Private fostering – advice for children, young people & families
Are you under 16 (or under 18 if you have a disability) and living with an adult who is not your parent or a close family member for more than 28 days?
Your mum or dad might not be able to look after you for different reasons. They may think it’s best to ask another adult to look after you for a while, or you may have made this decision for yourself.
Are you looking after somebody else’s child or teenager?
Have you arranged with their parents to care for a child or young person who is not a close relative for more than 28 days?
In both cases this is called a private fostering arrangement – and both the carer and the parents have a responsibility to inform children’s social care of the arrangement.
Private fostering is when a child who under 16 years of age (or under 18 if they have a disability) is living and being looked after for more than 28 days by someone who is not:
- a parent;
- a close relative i.e. grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or step-parent; or
- a person with parental responsibility for the child.
This does not include a child looked after by the Local Authority.
There are lots of reasons why children are privately fostered including:
- children who live with a friend’s family because their parents have separated or divorced or because of arguments at home
- teenagers who live with their girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s family
- children or teenagers on holiday exchanges for more than 28 days
- children at independent boarding schools who do not return home for holidays and live with host families
- children sent to this country for education or for medical needs by their parents who live overseas.
The law says that a social worker must make sure that the child is well looked after where they are living. A social worker is a person employed by the council whose job it is to make sure children and young people are properly cared for. They will come to visit and make sure the child is happy living with the private foster carer and they will talk to the person caring for them to see if they need any help.
What Manchester City Council Children’s Social Care must do
The council (MCC) has a legal requirement to assess and review all private fostering arrangements notified to them.
Their aim is to ensure that all private foster placements benefit children and that those who plan to look after them, their parents and the children or young people themselves are aware of the help and support that they can be provided with.
To achieve this Children’s Social Care will:
- check on the suitability of private foster carers
- make regular visits to the child
- ensure that advice and support is made available when needed
- monitor the overall standard of care
MCC’s private fostering page on its website at www.manchester.gov.uk explains what private fostering is and provides advice and guidance to parents/carers, host families, children and young people.
Benefits of letting the Council know
As a parent or carer you have a duty to notify the Council in which you live of a private fostering arrangement.
Private foster carers will receive support and advice and will have access to information which will help them understand their rights and tasks as private foster carers.
Children and young people will have access to support and information which will help them to understand what the private fostering arrangement means.
Parents will receive valuable advice and information about setting up and maintaining the private fostering arrangement.
Caring for a close relative
You may have chosen to care for a child who is a close relative after making an arrangement with their parents due to difficult family circumstances. This is a private arrangement of informal family care between you and the parents, the parental responsibility remains with the birth parents and the duration of the arrangement will be subject to their discretion.
You don’t need to notify the council and they don’t need to be involved in approving or supervising these arrangements.
However you may decide to go further and request to have parental responsibility for the child. To do this you will need to go to court to apply for a legal order.
A legal order such as a Residence Order or a Special Guardianship Order would give you parental responsibility. That would mean you had the legal right to raise the child, and make some important decisions about the child. You could apply for one of these legal orders before the child comes to stay with you, or after the child has been living with you for a while.
You can find out more about looking after a child who is a close relative on the Family Rights Group website at www.frg.org.uk/
Adoptive parents and foster carers
If you are looking for information about fostering visit the fostering section of the Manchester City Council website at www.manchester.gov.uk
If you are thinking of adopting a child speak to the regional adoption agency – Adoption Counts on 0300 123 2676 or visit their website at adoptioncounts.org.uk