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5.3 Private Fostering

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure 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.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

Children Act 2004, Guidance and Regulations, Volume 8 Private Fostering

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering Regulations 2005)

Private Fostering

AMENDMENT

In January 2017, this chapter was extensively updated and includes additional responsibilities for Team Managers, changes to departmental timescales and the inclusion of Reviews for children in Private fostering arrangements and should be re-read throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Legal Framework
  3. Definitions
  4. Local Authority Responsibilities
  5. Responsibilities of Parents and Private Foster Carers

    Appendix 1: Local Authority Duties (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005

    Appendix 2: Nottinghamshire Statement of Purpose for Private Fostering


1. Introduction

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a Local Authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative with the intention that it should last for more than 28 days. Private foster carers may be from the extended family, such as a cousin or a great aunt. However, a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full or half blood by marriage) or step-parent will not be a private foster carer. In this context step-parent only refers to a parent who was married to the child' birth parent. A private foster carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child, or someone previously unknown to the child's family who is willing to privately foster the child. The period for which the child is cared for and accommodated by the private foster carer should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break.

Parents always retain Parental Responsibility, although the private foster carers becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child in a way which will promote and safeguard his/her welfare. Overarching responsibility for Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of the privately fostered child remains with the parent or other person with Parental Responsibility.

Local Authorities do not formerly approve or register private foster carers. However, it is the duty of the Local Authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are, or will be, privately fostered within our area is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. It is the Local Authority in whose area the privately fostered child resides which has legal duties in respect of the child.

The Local Authority must continue to satisfy itself that a placement is satisfactory by supervising, regulating and advising.

The Local Authority can impose certain requirements and has the power to prohibit a person from private fostering when the person, premises or neither is suitable, but has no power of removal except under an EPO or a Care Order.

The following procedural guidance highlights the key issues for operational staff in relation to Private Fostering. However, for a full understanding of the legal requirements, reference should be made to the Legal Framework below (Section 2, Legal Framework) and the Children Act 1989 and amendments by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004, Guidance and Regulations, Volume 8 Private Fostering and Miscellaneous. This procedural guidance has also been informed by the Social Services Inspectorate Inspection Report on Private Fostering, 'Signposts' (June 2000).

In response to the Laming Inquiry the Government have introduced National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering. Local Authorities are required to collect and return data on private fostering arrangements including place of birth recorded into defined classifications. The relevant episodes on Framework collect and record this information and therefore must be completed.


2. Legal Framework

The Legal Framework relating to Private Arrangements for Fostering Children is laid down in Part IX of the Children Act 1989 and by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 Section 66-70 and in Schedules 7 and 8 and in Section 24 of the Act.

See Legislation website. (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.

In addition to this and the growing number of unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, now entering the country. The following legislation should also apply Care of unaccompanied and trafficked children (Statutory guidance for Local Authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children July 2014)

"Unaccompanied children

2.12 More is known about groups of unaccompanied children as they often come to the notice of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA). Unaccompanied children may come to the UK seeking asylum (unaccompanied asylum seeking children – UASC), or they may be here to attend school or join their family. A child may be the subject of a private fostering arrangement.

2.13 If the child is unaccompanied and not travelling to his or her customary care giver, or if there are some concerns over the legitimacy or suitability of the proposed arrangement for the child’s care in the UK, they will be referred to Local Authority children’s social care services by the UKBA."

(Safeguarding Children who may have been trafficked - Practice Guidance - 2011).


3. Definitions

3.1 Private Fostering is defined by the statutory scheme (see Section 2, Legal Framework) and in particular, Section 66 of the Children Act 1989 and amendments by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 to which reference should be made. However, the following key points should be noted.
3.2

A privately fostered child means a child under the age of 16 years (under18 if disabled) is cared for and accommodated for 28 days or more by someone other than:

  1. A parent;
  2. A person who is not a parent, but who has Parental Responsibility;
  3. A relative (i.e. grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt whether full blood or half-blood or by marriage or step-parent).
3.3 In the case of a child with a disability the upper age limit is 18 years.
3.4 A child is not considered to be privately fostered if:
  3.4.1

The person caring for the child is doing so for less than 28 days and does not intend to do so for longer;

and
  3.4.2

Is a child cared for on premises where his/her parents or person/relatives with parental responsibility are living;

or

Is a child living in a Children's Home, or 'looked after' child accommodated with Local Authority foster carers;

or

Is a 'looked after' child placed by the Local Authority in an Independent Fostering Agency;

or

Is a child in accommodation provided for, or on behalf of a voluntary organisation;

or

Is a child in the care of any person in compliance with a Supervision Order with conditions;

or

Is a child liable to be detained or if subject to guardianship of the Mental Health Act 1983;

or

Is a child placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt them under arrangements by an approved Adoption Agency within the meaning of Section 1 of the Adoption Act 1976;

or

Is a protected child (i.e. subject of a Notice of Intention to Apply for an Adoption);

or

Is a child in a school in which s/he is receiving full time education, unless it is a non-maintained school and the child lives there for more than two weeks during a holiday period;

or

Is a child in a Health Service Hospital;

or

Is a child in any residential care home, nursing home or mental nursing home;

or

Is a child in any Home or Institution not specified above, but provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State (Section 63 Registered Children's Home Children Act 1989 and amendments by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004) Schedule 8(2)(1).


4. Local Authority Responsibilities

4.1 The responsibilities of the Local Authority can only be fully understood by reference to the Statutory Scheme (see Section 2, Legal Framework) and the Guidance and Regulations provided by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). However, the following points are of particular importance.
4.2

It is possible that privately fostered children will also be a Child in Need. The Local Authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need in our area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, so far as this is consistent with the welfare duty to the child. The definition of 'need' in the Act is deliberately wide to reinforce an emphasis on prevention and support services. It has three categories:

  • Reasonable state of health (physical or mental health) or development;
  • Significant impairment of health or development; and
  • Disability.
Where the Local Authority considers that the child's developmental needs are not being, or will not be met, it should undertake an assessment as to whether the child is in need of services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000). This also provides the opportunity to consider where support and services can be provided to increase the capacity of the private foster carer to meet the child's needs. Where a 'child in need' plan is put in place, this should be reviewed at minimum intervals of six months.
4.3 Regardless of whether a privately fostered child is assessed as a Child in Need, the Local Authority has specific responsibilities in relation to all privately fostered children.
4.4 Regulation 8(6) provides that for the purposes of Regulation 8 the private fostering arrangement is deemed to begin when the Local Authority became aware of it. The intention of this provision is to ensure that the authority carries out visits at least every six weeks for the first year after we become aware of an arrangement, even if at that time the arrangement has in fact been going on for some years.
4.5

The specific responsibilities, therefore, of the Local Authority in a private fostering arrangement includes the following:

  1. Promote public awareness in their area of the notification requirements (See Schedule 8.7A);
  2. Receive notifications from parents, foster carers and third parties;
  3. Where the Local Authority have received notification of a proposed private fostering arrangement under Regulation 3 we must arrange for an officer of the authority within seven working days to:
    • Visit the premises where it is proposed that the child will be cared for and accommodated;
    • Visit and speak to the proposed private foster carer and to all members of his/her household;
    • On the initial visit obtain information and consent from the private foster carer and all members in the household 16 years of age and over in order to commence the Assessment of Suitability checks;
    • To visit and speak to the child whom it is proposed will be privately fostered, alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate. (An interpreter who is independent of the child's parents and of the private foster carer should always be used where the child's preferred language is not English);
    • Speak to and, if it is practicable to do so, visit each parent or person with parental responsibility for the child; and
    • Establish such of the matters listed in Schedule 2 as appears to the officer in the particular circumstances to be relevant.
  4. Record information on the number of privately fostered children and private foster carers living in our area, including the number of new notifications;
  5. Record the number and nature of enquiries received in relation to private fostering, the responses given and any actions taken;
  6. Ensure that accurate, comprehensive, well-organised and confidential records are kept for each privately fostered child and private foster carer;
  7. Assess the suitability of the placement the arrangement must be assessed and a decision made on its suitability within 45 working days from notification, or as soon as the outcome of the DBS check are known;
  8. The social worker is to ensure that all relevant checks have been completed on both the private foster carers and the privately fostered child, which should include health, Education, personal references and information from any other agency involved with the family;
  9. Visit the child in line with statutory requirements and ensure that the welfare of the child is satisfactory. The child should be seen alone, unless considered to be inappropriate. A written report should be made after each visit. The report should include the conclusions drawn, whether the child was seen alone and, where appropriate, the reason why the officer considered it inappropriate to see the child alone. It should report on the child's wishes and feelings about the arrangement, and in the child's welfare and whether the arrangement is satisfactory, and include any information given by the child or the carer;
  10. Ensure that carers are aware of the child's racial, cultural, linguistic, religious, educational and health needs and are helped to meet them;
  11. Offer advice and support to parents, carers and children involved in private fostering arrangements;
  12. Assess applications for exemptions;
  13. Consider the need for specific Requirements and Prohibitions or Disqualification;
  14. Publicise and make available information and advice on private fostering to parents, prospective foster carers and the wider public;
  15. Monitor the way in which we discharge our functions to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are privately fostered;
  16. Provide annually to the Director of Children's Services an evaluation of the outcomes of our work in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the privately fostered children in our area; and
  17. Provide an annual report to the Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board on how we safeguard and promote the welfare of privately fostered children, including how we co-operate with other agencies in this connection.
4.6

Review Arrangements Privately fostered children are to be chaired by a Team Manager to ensure the safety of the placements suitability and identify additional support:

  1. The first review will be held 45 days from Notification, regardless of whether the Assessment of Suitability has been completed;
  2. Subsequent reviews to be held on a 6 monthly basis, to include all partner agencies involved with the privately fostered child and ensuring the person with PR are invited and their views obtain.


5. Responsibilities of Parents and Private Foster Carers

5.1

Parents/or those with Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility is defined by the Children Act to include all the powers and duties of parents in relation to a child and his property. A parent may arrange under Section 2(9) for a private carer to meet some of his parental responsibilities, but a private fostering arrangement does not absolve parents of their parental responsibilities.
  5.1.1 A person who has given notification about a proposed private fostering arrangement must, within 48 hours of the start of the arrangement, notify the appropriate Local Authority that the arrangement has begun.
  5.1.2

In a private fostering arrangement the specific responsibilities of the parent include the following:

  1. Notification to the Local Authority of their intention to place a child with, or remove a child from, private foster carers;
  2. Giving adequate information to the carers about the child, including medical information;
  3. Informing carers and the Local Authority of any changes of his/her own address;
  4. Planning for the child's future;
  5. Providing for the financial maintenance of the child;
  6. Exercising parental responsibility.

Click here to view Responsibilities of Parents And Private Foster Carers table


Appendix 1: Local Authority Duties (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005

(Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005

Regulation 1(1) makes provision for the regulations to be cited as the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, and for them to come into force on 1st July 2005)

Regulation 1(2) makes provision for the regulations to apply to England only.

Regulation 2 makes provision as to the interpretation of certain terms within the regulations.

Regulation 3(1) provides that a person who proposes to privately foster a child must notify the appropriate Local Authority at least 6 weeks before the date on which the arrangement is to begin or immediately where the private fostering arrangement is to begin within 6 weeks.

Regulation 3(2) provides that any person, including a parent or other person with parental responsibility for a child, who is involved (whether or not directly) in arranging for the child to be privately fostered must notify the appropriate Local Authority of the arrangement has been made.

Regulation 3(3) provides that a parent or other person with parental responsibility for a child, who is not involved (whether or not directly) in arranging for the child to be privately fostered, but who knows that it is proposed that the child should be privately fostered, must notify the appropriate Local Authority as soon as possible after he becomes aware of the arrangement.

Regulation 3(4) provides that the notification given under Regulation 3(1)-(3) must contain as much of the information in Schedule 1 as the person giving the notification is able to provide. The information in Paragraph 1 of the schedule is the information that everyone has to provide, whereas the information in Paragraph 2 is additional information to be provided by the private foster carer.

Regulation 4(1) provides that where a Local Authority have received notification under Regulation 3 they must arrange for an officer of the authority within seven working days to:

  • Visit the premises where it is proposed that the child will be cared for and accommodated;
  • Visit and speak to the proposed private foster carer and to all members of his household;
  • To visit and speak to the child whom it is proposed will be privately fostered, alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate;
  • Speak to and, if it is practicable to do so, visit every parent of or person with parental responsibility for the child; and
  • Establish such of the matters listed in Schedule 2 as appear to the officer in the particular circumstances to be relevant.

The intention of this provision is to provide additional safeguards for children whom it is proposed should be privately fostered by requiring Local Authorities to check out a proposed arrangement and satisfy themselves that it will be suitable before it begins.

Regulation 4(2) provides that the officer must make a written report to the Local Authority.

Regulation 5(1) provides that any person who is privately fostering a child and has not given notification to the appropriate Local Authority in accordance with Regulation 3 must notify that Local Authority immediately. The intention of this provision is to pick up arrangements which were made in an emergency, cases where a person was caring for and accommodating a child who becomes privately fostered and arrangements which should have been, but for whatever reason were not, notified under Regulation 3.

Regulation 5(2) provides that the notification under Regulation 5(1) must contain such of the information contained in Schedule 1 as the person giving the notification is able to provide.

Regulation 6(1) provides that a person who has given notification under Regulation 3(1) about a proposed private fostering arrangement must, within 48 hours of the start of the arrangement, notify the appropriate Local Authority that the arrangement has begun.

The intention is to trigger Local Authority action under Regulation 7.

Regulation 6(2) provides that a parent of a child, and any other person who has parental responsibility for the child, who has given notification under Regulation 3(2) or 3(3) must within 48 hours of the child's going to live with a private foster carer, notify the appropriate Local Authority that the arrangement has begun.

The intention is to trigger Local Authority action under Regulation 7.

Regulation 7(1) provides that where a Local Authority have received notification under Regulation 5 or 6 they must arrange for an officer of the authority within seven working days to:

  • To visit the premises where the child is being cared for and accommodated;
  • To visit and speak to the proposed private foster carer and to all members of his household;
  • To visit and speak to the child, alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate;
  • Speak to and, if practicable to do so, visit every parent of or person with parental responsibility for the child; and
  • Establish such of the matters listed in Schedule 3 as appear to the officer to be relevant.

Regulation 7(2) provides that the officer must make a written report to the Local Authority.

Regulation 8(1) provides that, in addition to the visits carried out under Regulations 4 and 7, Local Authorities must arrange for each child who is privately fostered within their area to be visited by an officer of the authority - in the first year of the private fostering arrangement, at intervals of not more than six weeks; and in any second or subsequent year, at intervals of not more than 12 weeks.

Regulation 8(2) provides that, in addition to the visits carried out under Regulation 8(1), the Local Authority must arrange for every child who is privately fostered in their area to be visited by an officer when reasonably requested by the child, private foster carer, the child's parent or other person with parental responsibility.

Regulation 8(3) provides that when carrying out a visit under Regulation 8 the child should be spoken to alone, unless the officer of the authority considered it inappropriate.

Regulation 8(4) provides that where a Local Authority carries out such a follow-up visit, the officer must establish such of the matters listed in Schedule 3 as appear to him to be relevant.

Regulation 8(5) provides that the officer must make a written report to the Local Authority after each visit carried out under Regulation 8 (1) and (2).

Regulation 8 (6) provides that for the purposes of Regulation 8 the start of the private fostering arrangement is deemed to be the time when the Local Authority become aware of it.

This provision is designed to ensure that the Local Authority carries out visits at least every six weeks for the year after it first becomes aware of the arrangement, even if at that time the arrangement has in fact been going on for some years

Regulation 9 (1) provides that a private foster carer must notify the appropriate Local Authority of:

  • Any change of their address;
  • Any further offence of which he or a person who is part of or employed at his household has been convicted;
  • Any further disqualification imposed on him or a person who is part of or employed at his household;
  • Any person who becomes part of, or employed at, his household, and any offence of which that person has been convicted, and any disqualification or prohibition imposed on him; and
  • Any person who ceases to be part of his household.

Regulation 9(2) provides that a notification of a change of circumstances under Regulation 9(1) must be given in advance if practicable and, in any other case, not more than 48 hours after the change of circumstances.

Regulation 9(3) provides that if the private foster carer's new address is in the area of another Local Authority, or of a Local Authority in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the authority to whom the notification under Regulation 9(1) is given must inform the Local Authority for the area of the new address:

  • The name and address of the private foster carer;
  • The name of the child who is being privately fostered; and
  • The name and address of the child's parents or any other person who has parental responsibility for him.

Regulation 9(4) provides that the parent of the privately fostered child, and any other person who has parental responsibility for the child, who knows the child is being privately fostered, must notify the appropriate Local Authority of any change of his own address.

Regulation 10(1) provides that any person who ceases to privately foster a child must notify the appropriate Local Authority within 48 hours and must include in the notification the name and address of the person into whose care the child has been received and that person's relationship with the child.

Regulation 10(2) provides that where a person ceases to foster a child privately because of the death of the child he must tell the Local Authority that that is the reason for the end of the private fostering arrangement.

Regulation 10(3) provides that notification under Regulation 10(1) will not be necessary where the private foster carer intends to resume the private fostering arrangement after an interval of not more than 27 days. However, if he subsequently abandons his intention of the interval expires without his having given effect to this intention he must notify the Local Authority within 48 hours of abandoning his intention or, as the case may be, the expiry of the interval.

Regulation 10(4) provides that a parent, or other person with parental responsibility for the child, who has given notification under Regulations 3(2) or 3(3), must notify the Local Authority in whose area the child was privately fostered of the ending of the arrangement and must include in the notification the name and address of the person into whose care the child was received and that person's relationship to him.

Regulation 11 provides that any notification required under these Regulations must be given in writing and may be sent by post.

Regulation 12 requires Local Authorities to monitor the way in which they discharge their functions under Part 9 of the Children Act 1989, and requires them to appoint an officer for that purpose. Local Authorities will be able can designate a person already employed by the authority for this purpose.

The intention being to increase the focus of Local Authorities on private fostering and to improve compliance with the existing legislative framework for private fostering

Regulation 13 revokes the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 1991 save that any notification given under the 1991 Regulations before they were revoked should be treated as if it were a notification given under the 2005 Regulations.


Appendix 2: Nottinghamshire Statement of Purpose for Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a Local Authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more.

Private foster carers may be from the extended family (i.e. not a relative under the Children Act 1989, so not an aunt, grandparent, step-parent or sibling), such as a cousin or great aunt. They may be a friend of the family, or the parents of the child's girlfriend or boyfriend - or someone unknown who is willing to privately foster a child.

The private foster carer becomes responsible for the day to day care of the child or young person in a way which will promote and safeguard his/her welfare. Responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the private foster child rest with the parent or other person who has parental responsibility.

The Local Authority's duties and functions under the Children Act 1989 and regulations state that it is NOT the responsibility of the Local Authority to approve or register private foster carers but to assess the suitability of the placement in relation to each particular child and particular private foster carer, their household and premises. However, it's the duty of the Local Authority to satisfy ourselves that the welfare of children who are or will be privately fostered within our area is being or will be satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.

The Local Authority will in accordance with our new duties under the amendments made by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004:

  • Promote awareness, through a publicity campaign aimed at parents, carers, Local Authority staff and other agencies to ensure awareness of the notification requirements;
  • Ensure that advice and support is provided to private foster carers, the parents of the child, any other person with parental responsibility for the child, or any other person concerned with the child as appears to the Local Authority to be needed; and
  • Information and support is provided to privately fostered children;
  • Ensure that all relevant staff have an appropriate understanding of the Local Authorities duties and functions in relation to private fostering via induction and training programmes;
  • Social workers have access to a named person (CSM Lead on Private Fostering) with lead responsibility for private fostering within the authority who has expertise in private fostering;
  • Make available advice and information to foster carers, including prospective private foster carers, parents and others with parental responsibility and privately fostered children;
  • Adhere to the procedures that are in place to enable the Local Authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of privately fostered children in our area is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted; and
  • Inform other agencies of their role in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of privately fostered children, by encouraging notification;
  • Review a sample of individual child and private foster carer records regularly to check such matters as compliance with required timescales for action to be taken on receipt of a notification, decisions about the overall suitability of arrangements and subsequent visits; that additional visits are made when reasonably requested; that children are seen alone, unless it is considered inappropriate (and an independent interpreter where the child's preferred language is not English);
  • Written reports are made in accordance with the regulations; that decisions about the suitability of the arrangement are signed off at managerial level; that concerns raised by privately fostered children are addressed; and the satisfactory operation of all its procedures, and the effectiveness of its actions, in relation to private fostering;
  • Record the information on the numbers of privately fostered children and private foster carers living in our area, including the number of new notifications;
  • Record the number and nature of enquires received in relation to private fostering, the responses given and any action taken;
  • Ensure that accurate, comprehensive, well-organised and confidential records are kept for each privately fostered child and private foster carer.

End