Private fostering arrangements are used across the United Kingdom as a means of caring for children when the 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 grandparents, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles or step parents.
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
Legislation states 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 this 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, they will send a social worker from the Children's Access team to visit the foster family. The social worker will check if the child is safe, assess the suitability of the private foster family and the placement. Following this visit they will present a child care plan to the Child Care Panel for approval. After this a social worker from the Adoption Support Family and Friends Connected Persons team will carry out six weekly visits. 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. As with every other child living in the under a privately fostered child has access to support and local services available from the council.