Private fostering

A young person's guide to being in private foster care

This guide is to help you understand what being in private foster care is all about. It also tells you what to do if something makes you unhappy while you are in private foster care.

What is private foster care?

Being in private foster care means living with someone who is not your parent, close relative or 'official' foster carer arranged by the council.

If you are going to be living away from your relatives for more than a month then there are special rules, and the council will tell one of their social workers to make sure you are being properly cared for.

Will I be allowed to contact my family?

Yes, we think it's very important that you keep in touch with your family.

Why am I in private foster care?

The arrangement has probably been made between your parent and the person you are now living with.  It might be because your parent is ill, or because your mum or dad has had to go away from home to work or study and has asked someone else to look after you, or there may be other reasons why your close family cannot look after you at home.

The main thing to remember is that, whatever the reason, it's not your fault.

Why does a social worker need to call?

A social worker needs to make sure you are being well cared for - the council has to do this by law. When we know that you are being privately fostered, a social worker will call straight away and then visit you at least every six weeks.

What does the social worker do?

The social worker will want to meet you and talk to you and your foster carers, but don't worry; they will want to make this as easy for you as they can and are only coming to make sure you are comfortable, well and safe!

Will the social worker listen to me?

Ask the social worker their name and get to know them well so that you are always able to give your opinion.  You can ask to see the social worker somewhere else if you can't speak freely where you live.

Even if you feel a bit shy or fed up about it, it's your chance to let the social worker know if you have any worries and if you are happy with how things are.

We really want to be sure of this and we will listen and help.

Who decides if I'm safe where I am?

The social worker will find out if the people looking after you can meet your needs and keep you safe and then write a report about this. 

Everyone in the house over 16 will be checked out in various ways to make sure it is safe for you to live there.  We need to know if everyone is well, is able to look after you safely and if they have committed any crimes.

The social worker will talk to your carers and you about all of this before writing the report, and will then take the report to a group of people who will decide if you are in a good place for you to stay.

Do there have to be meetings?

If the group of people - they are called a panel - think that you are in a good place to live, you will be sent a letter about this and the social worker will visit within 10 days of the decision being made.  Your carers will get a letter too, and your mum or dad or the person who has responsibility for you.  After a year there will be a meeting called a 'review' to discuss how you're doing at school, contact with your family, your health and so on.  So that you feel comfortable, this meeting is as friendly as possible and usually takes place where you are living, but you can ask for it to be somewhere else.

Can anyone look after me?

Because we have a duty to keep children safe, there are some people who we won't allow to look after you.  If we think the people you live with are not able to look after you safely, we will tell them and also talk to you and your mum or dad or whoever is responsible for you.

We can then all think about if there is another person you can go to where you can be cared for as you deserve. We will all want to work together to find you the right place to live.

What should my carer do for me?

They should

What should my carer not do?

They should not:

What if I get very ill?

We hope you stay well, but if you need serious medical treatment, your parents' permission will be needed.  If they cannot be found, the most important thing is your health, and doctors will still do whatever is necessary for your safety and health.  Depending on your age, they must also take account of your own views.

What if I do something naughty?

Your carer will want to make sure you follow the rules of the home and don't do things that put you or anyone else in danger: But Private Foster Carers - or any adult - should never hurt you or make you feel frightened.  Sometimes a carer might go too far - so if you are made to feel truly uncomfortable or unhappy, it is important you let a social worker or trusted adult know straight away.

For example, it's OK for someone caring for you to ask you to tidy your room and help with chores as all children usually do.  But it would not be right for them to ask you to clean the house from top to bottom or do something you are not old enough to do, such as ironing or anything that might cause you to hurt yourself.  It also isn't right for you to be asked to stay home to look after someone else so you miss school and get tired and worried.

If you do something wrong, it would be the right thing for your carer to try to explain and teach you what behaviour is acceptable by grounding you or taking away a privilege or treat like watching TV or playing a game. Carers should not hit you or do something like not give you food because you have been naughty.

What if I am not happy in foster care?

Tell your foster carer and talk to your social worker. What they do will depend on why you are not happy. Other people can also help you:

Lots of children of all ages - babies, children who go to primary school and young people who are at secondary school - are in foster care. Your social worker and your foster carer will work together to get the best for your future.

Last Updated: 04/11/2015