Somebody else’s child, everybody’s responsibility! What is private fostering?

When a child or young person, who is under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability) is being looked after by someone who is not a close relative, for 28 days or more, it is called ‘private fostering. It could be a situation like Heather, below, was facing, or even a temporary arrangement, where a child or young person is living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home for example.

As part of Private Fostering Week 3-7 July 2017, an initiative by CoramBAAF Adoption & Fostering Academy, people in Leeds who are aware of such an arrangement are being reminded this week to let Leeds City Council know, to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Although this is done by arrangement between the parent and private foster carer, and not through the local authority or a fostering agency, it is important that the parent and the carer notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is being properly looked after. There may also be some additional support the caring family is entitled to and the local authority may be able to assist with this.

It’s thought there are hundreds of cases of private fostering in Leeds which are not registered with the council. Many of these will be because people just don’t realise that they’re in a private fostering situation. Sometimes parents don’t realise that the arrangements they have made for their child or children are private fostering arrangements. It is important to think about this and let the local authority know.

Read on for Heather’s story…

Heather is a private foster carer for her second cousin Ben after a private fostering assessment was completed in January 2016 when Ben was a year old.

Why was the Private Fostering arrangement made? I have cared for Ben since he was a new born baby; he used to stay over 4-5 times a week after his mum got into a bad relationship. I was always the one who cared for Ben, so he came to live with me and his brother and sister went to live with his maternal aunt. Around Christmas (2015) he came to live here permanently because his mum decided that it would be better for him. Ben is ace. He’s our little star. He’s coming on so much now.

What helped Ben to settle in your care? Just being consistent with him, he needs stability and routine and to know where he’s at. He knows when he’s tired and will come into the living room; get on the sofa with his blanket and go to sleep. He’s doing great, his talking is coming along really well.

What would you say are the positives about Private Fostering? It’s good that Ben has been able to stay with his family. He also gets to see his brother and sister every week as they live with their maternal aunt.

How has Private Fostering impacted on your family relationships? It’s been fine, all the family love him. Everyone’s happy with it and Ben’s mum knows he is better off here for lots of reasons.

We have given Ben’s mum the opportunity to have visits at home with Ben to make him more settled, instead of going out, but these then started to be hit and miss, so we were advised by the social worker to stop the mid-week contact.

We’re currently going through the process of applying for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), to make the arrangement more permanent. Mum and the rest of the family are not contesting it, they are all happy for him to be here. It will be good for ours and Ben’s peace of mind. We just want stability for Ben.

How did you find the private fostering assessment? At first I found it quite scary, the thought of going through a fostering assessment.  It was alright in the end, everything was explained really well to me. I was honest about everything and told her about issues I’d had in the past, before Ben came to live with me. It was a bit nerve wracking but all went okay.

Can you appreciate why we do these assessments? It is intrusive but you have to do it for the sake of the children concerned. The reasons behind the assessments were clearly explained to me, so I understand that you have to do it and agree that it is important for the safety of the children.

Is there anything that could have been done differently to make the experience more reassuring? Not really, it was always explained to us that everything was fine, they were just waiting for the DBS applications to come back and then it could be signed off by the manager. It was great when it was all finally signed off. A big sigh of relief!

Do you feel supported? We have visits from the social worker every four weeks at the moment, to check Ben and to see if we are ok. I can always call her at any time though if I have any worries or concerns, or if anything happened with his birth mum.

What are your hopes and dreams for Ben? I want him to work hard at school and get a good job and be happy, just be happy. He is quite clever and he knows it!

More information on private fostering can be found on Leeds City Council’s website http://www.leeds.gov.uk/foster4leeds/Pages/privatefostering.aspx or by contacting Leeds City Council’s Duty and Advice Team on 0113 2224403 or privatefostering@leeds.gov.uk.

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