Private fostering is where children and young people are looked after by someone who is not a parent or relative for more than 28 days.

Close relatives include grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers or sisters.

The law says you must tell us if you care for a child under 16, or 18 if disabled, under a private fostering arrangement.

Examples of private fostering include:

  • children and young people living apart from their families;
  • minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK;
  • children with parents overseas;
  • children living with host families or "education guardians" for a variety of reasons; and
  • children on holiday exchange.

If you are planning to have your child privately fostered, you should contact us six weeks before the arrangement starts. If it is an emergency arrangement, or the child is already privately fostered, contact us immediately. We will arrange for a social worker to visit within seven days of receiving the notification and, after speaking to the parents, carers and child, will prepare an assessment. The social worker will get to know the child and carers and keep records of how the arrangement is working. It is an offence to refuse to allow a child to be visited.

Information and advice for young people, parents and private foster carers

This information is for you if you are under 16 (under 18 for those with a disability) and:

  • you are living with someone who isn’t your mum, dad or a close relative (a close relative means a grandparent, brother, step-brother, sister, step-sister, aunt, uncle or the civil partner of a close relative); and
  • you will be staying with them for 28 days or more.

If you are in this situation then it is known as private fostering.

There are lots of reasons why your parents might need to ask someone they trust to look after you. You may know the person caring for you well - they may be a family friend or neighbour. But when this happens for more than 28 days it’s called private fostering and there are things you need to know about it and how it affects you.

Some examples of private fostering arrangements are:

  • If you have been living with your friend’s parents for about six weeks because you aren’t getting on with your mum or dad.
  • Your dad has got a new job and works away, you still see your dad at weekends but you live with his girlfriend during the week.
  • If your mum or dad lives overseas and they have asked a friend to look after you in the UK so that you can get a good education.

When you are living with a private foster carer, they have to make sure you are safe and secure, go to school or college, stay healthy and are well cared for.

What you need to do

You need to check that your mum or dad, or the people you’re living with, have told us that you are going to be looked after by someone else. If they haven’t done this, tell them to contact us.

You can also tell a teacher, doctor, school nurse, youth worker, young people’s advisor or another responsible adult if you prefer.

Why we need to know and what we will do

We need to know that you are safe, being cared for properly and are happy with the people you are living with, so a social worker will come and see you and listen to what you have to say.

You will see them regularly and they are always available to talk to if you have a problem. We will also contact your parents to make sure they are happy too.

Having a social worker does not mean you have been taken into care.

Seeing your parents and other relatives when in private fostering

You can still see your mum, dad and other relatives when you are in private fostering. Your mum and dad and the person looking after you should sort this out, and include you in making the arrangements. The social worker will also talk to your mum and dad to make sure they know you are being well looked after and give them any help they need.

If you are unhappy or have a problem

If you have a problem, or are unhappy where you are living, you can talk to your social worker about your worries. They will talk to your parents and your private foster carers to see what can be done to sort out the problem.

If they cannot sort things out for you, they will help you get extra support from the National Youth Advocacy Service.

If you are disabled and almost 18, you can also get help and support from adult social care.

When you want to live back at home

By keeping in contact with you, your social worker, parents and private foster carer, we will agree when this can happen - and we will continue to talk to you and make sure everything works out okay.

This information is for parents to give them a clear understanding of private fostering, their responsibilities, and the role of our children’s social care team.

What private fostering means

Private fostering is when a young person is being cared for by an adult (the ‘private foster carer’) who is not their parent and:

  • is not the young person’s legal guardian or a close relative. Close relatives are grandparents, step-parents, brothers and step-brothers, sisters and step-sisters, aunts, uncles and civil partners of close relatives;
  • the young person is under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled);
  • the adult is planning a private fostering arrangement;
  • the arrangement lasts for more than 28 consecutive days;
  • it is a full time care arrangement; and
  • the young person is living in the private foster carer’s home.

The private foster carer is responsible for the young person’s health, education, and social, physical and emotional needs. They cannot care for more than three young people (excluding their own children) at once.

If you live in North Yorkshire and you are considering a private fostering arrangement for your child, or know that your child is being privately fostered, you must tell us immediatelyIt is an offence not to do this. You will be sent a standard notification form to complete and sign.

Why we have to be involved

A private fostering arrangement does not mean that your child is in care, but our children’s social care team is legally responsible for the welfare of all privately fostered young people in the county and has to make sure that your arrangements are suitable. A social worker needs to be involved and they will provide advice and support to you, your child and the private foster carer.

They can also help by contacting other agencies who may be able to reduce the need for your child to be privately fostered, if that is possible and is the best thing for them.

The next steps after you have contacted us

Once we have been told about the private fostering arrangement, we have a legal duty to check it is suitable. A social worker will visit you and the private foster carer to discuss the plans for your child.

The social worker will have the standard notification form and will complete a private fostering arrangement assessment record to check:

  • the suitability of the private foster carer and the suitability of people over 16 living with them;
  • disclosure and barring service clearance;
  • the suitability of the home where your child will be living;
  • how long the arrangement is expected to last;
  • what your child feels about the arrangement;
  • what arrangements have been made for your child’s health and educational needs;
  • what arrangements have been made for contact between you and your child; and
  • what financial arrangements are in place or are proposed.

The social worker will ask everyone over 16 in the household to sign forms so that checks can be made with the disclosure and barring service, the police, the local council, local doctor and the education authority.

If someone in the household does not agree to this process, we will not be able to check whether the person is suitable to be a private foster carer and the arrangement cannot go ahead.

The social worker will also ask you to make a written agreement with the carer that includes any special arrangements, like managing your child’s health or education needs so that everyone is clear about expectations and responsibilities.

The social worker will be able to help with this by using the private fostering arrangement record. This will ensure that everyone knows about how long the arrangement is expected to last, what the contact arrangements are, and any other details that have been agreed.

All reports and essential information will be sent to a senior manager in children’s social care who will decide if the arrangement is suitable. The social worker will then write to you and the private foster carer with the decision.

The next steps after the arrangement has been agreed

If the arrangement is agreed, the social worker will visit the private foster carer and give them their contact details. The private foster carer can contact them at any time if they have concerns about the welfare of your child or
want to arrange a visit.

The carer will have a fostering social worker to provide support and advice and help access training courses that may help them. They can be referred to the Department for Work and Pensions to see if they are entitled to any benefits if they want. If your child has a different racial, cultural or religious background from their private foster carer, this needs to be considered carefully. The carer will need to think about how they will provide for your child’s particular needs to help them develop a positive sense of identity. This could include getting information in different languages or other formats such as Braille, large print or audio, and these are available from us.

The social worker will give you their contact details so you can get in touch at any time if you have any concerns about the welfare of your child, or if you wish to request a visit from the social worker.

If your child is old enough they will also get the social worker’s contact details and information about what private fostering means for them. If they need physical or learning support the carer will be told about the other agencies that can help. This could include health services, education, housing, youth support services and voluntary agencies.

The social worker will visit every six weeks for the first year and every twelve weeks after that. The social worker will also keep in touch with you and this will continue for as long as the arrangement carries on.

Making the arrangement work

It is important that the private foster carer works with you and the social worker to make the arrangement successful. Private foster carers should arrange regular contact between the young person, your family and friends. They should ask you about your child’s routine to make things as stable and secure as possible, and for any personal items such as toys or photographs that might help them settle into their new home.

You will be encouraged to maintain regular contact with your child and the private foster carer and you must give them a contact address and phone number. You must give this information to the social worker as well.

Financial arrangements

Any financial arrangements you make with the private foster carer will not involve us. The private foster carer can claim child benefit and child tax credit if you are not already claiming it. Financial responsibility for the young person, however, remains with holders of parental responsibility, usually the parents.

If the private foster carer is claiming any benefits they will need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions that they are privately fostering a child. They should also let them know about any money that they are receiving for private fostering.

Changes to the private fostering arrangement

The private foster carer needs to let the social worker know within 48 hours if there are any changes to the private fostering arrangement.

These include:

  • a change of address
  • someone else moving into the house
  • if they, or another person in their household is convicted of a criminal offence;
  • if the child goes missing; and
  • the private fostering arrangement ending - the social worker needs to know the young person’s new address, the new carers and their relationship to the child.

If the arrangement is not agreed

We can stop someone becoming a private foster carer if we decide they or their home are not suitable. If that happens we will write to them explaining why.

If they wish to appeal against this decision they have to do so within 14 days of receiving the written decision. They should contact the social worker first, who will discuss it with the general manager and attempt to resolve it. If this is not successful they may complain to us about this. They may also appeal to the Family Proceedings Court.

We will give you any advice and support you need about making alternative arrangements for your child.

This information is for private foster carers to give them a clear understanding of private fostering, their responsibilities, and the role of our children’s social care team.

What private fostering means

Private fostering is when a young person is being cared for by an adult (the ‘private foster carer’) who is not their parent and:

  • is not the young person’s legal guardian or a close relative. Close relatives are grandparents, step-parents, brothers and step-brothers, sisters and step-sisters, aunts, uncles and civil partners of close relatives;
  • the young person is under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled);
  • the arrangement lasts for more than 28 consecutive days;
  • it is a full time care arrangement; and
  • the young person is living in the private foster carer’s home.

As a private foster carer you will be responsible for the young person’s health, education, and social, physical and emotional needs. You cannot care for more than three young people (excluding your own children) at once.

If you live in North Yorkshire and are intending to foster a young person privately, you must contact us at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start. It is an offence not to do this. You will need to provide written notice of your intention to enter a private fostering arrangement.

If you already care for a young person in a private fostering arrangement you must tell us immediately. In both cases you will be sent a standard notification form to complete and sign.

Why we have to be involved

A private fostering arrangement does not mean that the young person is in care, but our children’s social care team is legally responsible for the welfare of all privately fostered young people in the county and has to make sure that your arrangements are suitable.

A social worker needs to be involved and they will provide advice and support to you, the young person and their parents. They can also help by contacting other agencies who may be able to reduce the need for the young person to be privately fostered, if that is possible and is the best thing for them.

The next steps after you have contacted us

Once we have been told about the private fostering arrangement, we have a legal duty to check it is suitable. A social worker will visit you and the parents to discuss the plans for the young person.

The social worker will request a completed standard notification form and will complete a private fostering arrangement assessment record to check:

  • your suitability and the suitability of people over 16 living with you;
  • disclosure and barring service enhanced checks;
  • the suitability of your home;
  • how long the arrangement is expected to last;
  • what the young person feels about the arrangement;
  • what arrangements have been made for the young person’s health and educational needs;
  • what arrangements have been made for contact between the young person and their parents; and
  • what financial arrangements are in place or are proposed.

The social worker will ask everyone over 16 in your household to sign forms so that checks can be made with the disclosure and barring service, the police, the local council, local doctor and the education authority. If someone does not agree to this process, we will not be able to check whether you are suitable to be a private foster carer.

The social worker will also ask you to make a written agreement with the parents that includes any special arrangements, like managing the young person’s health or education needs, so that everyone is clear about expectations and responsibilities.

The social worker will be able to help with this by using the standard private fostering arrangement record. This will ensure that everyone knows about how long the arrangement is expected to last, what the contact arrangements are, and any other details that have been agreed.

All reports and essential information will go to a senior manager who will decide if the arrangement is suitable. The social worker will then write to you and the parents with the decision.

The next steps after the arrangement has been agreed

If the arrangement is agreed, a social worker will visit you and give you their contact details. You can contact them at any time if you have concerns about the welfare of the young person or wish to request a visit.

You will be offered support and training courses, and you can ask to be referred to the Department for Work and Pensions to see if you are entitled to any benefits. You will need to think about how you will provide for the young person’s particular needs to help them develop a positive sense of identity, and if they have a different racial, cultural or religious background to you this needs to be considered carefully. This could include getting information in different languages or other formats such as Braille, large print or audio, and these are available from us.

If the young person needs physical or learning support you will be told about the other agencies that can help. This could include health services, education, housing, youth support services and voluntary agencies.

The social worker will also give their contact details to the parents so they can get in touch at any time if they have any concerns about the welfare of their child, or if they wish to request a visit from the social worker.

If they are old enough, the young person will also get the social worker’s contact details and information about what private fostering means for them.

The social worker will visit every six weeks for the first year and every twelve weeks after that. The social worker will also keep in touch with the young person’s parents. This will continue for as long as the arrangement carries on. In addition you will receive a social worker from the fostering team to provide support and advice whilst you have a child.

Making the arrangement work

It is important that you work with the young person’s parents and the social worker to make the arrangement successful, and you should arrange regular contact between them and their family and friends.

You should ask the parents about the young person’s routine to make things as stable and secure as possible and ask for any personal items such as toys or photographs that might help them settle into their new home.

The parents will be encouraged to maintain regular contact with you and their child and they must give you a contact address and phone number. They must give this information to the social worker as well.

Financial arrangements

Any financial arrangement you make with the parents will not involve us. You can claim child benefit and child tax credit if the parents are not already claiming it. Financial responsibility for the young person, however, remains with holders of parental responsibility, usually the parents.

If you claim any benefits you will need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions that you are privately fostering a child. You should also let them know about any money you are receiving for private fostering.

Changes to the private fostering arrangement

You must let the social worker know within 48 hours if there are any changes to the private fostering arrangement.

These include:

  • a change of address;
  • someone else moving into your house;
  • if you, or another person in your household is convicted of a criminal offence;
  • if the child goes missing;
  • the death of a young person. You must inform the social worker and the parent within two hours of getting the information;
  • the death of the young person’s parents; and
  • the private fostering arrangement ending - the social worker needs to know the young person’s new address, the new carer and their relationship to the child.

If the arrangement is not agreed

We can stop someone becoming a private foster carer if we decide they or their home are not suitable. If that happens to you we will write to you explaining why.

If you wish to appeal against the decision you will have 14 days of receiving the written decision to do so. You should contact the social worker first, who will discuss the situation with the general manager and attempt to resolve it. If this is not successful you can submit a complaint to us. You can also appeal to the Family Proceedings Court.

We will also give the parents any advice and support they need about making alternative arrangements for the young person.

Professionals and the public are encouraged to notify us about private fostering arrangements so that action can be taken to check those arrangements are suitable for the child.

Contact us if you would like further information about private fostering.

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