A carers' guide to private foster care
What is private foster care?
Children are sometimes placed by their parents, or persons with legal responsibility for them, in the care of someone who is not a close relative. This is called 'Private Fostering'. It is Private Fostering whether or not the parent pays the carer.
It is not a private fostering arrangement if a close relative is asked by a parent to look after a child. To be classed as a 'close' relative you need to be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or sister. Half and step-relatives of those categories are also considered close relatives.
What must I do?
If you are neither an approved foster carer nor a close relative, and the child living with you is below minimum school leaving age and is going to live with you for more than 28 days, this is a Private Fostering arrangement and The Children Act 1989 says you must tell us as soon as possible. We have a duty by law to ensure the child's needs are being met in your care. We can also try to help you with any information or advice you need and may be able to link you with some support systems.
Who must I tell?
- First Response Team Manager
- Children and Young People’s Services
Halifax HX1 1UN
- 01422 393336.
What will happen then?
We want to make sure that the child is safe, happy and well. We will put the child first and work in partnership with you and the parents. Responsible parents often make good arrangements for the care of their children, and where this is the case we aim to intrude as little as possible, whilst safeguarding the child.
- We will assess the child's needs and whether the private fostering arrangement is good for the child.
- We will assess your suitability as carer, checking and involving other agencies.
- We will help you and the parents to draw up a support plan for the child. This will include the child's emotional, educational, health and cultural needs.
- We will provide information about other sources of help for you and the child.
- We will monitor the situation.
What will need to be considered?
The social worker will prepare a report about the suitability of the child's placement with you. This will be presented to a group of people authorised to make decisions about children's placements.
The social worker will need to discuss:
- The reasons for placement.
- The difference between your role and that of approved foster carers.
- The fact they must by law visit your home and inspect it for safety.
- The importance of the child keeping in contact with parents and birth family.
- Effects of separation and loss on children.
- Your experience of looking after children.
- Strategies you will have for dealing with difficult situations and behaviours.
- Implications for the rest of your family and household.
- Meeting the medical and dental needs of the child.
- The child's education.
Will other people be involved?
You will be asked to sign a form to give permission for various checks to be done. These are for safety reasons and will be done for you and anyone in your household 16 years of age or over. You will be asked to fill in a Criminal Records Bureau form to check for criminal convictions - please note not all convictions debar from fostering. You will need to provide proof of identity to be sent with the form, eg passport and birth certificate. The social worker will set in motion various record checks and checks with your GP and the NHS. If there are any issues, they will be discussed openly with you. The social worker must also make enquiries about the child's health and discuss any important issues.
Are some people not allowed to foster?
Some people are forbidden to foster privately, for example:
- Anyone whose registration as a foster carer or childminder has been cancelled.
- Anyone who has a court order made against them for the removal of the child concerned or of any child from their care.
- Anyone who has been convicted of an offence of a violent or of a sexual nature against children or young people.
Other crimes if serious or multiple can also debar from fostering. A senior manager will take decisions about this depending on the nature and number of crimes.
What if I am approved?
If you are approved, letters will be sent to:
- the child or young person and those with parental responsibility
- the social worker
- your GP
and the social worker will visit you to discuss what happens next within 10 days or the decision being made.
What if I am not approved?
You have the right to appeal against this decision, and this should be made in writing within ten working days of receiving the notification. Your letter of appeal should include the reasons why you wish to appeal against the decision. Your appeal will be heard by our Private Fostering Appeals Sub Committee.
You will have a further right of appeal to Calderdale Family Proceedings Court, Harrison Road, Halifax should your appeal to the Private Fostering Appeals Sub Committee be unsuccessful.
How should I treat the child?
Private Foster Carers - or any adult! - should of course not hurt children or make them feel unhappy or frightened. But you will need to make sure a child obeys sensible rules and doesn't put people in danger. If the child feels you go too far or are too rough, they have the right to let a social worker or any trusted adult know straight away.
For example, as a helpful guide:
- It may be right and necessary for a carer to ask a child to tidy their room and help with chores as all children usually do.
- It would not be right for a carer to ask them to clean the house from top to bottom, do something they are not old enough to do (for example ironing or any chore that might cause the child to hurt him or herself) or stay home to look after someone so the child misses school and gets tired or anxious.
In terms of discipline:
- It is fine to tell a child off, explain where they went wrong, take away a privilege or ground them if warranted.
- It is not right to hit, constantly undermine or verbally abuse a child or withhold food as a punishment.
If you are in doubt or need guidance, we will be happy to help!
Do's and don'ts
When you are privately fostering you will need to take care to provide the basic requirements for the child and may need to seek advice on certain actions.
Some things private foster carers should do:
- Keep a child safe at all times and in all ways.
- Give a child regular meals like breakfast, lunch and supper.
- Make sure a child can keep clean and have their hair and skin well looked after.
- Make sure a child has warm, clean clothes and a bed of his / her own.
- Make sure a child goes to school and has support to learn.
- Take a child to the doctor or hospital if sick or if they have an accident or need vaccinations.
- Take a child to the dentist.
- Make sure a child has a chance to make friends and enjoy sports and hobbies.
- Help a child stay in touch with parents and other family members.
- Help a child follow their religion and customs.
As a private foster carer, you need to seek parental permission to:
- Change a child's name.
- Change a child's school.
- Move a child to another family.
- Take a child to another part of the country.
- Take a child to another country.
If a child needs serious medical treatment, it is best to seek permission. No child should be put in danger however - if a parent cannot be found and it's an emergency, the child must go to a doctor or hospital and doctors will take decisions about treatment based on what is in the child's interest.