Private fostering is a private arrangement between a parent and a carer. When a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) is cared for and provided with accommodation, by an adult who is not a relative, for 28 days or more, it is called private fostering.
A relative in this situation is either a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt. They can be a full or half relation and could be related by marriage. Relatives also include step-parents.
Partners of the mother or father of a child would not qualify as a relative; neither would extended family members such as great aunts, great uncles or parent’s cousins.
There are many reasons why a child may be in a private fostering situation. They include:
- living with a family friend because of a family crisis
- a teenager (possibly a teenage parent) is living with friends or neighbours
- their parents may be studying or working unsociable hours
- refugee and homeless children
- children with parents overseas
- trafficked children
The Council has a legal duty to ensure that children and young people in this situation are safe and properly cared for. Under the Children Act, you must tell the Council if you are entering into a private fostering arrangement.
Please note: it is an offence not to notify the Council of such an arrangement.
Professionals who work with children also have a duty to notify the Council of any private fostering arrangements they know of. For more information about what you should do if you come across a private fostering situation, download the Private fostering: professionals guide.
Private fostering awareness (City of London) app
This app has been created as a resource and training tool to help multi-agency professionals and communities develop an understanding of what private fostering is, why it may happen and their role in identifying and engaging with families caring for a child in a potential private fostering arrangement.
This includes training on issues such as those faced by children from overseas who are living in the UK with somebody other than their parents or legal guardian.
Users are also provided with a digital certificate upon successful completion of a competence test, which assesses your understanding and helps address knowledge gaps.
Overall, use of the app aims to create greater levels of confidence in competence for key practitioners to equip them with the confidence to identify and reflect on children in such situations to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome for all involved.
If someone else is, or will be, looking after your child you must:
- check that the placement is suitable for your child
- contact Hackney Children and Young People’s Services at least six weeks before the arrangement begins or within 48 hours of the arrangement being made in an emergency
You can contact us using the details on the right or below if viewing on a mobile.
What should you tell the carer?
You should make sure that the person who is looking after your child has as much information about them as possible. This will include information about their health, school records, religious and cultural requirements, eating preferences, hobbies, likes and dislikes.
Are you giving up your rights to your child?
You are not giving up any rights to your child, as your child is only being looked after temporarily. You still retain parental responsibility for your child and should be involved in all decisions concerning your child’s development and upbringing. Frequent contact with your child is important so you can help make these decisions.
What will Hackney Children and Young People’s Services do for me and my child?
Hackney has a duty to find out whether the carer is suitable to care for your child. We will make regular visits to see your child and will provide support and advice where appropriate.
What if I can’t find out what is happening to my child?
If you have any concerns about your child’s welfare, do not hesitate – contact us for assistance.
If I intend to foster a child privately, what do I need to do?
You need to contact us as soon as the arrangement is made or at least six weeks before the child comes to you. If it is an emergency situation Children Services should be notified within 48 hours.
What information do I need to have?
You should make sure the child’s parents give you as much information as possible about the child, including their health, school records, religious and cultural requirements, eating preferences, hobbies and likes and dislikes. This will help you understand the child and take better care of him or her.
If I need help or advice while I am privately fostering where do I go?
You should contact us for advice and in some cases a range of support services may be available to you.
Will I be able to claim Social Security benefits?
You may be able to claim tax credits and/or social security benefits such as Child Benefit and possibly Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance, if you receive Child Benefit. Your local Benefits Agency office will be able to advise you.
What do I do when the child leaves my care?
You must tell us within 48 hours that the child has left your care. You must also give the name and address of the person who will be caring for the child in the future.
Information for children and young people who are privately fostered
How do I know if I am privately fostered?
You are considered privately fostered if you’re under 16 (or under 18 if you’re disabled) and your parents or close family member asks someone who is not a close relative to look after you in their own home, as if you were their own child, for 28 days or more.
The person who looks after you in their home is called a private foster carer. A close relative is defined as step-parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood, half blood or by marriage).
The Council has a duty to make sure that every child in Hackney is safe and properly cared for. If you are being privately fostered we need to know who is looking after you and where you live. You can contact us using the details on the right or below if viewing on a mobile.
For more information on private fostering see our private fostering young person’s guide