposed or actual private fostering household;
  • Whether the actual or proposed Private Foster and any member of their household have:
    • Been convicted of offences against a child;
    • Been convicted of any offence involving injury or threat of injury to another person;
    • Been subject to any disqualification and prohibitions e.g. registration as childminder refused or cancelled, or disqualification from acting as a local authority foster carer;
    • Been subject to any Court Orders as a result of which a child has been removed from their care;
    • Any occasions when their child has been accommodated by a local authority.
    • Had any involvement with Children’s Social Care in this or any other Local Authority
  • The date on which the private foster placement will start;
  • The intended duration of the arrangement;
  • The name of two referees (not relatives)
In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the assessing Social Worker should advise the private foster carers that as the required assessment cannot be completed, they cannot be recommended as suitable.


6. Initial Assessment Visit within Seven Working Days of Date of Notification and subsequent Assessment of the suitability of the Arrangement

Private Fostering Regulations require that an ‘Initial Visit’ commencing the assessment must be made to the proposed or actual private foster carers within seven working days of Notification. It is locally determined that an assessment of the suitability of the Private Fostering arrangement should take no more that 45 days from the Notification.

The primary record for the assessment of the Private Fostering arrangement is the Single Assessment document. However, the Private Fostering Assessment Part B document should be used to record additional information obtained in the course of assessment. This will include a consideration of:

  • Consideration of any issues emerging from the PF1 Declaration;
  • Consideration of any Issues resulting from DBS Certificate of Disclosure for all adult Household Members;
  • Consideration of any issues resulting from Private Fostering Home Safety Checklist;
  • Consideration of any issues resulting from two non-relative references obtained.

The assessing Social Worker should:

  1. Visit the premises where it is proposed the child or young person will be cared for and accommodated or is cared for and accommodated if already privately fostered;
  2. Visit and speak to the proposed or actual private foster carer and to all members of their household;
  3. Visit and speak to the child or young person it is proposed be or is being privately fostered alone, unless it would be inappropriate to do so;
  4. Speak to and, if it is practicable to do so, visit every parent or person with parental responsibility for the child or young person;
  5. Establish through assessment (within 45 days from Notification):
    1. Whether the purpose and likely duration of the private fostering arrangement is understood by and agreed between the parents and the private foster carers; 
    2. The wishes and feelings of the child or young person about the private fostering arrangement;
    3. The suitability of the arrangement to meet the child or young person’s developmental needs, including the child or young person’s identity needs;
    4. The suitability of the accommodation;
    5. The capacity of the private foster carers to look after the child or young person;
    6. The suitability of other members of the proposed private foster carers household;
    7. The suitability of the arrangements for contact between the child or young person and his/her parents and any other significant adults are satisfactory, agreed and understood;
    8. The suitability of arrangements between the parents of the child or young person and the private foster carers regarding finances for the care and maintenance of the child or young person;
    9. The suitability of arrangements for the care of the child or young person’s health;
    10. The suitability of arrangements for the child or young person’s education;
    11. The suitability of arrangements for the decision-making about the care of the child or young person;
    12. Whether the parents, private foster carer or any other person with parental responsibility have been given appropriate advice by the Local Authority.

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the assessment of the Private Fostering arrangements, the assessing Social Worker should advise the private foster carers that as the required assessment cannot be completed, they cannot be recommended as suitable. In these circumstances, the Social Worker must also advise the parents of the reason why they need to make alternative arrangements for the child.

If the arrangements are assessed as suitable, a clear plan for the care of a child or young person in a Private Fostering arrangement should be formulated and agreed by all parties. The plan should cover: 

  • Duration of placement;
  • Financial arrangements;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • How the child’s health needs are to be met;
  • How the child’s educational needs are to be met;
  • How the child’s emotional social and behavioural needs are to be met;
  • How the child’s religious, racial, cultural and linguistic needs are to be met;
  • Role of parents in exercising their parental responsibility;
  • How the placement will be monitored by Children’s Social Care.
If the arrangements are not considered suitable, the assessing Social Worker’s Manager should consider whether there are any requirements which should be imposed or whether any person should be disqualified or prohibitions should be imposed (See below).


7. Actions where there are concerns about a proposed or actual Private Fostering Arrangement

(a) Requirements

The Local Authority may impose on proposed or actual Private Foster carers ‘requirements’ including the number, age and sex of the children who may be cared for under a Private Fostering arrangement, the standard of accommodation and equipment; arrangements as to health and safety; and particular arrangements regarding the care of the children or young people. A requirement may be varied, removed or added at any time.

The decision to impose a ‘requirement’ should be made by the assessing Social Worker’s Manager in discussion with the Designated Manager for Private Fostering and Legal Services. Legal Services will serve any Notice on the private foster carer and parent and prepare for a possible appeal (Schedule 8 paragraph 6 Children Act 1989). On receipt of a Notice, private foster carers have 14 days to appeal to the Court (Schedule 8 paragraph 8 Children Act 1989).

Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with, the Social Worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Designated Manager for Private Fostering recommending that the private foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child.

(b) Disqualifications

Under the Disqualification from Caring for Children Regulations 2002 certain categories of individual are disqualified from private fostering. The main reasons for disqualification are if the private foster carer or any member of their household:

  1. Is a parent of a child who has been made subject to a Care Order;
  2. A child has been removed from his/her care under a care order;
  3. Has been convicted of any of the criminal offences listed in the "Table of offences list" (see Section 22, Specified Offences and Private Foster Carers);
  4. Has been refused registration in relation to a children's home or has been involved with a home whose registration has been cancelled;
  5. Has been previously prohibited from private fostering;
  6. Has been refused registration in relation to child minding or day care, or has had his/her registration cancelled.

A person will normally be disqualified if they have been made subject to equivalent sanctions in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Where someone has been disqualified from private fostering, he/she may not Privately Foster unless they have informed the Local Authority of the disqualification and its contents. It is the responsibility of the Private Foster Carer to make the Local Authority aware of such circumstances within the PF1 Form that requests such information upon Notification of the proposed or actual arrangement or thereafter, immediately upon becoming aware of the need to do so.

If it appears that a person is a Disqualified Person and should be disqualified by the Local Authority, the decision should be made by the assessing Social Worker’s Manager in discussion with the Designated Manager for Private Fostering and Legal Services. Legal Services will serve any notice on the private foster carer and parent and prepare for a possible appeal (see Section 68 Children Act 1989). On receipt of a notice, a private foster carer has 14 days to appeal to the Court (Schedule 8 paragraph 8 Children Act 1989).

(c) Prohibitions

A prohibition may be imposed by a Local Authority upon a Private Fostering arrangement where:

  • The person is not assessed as suitable to privately foster a child or young person;
  • The premises are not suitable; or
  • Caring for this child or young person by this person in these premises would be prejudicial to the child or young person’s welfare.

The Local Authority may prohibit the Private Foster Carer from privately fostering:

  • Any child in any premises;
  • Any child in the premises specified in the Notice;
  • An identified child in identified premises.
If it appears that an actual or proposed arrangement should be prohibited by the Local Authority, the decision should be made by the assessing Social Worker’s Manager in discussion with the Designated Manager for Private Fostering and Legal Services. Legal Services will serve any notice on the private foster carer and parent and prepare for a possible appeal (see Section 68 Children Act 1989). On receipt of a notice, a private foster carer has 14 days to appeal to the Court (Schedule 8 paragraph 8 Children Act 1989).


8. Statutory Visits to a Child or Young Person in a Private Fostering Arrangement

The frequency of visits by the child's social worker should be determined by the circumstances of the case and should take place whenever reasonably requested by the child or private foster carer. However, at a minimum a child or young person should be visited:

  1. Within 7 working days of the arrangement having commenced;
  2. Not less than every six weeks during the first year of the arrangement; and
  3. Not less than every twelve weeks after the first year of the arrangement.

The child must be seen alone by the social worker on each visit unless this is not appropriate having regard to the young age of the child or if the child does not wish to see the social worker alone. The child's bedroom should be seen on some visits.

A Statutory Visit is to be recorded on the relevant Template ‘Private Fostering – Statutory Visit Record’ and the following information should be recorded. The Regulations require the following matters are observed and discussed during a Statutory Visit (Schedule 3):

The overall purpose of all visits is to ensure that the child or young person's needs are continuing to be met within the private foster arrangement and in particular;

  • To observe the overall standard of care afforded to the child or young person;
  • To speak to and ascertain the wishes of the child or young person;
  • To review the purpose and likely duration of the arrangement;
  • To review whether that the child or young person’s needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  • To ensure that necessary arrangements for the child or young person's education are satisfactorily being met;
  • To ensure that the child or young person remains registered with a GP and dentist and that any necessary health care has been provided to take account of any special health needs;
  • To ensure that contact arrangements for the child or young person with the parents and siblings are working and meeting the child or young person’s needs;
  • To check how decisions are being made about a child or young person;
  • To check the financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child or young person are working;
  • To check that members of the household remain suitable;
  • To check that any requirements issued by the Local Authority are being met;
  • To offer advice and support to the carer, child or young person and parents as necessary or requested to ensure the privately fostered child's needs are met and their welfare is safeguarded.


9. Review of Private Fostering Arrangements

The Review Private Fostering arrangements is dependent upon whether the child or young person is receiving services additional to the ongoing support and monitoring provided to comply with The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 or not. Where the child or young person is also receiving additional services under a Child in Need Plan, the Plan will be reviewed every three months in accordance with the Practice Guidance for the review of Children In Need cases.

Where however, there are no additional services provided to that of support and monitoring of the arrangement under the Regulations, the arrangement will be reviewed on a six monthly basis.

As in all reviews, parents, children and carers should actively be encouraged to participate and contribute to the review and planning process. It is good practice to plan for permanence for all children living away from home. It is envisaged that most arrangements will not last in excess of twelve months, as the plan will usually be for the child to return home with any support needed. When a longer term arrangement is being reviewed, the case for applying for a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order may be suggested to the young person, private foster carers and parents.

If an arrangement continues, the private foster carer's Social Worker should ensure that all DBS checks are renewed every 3 years.

The Review of the Plan should cover: 

  • Duration of placement;
  • Financial arrangements;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • How the child’s health needs are being met;
  • How the child’s educational needs are being met;
  • How the child’s emotional social and behavioural needs are being met;
  • How the child’s religious, racial, cultural and linguistic needs are being met;
  • Role of parents in exercising their parental responsibility;
  • How the placement will be monitored by Children’s Social Care until the next Review.


10. End of a Private Fostering Arrangement

The End of a Private Fostering Arrangement is to be recorded on the relevant Template ‘Private Fostering – End of Arrangement’. This enables the statutory reporting on Private Fostering to be maintained accurately. The following information should be recorded.

  • Date of Notification;
  • Name of Person making Notification;
  • Date Private Fostering Arrangement Ending/Ended;
  • Reason why the arrangement has ended;
  • Name, address and description of new care arrangements for the child or young person.

End