Do you ever work with children or young people?
Do you know the law about ‘private fostering’ and why it means local authorities need to know?
To keep children safe we need everyone who works with children and families to help. If your role involves supporting families, you may well have come across families who have someone else’s child living with them for some reason. Although there is a legal requirement of parents and private foster carers to notify the local council if this happens, people are often not aware of this and so they miss out on essential welfare checks for the children and other support.
To help us keep children safe and support families, we need support from partners – for instance people working in education, housing and benefits, police, fire service, probation, health service, home office, social workers and third sector. If you recognise when private fostering may be happening and notify us, we can put in place the support and checks necessary.
The following case studies are real examples from Leeds where partners have shared information and we’ve seen the families get a positive outcome as a result.
Callum – 15 years old – was referred when his father went into hospital after a serious health deterioration
Although he had limited speech the father was able to communicate to the staff nurse he wished for his best friend to have the care of his children (Callum and his older brother) while he was recovering in hospital. As Callum was under the age of 16 years and was likely to be looked after for more than 28 days by someone that was not a close relative, following advice from the safeguarding nurse that, the staff nurse made a referral. Both brothers and the carer met with a social worker shortly after the referral and were able to share their concerns and worries. The social worker was also able to provide reassurance by explaining the process and the purpose of our involvement. At the first visit Callum was seen on his own to hear his views and wishes. He explained he has some special needs and he felt his father’s friend understood him and was very good at providing a predictable routine where he felt safe. We could then reassure him that private foster care doesn’t mean coming into care, but it is a private arrangement between his father and his friend and our job was just to ensure this was a suitable arrangement, one where his views and wishes mattered.
Six year old Ruby’s single mother was remanded in custody
Probation services contacted us when Ruby’s mum was remanded in custody and had to rely on her best friend to look after her 6 year old daughter, Ruby at short notice. Ruby came to live with her mother’s best friend – now her private foster carer – in Leeds. We visited Ruby’s mother in prison to reassure her and hear what we could do to make things better. We supported Ruby’s private foster carer who had four of her own children. We helped her sort out child benefit and child tax credits and made sure some furniture (a bed and a wardrobe) was sorted out for Ruby. Ruby’s mother felt very ashamed to be in prison and we supported her and Ruby’s private foster carer to be honest with Ruby and talked about the benefits of regular family day visits to the prison. This meant mum and daughter kept in touch by phone and seeing one another monthly eased Ruby’s transition back to her mother’s care when she came out of prison 6 months later.
A great aunt looking after Lucy (9 years old) following her mother being alcohol dependent
Housing workers made a referral after they received a housing application from an applicant who was living in a flat for over 55 residents and felt this was not appropriate for her great niece who was living with her. Lucy found it hard not to be able to play outdoors, take the lift on her own and needing to be quiet indoors. We visited Lucy and her great aunt- now also her private foster carer. From getting to know them and completing various checks we were able to advise and put in place a safeguard plan for contact between Lucy and her mother to ensure she was not exposed to her mother’s drinking. Lucy also felt very ashamed as her mother had come to her school on occasion when she was under the influence and she was scared it might happen again. We were able to reassure Lucy everyone was working together and there was a plan in place to make sure she was safe in school. Lucy also has a social worker who meets with her at least every six weeks to check in with her and help with her worries and they get to go to the park and have a burger for a catch up. Even better, close working with Housing has meant Lucy and her private foster carer were supported to move to a 2 bedroom terrace with their own garden and a park nearby. This means Lucy meets up with her friends and is able to socialise like any other teenager, not having to worry about getting into trouble for being too loud!
Most arrangement are perfectly fine, but if the local authority knows about a case, then the private foster carers can be given advice and support they need.