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5.1.12 Private Foster Carers


This procedure applies to all children who are Privately Fostered and should be read in conjunction with Private Fostering Procedure.


1. List of Common Situations in Which Children are Privately Fostered
1.1 African and African Caribbean Children with Parents or Families Overseas
1.2 Black and Minority Ethnic Children with Parents Working or Studying in the UK
1.3 Some Asylum Seekers and Refugees
1.4 Some Trafficked Children
1.5 Local Children Living Apart from their Families
1.6 Adolescents and Teenagers
1.7 Children Attending Language Schools
1.8 Children at Independent Boarding Schools who do not Return Home for Holiday
1.9 Children Living with Host Families for a Variety of Reasons
1.10 Children Brought in from Abroad with a View to Adoption
2. Assessment of Private Foster Carers

1. List of Common Situations in Which Children are Privately Fostered

1.1 African and African Caribbean Children with Parents or Families Overseas

These children may come from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Their parents may send them to live with distant relatives or other casual acquaintances in the hope that the children will have “a better life” and receive a good education. In these situations parents may remain in the African country, and therefore be unable to exercise their Parental Responsibility effectively. The reason for the children entering the country, and perhaps their parentage, may not be clear at the port of entry because of anxiety about immigration restrictions. Practitioners have noted an increasing group of Caribbean children, in particular Jamaican children, whose parents are also still overseas or in some cases, who have died; these children are likely to be living with extended family or family friends. 

1.2 Black and Minority Ethnic Children with Parents Working or Studying in the UK

Generally these children are babies or very young, their parents have demanding careers or jobs, work unsocial hours (e.g. in the restaurant trade) or may be studying to improve their prospects. They sometimes arrange for their children to be cared for by extended family members (but not members of the immediate family as defined in the Children Act 1989) or by other people known to them from within their own community. Others arrange for their children to be looked after by strangers, identified often through recommendation because the carer(s) have privately fostered other children, or through word of mouth or informal advertisement.

Parents may have approached the Children's Services Department hoping to find a carer but discover that only childminders are available and they cannot have the children overnight for any length of time - and the parents find the fees too expensive. These children, placed outside the community, are often placed transracially in rural areas and their carers may have little understanding of racial identity and the impact of broken attachments and separation. 

1.3 Some Asylum Seekers and Refugees

These children may arrive in this country seeking asylum, travelling with other adults who may not even be known to their family in their country of origin, but because they were brought in by someone they were not considered “unaccompanied” at the time of arrival. Other children, who have acquired refugee status, may be living in similar situations. Their isolation, immigration status, lack of understanding of available services and lack of knowledge of the English language, will all contribute to their vulnerability.

1.4 Some Trafficked Children

These children are brought into this country for the benefit of adults. They may have been “bought” from their birth family in order to be sent as servants to more affluent families, sometimes from a similar background, or they may have been acquired for prostitution (See Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board, Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation - "Safeguarding Children Boards'’ Protocol and Practitioner Guidance). They are generally young teenagers, may not speak the language and are not easily identified as they rarely attend schools. These children are privately fostered by those adults with whom they are living, even though they do not act as parents or are seen as such by the children. These children are at great risk.

1.5 Local Children Living Apart from their Families

Children may live part from their parents for a range of different reasons. They may had had only one parent taking responsibility for them and, due to this parent’s death, imprisonment or working commitments away from home, the child may be living with former neighbours or relatives. Some infants and young children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol may be left with different acquaintances for lengthy periods of time. Others may have parents with mental health problems or simply be unable or unwilling to care for children. Some Caribbean and African children who are born in the UK are cared for in their wider local community, which is an accepted cultural practice.

1.6 Adolescents and Teenagers

These children may be estranged from their own families, perhaps through behaviour their parents find unacceptable. They may have run away because they are unhappy or being abused or they may have been “thrown out” as a result of arguments at home. Sometime their parents’ own relationship may have broken down and the children are considered to be too disruptive to the reconstituted family relationships. Practitioners are observing that many privately fostered teenagers in this category appear to have similar histories and behavioural and emotional profiles to the children in the looked after system. Parents may have tried to get their children accommodated by the local authority without success. Others will have allowed their children to live with family friends or with their older sexual partners or the family home where their boyfriends/girlfriends live. Some of the adults these children find to live with will be grossly unsuitable

1.7 Children Attending Language Schools

Children may be studying English at day language schools and have come from a wide range of countries. Amongst the many thousands who do so, a significant number will stay with host families for periods exceeding the 28 day period or may move between host families for a total period exceeding 28 days which still therefore falls within the private fostering definition. The children’s knowledge of English or of “normal” English family life may be slight and they can be very vulnerable. The school may vet the families to some extent but others will have no safeguards in place at all. Other children may be on holiday exchanges.

1.8 Children at Independent Boarding Schools who do not Return Home for Holidays

Some children may not return to their parents during holidays, particularly where the parents are working overseas, and other people are caring for them (the period of care will need to be over 28 days).

1.9 Children Living With Host Families for a Variety of Reasons

Some charitable organisations and other individuals arrange for children to come into this country for a variety of purposes. These include holidays for disadvantaged children, education, medical treatment and sports trainees (e.g. football). During their stay, they may be placed with host families, these stays will need to be of 28 days duration or more.

1.10 Children Brought in from Abroad With a View to Adoption

Some children bought into this country ostensibly for other reasons but may really be intended to be adopted. Others may form close relationship with the families caring for them and then adoption may be the plan. All of them would legally be defined as privately fostered until formal notice of intention to apply to adopt is given. In addition, some children who are also subject to a form of interim overseas adoption order or “entrustment” which will be finalised in due course in their country of origin are also considered to be privately fostered.

2. Assessment of Private Foster Carers

The assessment of the foster carer should consider the foster carer’s ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, educational, intellectual, social and behavioural needs through appropriate diet, play, exercise, stimulation, encouraging of relationships and social skills, understanding the importance of the child’s self-esteem and ability to work in partnership with the child’s parents. In particular the following should be considered:

  1. The foster carer’s parenting capacity including their attitude to behaviour management and in particular corporal punishment;
  2. The relationships between members of the household;
  3. The foster carer’s understanding of the need for the child to maintain close links with his or her cultural heritage and religion;
  4. The foster carer’s attitude towards the child having contact with the parents and other significant people in his or her life;
  5. The extent of the parents’ involvement and monitoring of the child’s welfare;
  6. The clarity of the purpose and length of the arrangement;
  7. The quality of the relationship between the child and the foster carer;
  8. The willingness of the foster carer to facilitate the child’s contact with the parent and/or siblings;
  9. The foster carer’s understanding of the child’s separation and loss;
  10. The financial arrangements and whether these are appropriate to ensure the child’s continued well-being.

During the assessment, the social worker should advise the foster carer of the desirability of taking out public liability insurance cover or, if this is already included in the household insurance cover, to notify the insurers of the child’s placement.

Advice may also be required in relating to the foster carer’s entitlement to benefits. 

The assessment of the suitability of the accommodation should include the following checks:

  1. The sleeping arrangements - generally a foster child over 2 should not share a bedroom with a teenager, the foster carers or any other adult member of the household; unrelated children of the opposite sex should not share a bedroom over the age of 8; and brothers and sisters should only share a bedroom under the age of 8;
  2. The safety of fires, electrical sockets, windows, floor coverings and glass doors;
  3. Cooking facilities and safety in the kitchen or cooking areas;
  4. Equipment such as cots;
  5. Use of stair gates;
  6. The safety of storage of medicines and dangerous household substances;
  7. The presence of pets and arrangements for their control;
  8. The quality of transport - car seats, safety belts etc;
  9. Washing and toilet facilities;
  10. Outside play space;
  11. Fire safety, smoke detectors and the safe storage of matches;
  12. Access to the garden, safety within it and access to the road.