Private fostering is a means to care for children when their birth parents are unable to do so.
Children under the age of 16, or under the age of 18 if they are disabled, are considered to be privately fostered if they are cared for by an adult who is not a close relative, for more than 28 days.
The arrangement has to be made between the parent of the child and the foster carer. The children Act 1989 describes close relatives as:
A private foster carer is someone who is not a close relative, for example:
- a family friend
- a parent of the child's friend
- an individual who is unknown to the child's family and is willing to care for the child
- an extended family member
The law states that carers, parents and any professional that is aware of a private foster arrangement must notify the council of the plans at least six weeks in advance. If the arrangement is an emergency placement, the carer must contact the council within 48 hours of the child being in their care.
Harrow Council's responsibility to privately fostered children
When Harrow Council is notified of a private fostering arrangement, the Social Work Team will visit the family to undertake an initial private fostering assessment.
The social worker checks if the child is safe, assesses the suitability of the private foster family and the placement. Following this visit they will make a decision as to whether this is a private fostering arrangement. Once it has been agreed that it is a private fostering arrangement, a social worker carries out six-weekly visits in the first 12 months of the placement. This is required by law under the Private Fostering Arrangements 2005.
A register of private fostering arrangements is kept by the council to confirm details of all privately fostered children in Harrow. Privately fostered children have access to support and local services available from the council.