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How to identify private fostering arrangements

Private fostering is not the same as fostering

Private fostering is very different from the care of children by the local authority through approved foster carers.

Many privately fostered children experience feelings of loneliness, confusion and anxiety. These feelings are commonly associated with being separated from their birth families. 
If we aren't informed of private fostering arrangements the private foster carer and the young person will not be able to access the support that is available to them.

The legislation about private fostering arrangements is within the Children's Act, 1989 (opens new window). The legal definition of private fostering arrangements is an arrangement that occurs when a child who is under 16 (if disabled, under 18) is cared for by someone other than their parent or a close relative, with the intention that it should last for 28 consecutive days or more. 

Private foster carers are not approved as local authority foster carers and usually have had no training to become carers. Families find private foster carers themselves, and it is their responsibility to find carers that are suitable.

The definition of a close relative is:

  • step-parents, 
  • grandparents, 
  • brothers or sisters, 
  • uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity).


Examples of private fostering arrangements

Each private fostering arrangement will be different, depending on the child's circumstances and needs. Examples of private fostering arrangements may include:

  • a teenager living with friend's family because they don't get on with their own family.
  • children living with a friend's family because their parents study or work unsociable hours, which makes it difficult to use ordinary day care or after-school care. 
  • children staying with another family because their parents have separated or divorced.
  • a child from overseas staying with a host family while attending a language school, or overseas students at boarding school who stay with a host family during the holidays.

Private fostering could be in place if:

  • the child has mentioned that they are not staying at their usual home or their parents are away for a long time.
  • the carer seems vague about the child's routines. For example bedtimes, their health history, development checks and immunisation record.
  • the school has been informed of a change of address for the child.
  • someone else is collecting the child from school.

Download  Private Fostering - information and flowchart (PDF) [133KB]

Download  Private Fostering - Poster (PDF) [280KB]

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