Private fostering

What is private fostering?

Private fostering is defined as:

  • when a child under the age of 16 is cared for by someone other than a close relative for 28 days or more. If they have a disability, this is under the age of 18
  • when a child lives with someone from their extended family, such as a great aunt or uncle
  • when a child lives with a friend of the family or of the child

It is not private fostering when a child is living with a close relative. This includes grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles or step-parents.

A parent may be unable to care for their own child because they:

  • were sent to this country for education or health care by parents who live overseas
  • are a teenager living with a friend's family because of issues at home
  • are a child from overseas staying with a host family whilst attending a school or college

People do not realise they have become private foster carers by making informal arrangements with friends.

Read our:

When you must tell us

We have a duty to safeguard the wellbeing of privately-fostered children.

By law, you must inform us:

  • at least six weeks before a child comes to live with you
  • within 48 hours of the child coming to live with you due to an emergency
  • if you already have a child living with you
  • at least 48 hours before a child leaves your care and tell us where they are going

If you do not tell us, you are committing an offence and we may fine you.

What happens next

We will arrange for a social worker to visit you in your home within seven working days.

You must give them information about:

  • the child
  • yourself
  • other members of the household

They will also speak to the child and visit the parents where possible.

They will share information about private fostering and the support available for carers, children and parents.

Your social worker will make regular visits to see the child and review your arrangements. This is to ensure the child is safe and being well cared for.