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5.2 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 (CoramBAAF)

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

    Appendix 3: CHPF5 Delegated Authority Medical Treatment

    Appendix 4: CHPF6 Letter Acknowledgment Initial Proposal

    Appendix 5: CHPF9 Declaration of Suitability Private Fostering

    Appendix 6: CHPF11 Letter Medical Reference Private Fostering

    Appendix 7: CHPF18 Private Fostering Agreement


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 migrant children and child victims of modern slavery (DfE).

"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:

  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
    :
  2. Is a child cared for on premises where his/her parents or person/relatives with parental responsibility are living; or
  3. Is a child living in a Children's Home, or 'looked after' child accommodated with Local Authority foster carers; or
  4. Is a 'looked after' child placed by the Local Authority in an Independent Fostering Agency; or
  5. Is a child in accommodation provided for, or on behalf of a voluntary organisation; or
  6. Is a child in the care of any person in compliance with a Supervision Order with conditions; or
  7. Is a child liable to be detained or if subject to guardianship of the Mental Health Act 1983; or
  8. 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
  9. Is a protected child (i.e. subject of a Notice of Intention to Apply for an Adoption); or
  10. 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
  11. Is a child in a Health Service Hospital; or
  12. Is a child in any residential care home, nursing home or mental nursing home; or
  13. 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 Partnership 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.


Appendices

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

Appendix 2: Nottinghamshire Statement of Purpose for Private Fostering

Appendix 3: CHPF5 Delegated Authority Medical Treatment

Appendix 4: CHPF6 Letter Acknowledgment Initial Proposal

Appendix 5: CHPF9 Declaration of Suitability Private Fostering

Appendix 6: CHPF11 Letter Medical Reference Private Fostering

Appendix 7: CHPF18 Private Fostering Agreement

End