View London Child Protection Procedures View London Child Protection Procedures

5.1 Private Fostering

AMENDMENT

This chapter was slightly amended in April 2013 in regard to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).


Contents

  1. Background Information
  2. Statement of Purpose
  3. Definition of Private Fostering
  4. Duties of Local Authorities
  5. Notification of a Proposal to Privately Foster a Child
  6. Response to Notification and Assessment
  7. Disqualifications
  8. Requirements, Prohibitions and Appeals
  9. Visits to Privately Fostered Children
  10. Notification of Changes
  11. Termination of Private Fostering Arrangements
  12. Monitoring and Review

    Appendix 1: Guidance for Undertaking Assessments of Private Fostering Arrangements

    Appendix 2: Declaration of Suitability to Privately Foster – pro forma


    Appendix 3: Practice Flowchart


1. Background Information

The National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering came into force on 18 July 2005, alongside the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. 

The 2005 Regulations are made under the Children Act 1989. The National Minimum Standards are issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which requires local authorities in their social care functions to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State. As such, the National Minimum Standards do not have the full force of statute, but should be complied with unless local circumstances indicate exceptional reasons which justify a variation. They both can be found at the Department for Education website.

This chapter sets out how these requirements will be translated into operational practice in Hillingdon. The practice will be monitored by OFSTED which views the way in which a local authority discharges its duties and functions in relation to Private Fostering within the context of the performance assessment of local councils’ social services. The Local Safeguarding Children Board will also scrutinise these operations at a local level.


2. Statement of Purpose

The local authority has a written Statement of Purpose, available on Horizon, the Hillingdon Council website, which sets out its duties and functions in relation to Private Fostering, and the ways in which they will be carried out. This chapter should be read in conjunction with the statement of purpose.


3. Definition of Private Fostering

A Private Fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative, with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more. Private foster carers may be from the extended family such as a cousin or great aunt. However, a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989, i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent, will not be a private foster carer.

A private foster carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child, or someone previously unknown to the child's family who is willing to privately foster a child.

The period for which the child is cared for by the private foster carer should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break. Exemptions to this definition are set out in Schedule 8 to the Children Act 1989.

The private foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child in a way which will promote and safeguard his or her welfare. Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the Privately Fostered child remains with the parent, or other person with Parental Responsibility.


4. Duties of Local Authorities

It is the duty of all local authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children Privately Fostered in their area is adequately safeguarded and promoted; and that advice is given to children, parents and carers whenever necessary. It is important for the local authority to provide the child’s parents with details as to their continued Parental Responsibility, and to their right of contact with their child.

The local authority needs to adopt a proper balance of ensuring that parents have the right to make private arrangements for the care of their children, whilst at the same time fulfilling its duty to ensure that the welfare of the child is being met.

4.1 The Welfare Principle

The welfare of the child is paramount and is defined by the following principles:

  1. Assessing the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (depending on the child’s age and level of understanding);
  2. Assessing his/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
  3. Assessing the likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances;
  4. Assessing any harm which s/he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  5. Assessing his/her age, sex, background and any other areas that professionals consider relevant;
  6. Assessing how capable each of his or her parents and any other person (e.g. private foster carer - see below) is of meeting his or her needs.

4.2 Extension of the duties under Sections 67(1) and 67(5) of the Children Act 1989

Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 amends section 67(1) of the Children Act 1989 to extend the duty of local authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are Privately Fostered within their area is being adequately safeguarded and promoted, to include children who are proposed to be, but not yet, privately fostered.

Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 also amends section 67(1) to extend the duty of local authorities to give advice to parents or other persons with Parental Responsibility, those proposing to privately foster a child, private foster carers themselves and/or any other person concerned with the child.

Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 amends section 67(5) so that the current duties of a local authority, where it is not satisfied that the welfare of a Privately Fostered child is being adequately safeguarded and promoted, will apply in the case of children who are proposed to be privately fostered.


5. Notification of a Proposal to Privately Foster a Child

When it is proposed that a child will be Privately Fostered, the local authority must be notified at least 6 weeks before the date on which the Private Fostering arrangement is to begin; or immediately where the arrangement has already begun; or is to begin within 6 weeks.  

For action required on receipt of a notification, see Section 6, Response to Notification and Assessment

There are a number of people and organisations who have responsibility for notification of a proposal to privately foster a child. These include;

  • A person who proposes to privately foster a child;
  • Any person, including a parent or other person with Parental Responsibility for a child, who is involved (whether or not directly) in arranging for the child to be Privately Fostered (such as a language school arranging for a student to be privately fostered by a host family);
  • Any person who knows (whether involved or not) that it is proposed that the child should be privately fostered. (Such a person may be a health visitor, teacher or immigration officer).

When receiving a notification, it is important to ensure that the following information is obtained:

  • The name, sex, date and place of birth, religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background of the child;
  • The name and current address of the person giving the notice and his/her addresses within the previous 5 years;
  • The name and current address of the proposed or current private foster carer and his/her addresses within the previous five years;
  • The name and current address of the parents of the child and of any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child, and (if different) of any person from whom the child is to be, or was, received;
  • The name and current address of the minor siblings of the child, and details of the arrangements for their care;
  • The name and current address of any person, other than the parents of the child, who has Parental Responsibility for the child or (if different) any person from whom the child is to be, or was, received, who is or was involved (whether or not directly) in arranging for the child to be Privately Fostered;
  • The date on which it is intended that the Private Fostering arrangement will start, or on which it did start;
  • The intended duration of the private fostering arrangement.

Additional information to be provided by a person who proposes to privately foster a child (and who gives notification under Regulation 3(1)) includes any offence of which he/she or anyone living in the household has been convicted and any orders made with respect of a child who has been in his/her care.


6. Response to Notification and Assessment

On receipt of a notification a duty social worker from the Referral and Assessment Team will undertake a Private Fostering assessment, with the use of an interpreter, if necessary. This assessment will include speaking to the proposed carer and all members of the household and ascertaining the child’s wishing and feelings. If practicable, the assessment will also include a visit to the parents or persons with Parental Responsibility for the child.

This visit to the private foster carers and the child should occur immediately in the case of a child already Privately Fostered, and within seven days of receipt of a notification of a proposed Private Fostering arrangement. Any circumstances in which it is proposed that a child lives away from his birth parents will be regarded as a safeguarding matter. Even if there is doubt about whether it fits the definition of private fostering, the worker will complete full agency and Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) checks for all adults and children over the age of 16 years living in the household as required in a Section 47 Enquiry. A full DBS check will be applied for at this time.

The completed Private Fostering assessment will include:

  • A clear agreement of the intended duration and financial arrangements of the Private Fostering arrangement, and who will take responsibility for day-to-day decision making with regard to the child;
  • The suitability of the proposed accommodation;
  • The capacity of the proposed private foster carer to look after the child and meet the child’s health and education needs. If the arrangement is already in place the assessment would include whether the child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development is appropriate and adequate; and whether the child’s needs arising from his religious beliefs, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  • Arrangements for contact between the child and his/her parents, any other person with Parental Responsibility, and other persons who are significant to him/her.

Where the child appears to be at risk of Significant Harm, the London Child Protection Procedures will be followed.

A copy of the child's birth certificate should be obtained during the assessment process.

This assessment should be completed within seven days. In the unlikely event of this not occurring the local authority must visit the placement on a weekly basis until completion.

The completed Private Fostering assessment, along with the Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) and other agency checklist, will be passed to the Service Manager for Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance (or his/her deputy) to consider whether to grant interim approval of the placement. The Service Manager may also grant interim approval with requirements, or may issue a prohibition statement if approval is refused - see Section 8, Requirements, Prohibitions and Appeals.

The case will then be transferred to the Child in Need (CIN) Team for an updated assessment which will take into account all the information received from background checks, e.g. an enhanced DBS check on the private foster carer/s and all members of the household aged over 16.

The actual or proposed private foster carer and each member of his household aged over 16 should be asked to provide written consent for such a check to be carried out by completing a Declaration of Suitability to Foster Children Privately (see Appendix 2: Declaration of Suitability to Privately Foster - pro forma). 

The updated assessment should be completed within 35 days of the initial Private Fostering assessment, and will include a detailed analysis of the issues addressed in the initial private fostering assessment (detailed above) and the results of the full DBS check on the private foster carer/s and all members of the household aged over 16. 

Appendix 1: Guidance for Undertaking Assessments of Private Fostering Arrangements contains detailed practice guidance for the carrying out of this assessment.

A particular emphasis of this assessment will be to explore the parenting capacity of the proposed private foster carers, and what it will be like to look after someone else’s child, and what constitutes “good enough parenting”. In these circumstances, the updated assessment should also consider whether the child is in need of services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and whether a Child in Need Plan is required.

Where the child appears to be at risk of Significant Harm, the London Child Protection Procedures will be followed.

The updated assessment and DBS check will be signed off by the CIN Team Manager and Service Manager for the Referral and Assessment Team, with a recommendation for a Child in Need Plan, Child Protection Plan or a Private Fostering arrangement. This will be passed to the Private Fostering Panel which will consider the information in the reports and make a decision about final approval or otherwise of the private fostering arrangements. The report should include:

  • Consideration of the extent to which the child’s identified needs are being, or will be, met and the need for support and/or services;
  • A recommendation as to whether it is necessary to impose one or more requirements under paragraph 6 of Schedule 8 to the Children Act 1989 – see Section 8, Requirements, Prohibitions and Appeals;
  • A recommendation as to whether it is necessary to impose a prohibition under section 69 of the Children Act 1989 or a prohibition with conditions upon non-compliance with requirements under section 69(5) of the Children Act 1989; (Prohibitions may be issued for example, if it is discovered that a private carer has offences against children, or is a Disqualified Private Foster Carer or has been barred by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)) – see Section 7, Disqualifications and Section 8, Requirements and Prohibitions.


7. Disqualifications

Certain individuals are automatically disqualified from being private foster carers due to past activities or offences as contained in Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002.

These are any one who has:

  • Any specified offences against a child of which they have been convicted, which includes any offence involving bodily injury to a child;
  • Any disqualification or prohibition e.g. where a person’s registration as Childminder has been refused or cancelled, or where a person has been disqualified from acting as a local authority foster carer or where they have been refused registration as a provider of residential care or where their registration as a provider of residential care has been cancelled;
  • Any such convictions, disqualifications or prohibitions imposed on any other person living or employed at the same household;
  • Had a child removed from their care as a result of a Court Order.

The Act requires persons who are privately fostering or who notify of their intention to do so to tell the local authority about any disqualifications.

The local authority has discretionary powers to lift the disqualification and thus allow the person to privately foster. However, these powers should be used only in exceptional circumstances and any consideration given to lifting disqualifications will be subject to the approval of the Private Fostering Panel and after legal advice has been obtained. In order to make this decision, the report to the Private Fostering Panel will require the following information:-

  • The date of the offence or Court Order;
  • The type of offence or Court Order;
  • The person’s activity and involvement with children since the offence or Court Order;
  • The background information related to the offence or Court Order.

If the Private Fostering Panel refuses to lift the disqualification, the person should be informed in writing of the reasons and they should be informed of their right to appeal and the time limits.


8. Requirements, Prohibitions and Appeals

8.1 Requirements

Paragraph 6 of Schedule 8 of the Children Act 1989 gives examples of restrictions that can be placed on the private foster carers. These include:

  • The number, age and sex of the children who may be Privately Fostered;
  • The standard of accommodation and equipment to be provided for them;
  • The arrangements to be made with respect to their health and safety;
  • Any particular arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care for the child.

There should be no more than three Privately Fostered children, who are not relatives, in the same placement at any one time. If a private foster carer exceeds the usual fostering limit or, where exempted, privately fosters a child not named in the exemption and in so doing exceeds the usual Private Fostering limit, s/he shall be treated as carrying on a children’s home. Any person who carries on a children’s home without being registered in respect of the home under the Care Standards Act 2000 is guilty of an offence (see section 11 of that Act).

Any decision to impose a requirement must be recorded, with reasons, and notice of the decision and reasons must be served on the private foster carer, with information as to the right to appeal within 14 days of receipt of the notice – see Section 8.3, Appeals.

Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with, the social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Private Fostering Panel recommending that the private foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out in Section 8.2 must be followed.

8.2 Prohibitions

Where the local authority does not deem a private foster carer as suitable to care for other people’s children, it can impose a prohibition, preventing the person from privately fostering. This must be sent in writing and contain information about the appeal process. The parent must also be notified of the decision and appropriate steps taken to secure a safe placement for the child.

A person may be prohibited from fostering privately any child within the area of the authority, any child on the premises in question, or an identified child in specified premises. A prohibition may be cancelled by a local authority if it thinks fit either of its own motion or an application if the local authority is satisfied the prohibition is no longer justified – see Section 69 Children Act 1989.

Where there are concerns about the welfare of a child in a Privately Fostered arrangement that has previously been approved it is the duty of the local authority to inform the parents and to take whatever steps are necessary to secure the child’s safety.

8.3 Appeals

At each stage of the approval process there is a right of appeal by the private foster carers, the birth parents and the child - see Schedule 8 paragraph 8 Children Act 1989. Following the appeals process there is full access to the complaints procedure of the local authority, if agreement has not yet been reached.


9. Visits to Privately Fostered Children

The local authority must arrange for an officer of the authority to visit every Privately Fostered child in their area at a minimum of six weekly in the first year after the arrangement has become known to the local authority, and thereafter at a minimum of three monthly intervals. Additional visits should be carried out when reasonably requested by the child, the private foster carer or any person with Parental Responsibility for the child.

During these visits the child should, unless inappropriate, be spoken to alone with the use of an interpreter if necessary.

The officer must make a written report to the local authority after each visit to a Privately Fostered child, which should include the conclusions drawn, whether the child was seen alone and, where appropriate, the reasons why the officer considered it inappropriate to see the child alone. 

The Private Fostering arrangement is deemed to begin when the local authority became aware of it, even if at that time the arrangement had in fact been going on for some years.

It is an offence for a private foster carer to refuse to allow a child to be visited or to obstruct an authorised officer, who has reasonable cause to believe that a Privately Fostered child is being cared for, or is proposed to be cared for within the authority’s area, from any exercise of any duty towards the child. An officer encountering any difficulties should discuss the problem with a senior manager and legal advisers. In such cases, an application for a warrant under section 102 of the Children Act 1989 may be necessary to support the power of entry.

Visits must be recorded on the child’s electronic Client System (Protocol) using the agreed exemplar and will be tracked and monitored, via the excel spreadsheet, by the Manager in the CIN Team. See also Section 12, Monitoring and Review. The case should be returned to the Private Fostering Panel after one year if consideration is being given to reducing the frequency of visiting. It is only the Private Fostering Panel that can authorise such a reduction.


10. Notification of Changes

Any change of address or circumstances of the private foster carer and/or household must be notified to the local authority in advance if practicable and, in any other case, within 48 hours. All changes must be recorded on the child’s electronic record.

If the private foster carer moves into the area of another local authority, the authority to whom the notification is given must pass on to the authority of the new address:

  • The name and new address of the private foster carer;
  • The name of the child who is being privately fostered;
  • The name and address of the child’s parents or any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child.

In informing another local authority that a private foster carer has moved to their area it is good practice to draw the authority’s attention to any important matters relating to the welfare of the child e.g. a disability or health condition, any Special Educational Needs or the suitability of the private foster carer. It is also good practice for the local authority to notify other agencies, e.g. the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s), of a change in address if the child has special health needs.

If the notification relates to a conviction for a further offence, the nature of the offence must be obtained by the social worker involved to determine the impact it may have on the care of the Privately Fostered child and if it disqualifies the carer from privately fostering. In the event that the notification relates to a disqualification being imposed on the private foster carer or any other member of the household, the procedure for disqualifications must be followed - see Section 7, Disqualifications

If the notification relates to a new member of the household, the social worker should  arrange for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and medical checks to be undertaken if the person is over 16 years old.


11.Termination of Private Fostering Arrangements

Any person who ceases to foster a child privately must notify the local authority within 48 hours and must include in the notice the name and address of the person into whose care the child was received. This notice is not required where the private foster carer intends to resume the Private Fostering arrangement after an interval of not more than 27 days. If she/he subsequently abandons his/her intention or does not resume the arrangement within 27 days, she/he must give notice to the local authority within 48 hours.

Where a Private Fostering arrangement terminates because of the death of the child, the local authority should ensure that the parent is notified immediately.

The local authority should then follow the London Child Protection Procedures – see Child Death Overview Panel Procedure. A Serious Case Review will be considered by the Local Safeguarding Children Board under the provisions of Chapter 4 of Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.


12. Monitoring and Review

Private fostering arrangements will be regularly monitored and reviewed.

An updated assessment will be required to be presented to the Private Fostering Panel on an annual basis for re-consideration of the suitability of the arrangement. This will include any recommendation for a reduction in the frequency of visits to the child.

In addition a member of the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service will audit a sample of individual child and private foster carer records regularly to check the following;

  • Compliance with required timescales for action to be taken on receipt of a notification;
  • Decisions about the overall suitability of arrangements and subsequent visits;
  • That additional visits are made when reasonably requested;
  • That children are seen alone, unless it is considered inappropriate (and with an independent interpreter where the child’s preferred language is not English);
  • That written reports are made in accordance with the Regulations;
  • Compliance with Panel requirements;
  • That any safeguarding concerns have been addressed.

The Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service is responsible for undertaking this audit and will produce a summary report for the Assistant Director of Education and Children’s Services, and for the Local Safeguarding Children Board, as requested.


Appendix 1: Guidance for Undertaking Assessments of Private Fostering Arrangements

1. INTRODUCTION

Local authorities need to have in place and implement effectively, procedures for determining the suitability of all aspects of a Private Fostering arrangement, and for ascertaining that private foster carers, and their household and premises, provide an environment in which the child’s welfare will be safeguarded and promoted. Local authorities are expected to make a decision about the suitability of all aspects of an arrangement within 42 working days from notification or as soon as the outcome of the DBS check(s) is known, whichever is the sooner. This timescale relates to that needed to undertake an Assessment in accordance with the Working Together 2015. A private fostering assessment format has been approved by the Department for Education to capture this information. This format must be used by practitioners undertaking a private fostering assessment.

2. CAPACITY TO LOOK AFTER THE CHILD AND SUITABILITY OF HOUSEHOLD

In order to assess the capacity of a proposed or actual private foster carer to look after a child, the suitability of household members and whether the Privately Fostered child or any child already residing in the household has any behavioural or other difficulties which could prejudice the welfare of other children, an assessment should be undertaken using the Private Fostering assessment format referred to above. The purpose of this assessment is two-fold – to assess the capacity of the proposed or actual private foster carer to look after the child; and to assess whether the child is a Child in Need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Depending on the circumstances of the child and the proposed or actual private foster carer, a more in-depth Assessment may also be required. In some cases a Section 47 Enquiry may be required if the child is considered to be at risk of Significant Harm – see the London Child Protection Procedures Manual, Child Protection s47 Enquiries.

In assessing the capacity of the proposed or actual private foster carer to look after the child, local authorities should consult with appropriate agencies which may already be involved with the child, the proposed or actual private foster carer or members of his household. The health visitor may, for example, be able to provide information about the person’s experience of caring for children of different age groups, children of particular ethnic minority groups, children with special needs or caring for children in general. The person who is, or is proposing to, foster the child privately should be made aware that such views will be sought.

The overall decision about the suitability of an arrangement for Private Fostering should be determined and signed-off by the Private Fostering Panel, and ultimately by the Head of Safeguarding. The Panel may also make comment on whether a Child in Need Plan is also required.

3. PREPARATION

Discussions with the parent and person who is fostering, or proposing to foster, a child privately should be open, and transparent. It should always be made clear by the social worker that the welfare of the child is paramount, and their role includes supporting the private foster carer to provide the best possible care for the child and safeguarding his welfare.

The local authority enquiry process should provide opportunities to enable a parent or prospective private foster carer to decide that a Private Fostering arrangement may not be the best way to meet their own or the child’s needs.

The person who is fostering or proposing to foster a child privately should be given a clear understanding as to the purpose of the local authority’s enquiries so that s/he fully understands the duty of the social worker to determine:

  • His/her capacity to look after the child and the suitability of his household;
  • The suitability of the premises in which the child will be, or is being, privately fostered;
  • Whether it would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child to be, or continue to be, Accommodated by him or her in those premises; and
  • That the arrangements or proposed arrangements are likely to provide a safe and stable environment for the child.

4. INTENDED DURATION OF THE ARRANGEMENT

The intended duration of the arrangement needs to be understood and agreed (ideally in writing) between the parents of the child (or any other person with Parental Responsibility for him) and the proposed private foster carer. The duration of the arrangement should be reviewed with the private foster carer on every visit so that any change can be anticipated to enable parent, child and other carers to be involved and consulted, thus helping to avoid unplanned moves or drift. If plans change, the reasons given for the change and the nature of the revised arrangements should be clearly understood by all parties, including the child, along with appropriate timescales for implementing the changes. All significant changes should be notified to the local authority.

5. CAPACITY OF PRIVATE FOSTER CARERS TO RESPOND TO THE CHILD’S DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS

When assessing and deciding whether a private foster carer has the capacity to look after the child, it will be important to understand the child’s wishes and feelings about the arrangements, the child’s developmental needs and ascertain whether the private foster carer understands the child’s needs, and what it will mean for the child to live in the private foster carer’s family.

6. WISHES AND FEELINGS OF THE CHILD

The child’s wishes and feelings about a Private Fostering arrangement (proposed or actual) should always be sought, subject to the child’s age and understanding.

The social worker should ensure that the child understands that information which s/he shares which raises issues about the child’s safety or the commission of a serious crime cannot be kept confidential. If the child expresses a wish not to be Privately Fostered, the social worker needs to try to understand whether this is related to the child’s anxiety about leaving the birth parent, or whether there is a specific reason why s/he does not wish to be privately fostered by a particular person. The social worker should be particularly aware that there may be good reasons why the child’s views are different from those of his parents, or any other person with Parental Responsibility for him or her and, in the case of a child who is privately fostered, the views of the private foster carer. The more mature the child, the more fully s/he will be able to enter into discussion about plans and proposals, and participate in the decision making process.

All children need to be given information and explanations so that they are in a position to develop their own views and make choices. Providing children with reassurance and helping them over their anxieties is essential if their welfare is to be safeguarded and promoted.

Where the child has a communication impairment, social workers should ensure that the child’s preferred method of communication is used to enable him or her to express his/her wishes and feelings so that they can be fully considered. Such means could include working with someone who has the appropriate communication skills, such as sign language, and making use of Makaton or Bliss symbols – a language of signs used by people with severe learning disabilities.

With young children their wishes and feelings can often be established indirectly by observation and through play.

In the case of a child whose preferred language is not English, an interpreter who is independent of the child’s parents and of the private foster carer will be required.

7. PHYSICAL, INTELLECTUAL, EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL AND BEHAVIOURAL DEVELOPMENT

The quality and consistency of the care a child receives in his formative years is crucial to his physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development. Attention to the child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development is expected to include appropriate and sufficient diet, exercise, play, intellectual stimulation, development and pursuit of hobbies and personal interests, and help (where necessary) with language development, relationships, social skills and behaviour, ensuring that his needs are appropriately identified and met, including through appropriate health promotion advice and information, and his wishes and feelings taken into account.

Understanding the child’s needs will include assessing:

  • His or her developmental needs and progress;
  • The quality and permanence of previous care and relationships;
  • How separation and loss are being handled. (Both parents and private foster carers may need advice on the potential impact of separation and loss on the child);
  • His or her sense of self worth which comes from being loved, respected and accepted as an individual in his own right, and a sense of belonging in his new family and not being treated less favourably than other children in the household;
  • His or her self image and sense of identity, including ethnicity, knowing who his parents are and what his given name is. It is important that parents inform the private foster carer how the child is usually addressed (only with the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility may a child’s forenames or surname be changed);
  • His or her wishes and feelings about the Private Fostering arrangement.

Disturbed behaviour may be a reflection of emotional difficulties which in turn may be related to past or present experiences. It is an indication that all is not well and an assessment of the problems is required so that appropriate advice can be given and, if necessary, action taken. The happiness of the child, quality and comfort of relationships, and whether he is insecure or confused, are also indicators of his emotional state.

Advice can be given on appropriate play, nursery school or playgroup experience, leisure activities, and experiences that will enhance the child’s feeling of self worth and provide appropriate stimulation and learning opportunities.

8. HEALTH CARE

Children of particular racial origins may have specific health care needs and full consideration should be given to this aspect of the child’s care. If a child is well, no special screening may need to be undertaken over and above routine screening and surveillance offered to all children in the United Kingdom. If, however, the child is unwell, special factors should be taken into account as they may be the key to the child’s ill health. For example, children of particular racial origins may be at risk of developing or suffering a range of difficulties such as malnutrition, sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, certain forms of diabetes, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS or tropical diseases such as malaria.

Children attending school will be able to benefit from health care provided by the School Health Service. Children aged under five who are Privately Fostered should not miss out on the Child Health Promotion Programme. A general physical examination will normally be offered at 6-8 weeks and an assessment of the child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs should be carried out by the time they are one. Their developmental progress should then be reviewed between the ages of 2 and 5. A further health review will be offered at school entry. Private foster carers should make sure that they are informed by the child’s parents about the child’s health reviews, needs assessment, immunisations etc.

9. PERSONAL CHILD HEALTH RECORD

The Personal Child Health Record (PCHR) should normally be held by the person who has care of the child. The parents of the Privately Fostered child may, therefore, wish to give the private foster carer the child’s Personal Child Health Record for the duration of the arrangement.

For some disabled children, parents will also need to share any necessary information about specific techniques for feeding and personal care. Children with disabilities may have been receiving medical services from specialist units and special arrangements may be necessary to ensure continuity of care and treatment.

10. CHILD’S MEDICAL HISTORY

The parents of the child to be Privately Fostered should make known the child’s medical history to the proposed private foster carer and ensure that the social worker is aware of any particular health conditions. In addition to basic details of the child – height, weight, etc., details in a child’s medical history should include:

  • Immunisations given with dates and, where practicable, the results of any neonatal screening tests;
  • History relating to infectious diseases, with dates;
  • Any episodes of in-patient or out-patient hospital treatment for any condition with dates, and details where possible;
  • Whether the child has, or is known to have, any congenital condition which has, or may have, medical implications and/or which necessitates ongoing health care;
  • Whether the child is known to have any allergies, including allergies to any medication;
  • Current short term or long term medication and any other treatments, including the names of the consultants involved in those treatments;
  • Information on any special dietary requirements or dietary restrictions.

11. CONSENT TO MEDICAL EXAMINATION OR TREATMENT

Consent to medical examination or treatment, which the child himself is not capable of giving, may be given by a parent or other person with Parental Responsibility.

Although a person may not transfer or abdicate Parental Responsibility, they may arrange for some or all of it to be met by one or more persons acting on their behalf (section 2(9) of the Children Act 1989). There is no requirement for such arrangements to be evidenced in writing. However, it is recommended that, at the commencement of the arrangement, the parent or other person with Parental Responsibility records in writing their agreement for the private foster carer to give consent on behalf of the child to everyday treatment which may become necessary.

It may be appropriate for the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) or the child’s General Practitioner to have copies of this document.

Children of sixteen and over are entitled to give their own consent to medical treatment (see Seeking Consent: Working with Children, Department of Health, 2001). In most cases, those over sixteen will give their own consent, but there may be occasions (if the young person is unconscious or the effects of pain or medication mean that they cannot make an informed decision) when a person with Parental Responsibility can consent for them. This no longer applies when a young person becomes eighteen.

Children under sixteen may also be able to give or refuse consent depending on their capacity to understand the nature of the medical examination or treatment. It is for the doctor or other health professional concerned to determine whether the child is competent to give consent, and to keep a record of how this decision was reached in case of challenge at some future point. Children who are judged able to give consent (“Gillick competent”) cannot be medically examined or treated without their consent.

The child’s attention should be drawn to his rights to give or refuse consent to examination or treatment if he is 16 or over or if he is under 16 and the health professional considers him or her to be competent to give or withhold consent to the examination or treatment in question. Young people should be encouraged to understand the importance of health care and to take responsibility for their own health. If a child aged under 18 refuses consent, this may be overridden by a person with Parental Responsibility or by the court if the welfare of the child so requires. This is likely to be only in exceptional circumstances, and those involved should consider seeking legal advice about applying to the court for a decision as to whether the child’s welfare requires his refusal to be overridden. For more information on consent issues local authorities may wish to refer to the Department of Health web-site:

12. REGISTRATION WITH GENERAL PRACTITIONER

Local authorities must establish that arrangements for the care of the child’s health are in place and, in particular, that the child is included on the list of a General Practitioner. Local authorities should check this with the relevant practice. The child should remain with the current General Practitioner, if possible. The child’s parent, or other person with Parental Responsibility, should be given the name and address of the General Practitioner with whom the child is registered, if changed. Regular visits to the dentist for checks and treatment should form an integral part of the general health care of the child. Privately Fostered children are, of course, entitled to the same universal health services (e.g. immunisation programme, sight tests etc.) as other children.

13. EDUCATION

Local authorities must establish the arrangements for the child’s education through an approved programme, whether at school or otherwise. Where possible and appropriate, children should remain at the same school. However, if a school change is required, care must be taken to ensure that the school is appropriate in terms of the child’s educational needs, race, culture, gender and disability.

Local authorities should explore the private foster carer’s or prospective private foster carer’s attitudes and expectations in relation to a child’s education. The objective should be to establish a view as to this person’s:

  • Understanding and recognition of the need to provide educational support to a Privately Fostered child; and
  • (Where appropriate) ability to cope with the additional parenting tasks of providing support to a child with special educational needs.

14. RELIGIOUS PERSUASION, RACIAL ORIGIN, AND CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC BACKGROUND

The practice among some minority ethnic families to place their children in private foster homes of a different race and culture may, in some instances, require local authorities to pay particular attention to ensuring that the Privately Fostered child is able to maintain contact with people from his race, culture and religion.

Local authorities should establish that the person who is proposing to privately foster a child is aware of the significance of religion and/or culture in relation to the child’s racial origin, and has an understanding of the particular culture and knowledge of the child’s preferred language. Social workers should explore the extent to which the proposed private foster carer is prepared to develop such understanding and give advice as appropriate. The importance to a child of maintaining his preferred language needs to be stressed since eventual return to his family or community is made even more difficult if he is unable regularly to use his family’s preferred language.

Attention may need to be given to the expectations of the Privately Fostered child participating in the religious life of the private foster carer and his household, and whether this would be compatible with the expectations of the child and his parents. Account should also be taken of the private foster carer’s willingness to provide a child from an minority ethnic group with a diet which is familiar to him, including food which may be part of a religious observance.

Local authorities should ensure that the private foster carer is advised about the provision of resources and facilities which could assist him meet the racial, cultural, religious and linguistic needs of the child. This can be done, for example, by involving local religious groups, minority ethnic communities and relevant voluntary organisations.

Local authorities will need to be aware of the practical difficulties which such arrangements can present. It is important to remember that the local authority has an important role in providing advice on how potential or actual difficulties can be overcome, as part of their overarching duty to satisfy themselves that the child’s welfare is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.

15. CONTACT

If the place where the child is, or will be, cared for and Accommodated is not within easy reach of the child’s family, the local authority should explore whether clear arrangements have been made to facilitate contact. Contact with members of the child’s extended family who are not living in the UK should also be encouraged.

All those involved with a Private Fostering arrangement need to view contact in a positive light, simultaneously ensuring that contact is in the best interests of the child. The proposed or actual private foster carer’s attitude and expectations should be explored concerning his promotion of contact between the child’s parent, or other person with Parental Responsibility, and any other significant person in the child’s earlier life, and his willingness to facilitate visits by parents and other relatives to the private foster home for the duration of the placement so that the child can retain emotional links to his birth family. It is essential that the person privately fostering, or proposing to privately foster, a child is aware of the implications of caring for other people’s children and of the need to work in partnership with the child’s parents. Parents and private foster carers may need advice on the importance of continuing links for the child’s emotional wellbeing. The social worker should ensure that adequate arrangements are made for relationships between the Privately Fostered child and his siblings to develop.

Arrangements for contact between the child and his parent, other person with Parental Responsibility for him, and other persons who are significant to him need to be understood and agreed, and ideally set down in writing. Arrangements for the private foster carer to contact the parent should also be agreed and ideally set down in writing. If the parent and private foster carer are working together then the child is more likely to feel secure. Of course, in order to satisfy itself that the welfare of the child is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, the local authority will need to ensure that all contact between the child and others is, or will be, satisfactory for the child (taking into account his ascertainable wishes and feelings). The child, if of sufficient age and understanding, should always be consulted about contact arrangements, and their wishes and feelings taken into account.

The local authority may need to support the contact arrangements and even, if necessary, provide a venue for families to meet if to do so would help safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. If arrangements for contact are not satisfactory for the child the local authority should discuss with the private foster carer, and birth parent where possible, how this could be addressed and what the local authority might do to help. In normal circumstances the costs of contact is a matter between the parent and private foster carer, but reasonable financial assistance could be considered under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 if this supports a child in “need” as defined by the Act.

16. CONTINUITY AND CHANGE

The private foster carer and the child’s parents need to be aware of the importance of continuity of health care, education, religious practice and, indeed, all aspects of the child’s life, and share all relevant information. As much information as possible about the child and his needs should be shared by the parents with the prospective private foster carer so that he fully understands the needs of the child and can consider his own capacity to meet them. Private foster carers will need information about the child, the child’s needs and history, medical background, educational attainment, ethnicity, culture, religion and the child’s understanding of the reasons for and duration of the arrangement. Information about, for example, routines, capabilities, interests, habits, fears, likes and dislikes and, where appropriate, the implications of a child’s physical disability or learning disability, are essential if the private foster carer is to offer good quality continuity of care and help the child settle into his new home. At the same time, the child should be told as much about the proposed private foster carer, his household and premises, as the child is able to understand for example, the interests of the children already living in the household and the location of the private foster home.

The way the introduction to his new home is organised is important for the child’s sense of security and acceptance of the change. A process of introduction helps to minimise the pain of separation. Private foster carers need to be prepared for the possibility of disturbed behaviour following such a significant change for a child. Photographs of family members can provide familiarity in a new setting.

Advice to private foster carers and parents should include the importance of planned endings to arrangements and preparation of the child for further change. This is particularly important where the child is to move to a new private foster carer.

A child’s return to his family may also need careful preparation by both his parent and the private foster carer depending on the length of time the child has been away and the extent of changes within the family. The need for continuity is as critical at the end of the placement as at the beginning. Children sometimes return to different addresses, an unfamiliar culture and new family members. The private foster carer should be advised to pass on information to the parent about, for example, the habits, food preferences, interests, routines and connections developed by the child. Where a child has been in a Private Fostering arrangement for some time parents should be prepared for the possibility of the child’s distress while the child re-establishes himself in his family. Pro-active planning will need to be in place as a Privately Fostered child reaches 16 (18, if disabled) to ensure that suitable arrangements are being made for his care and accommodation.

17. SPECIFIC AREAS OF THE PRIVATE FOSTER CARER’S CAPACITY TO RESPOND TO THE CHILD’S NEEDS

The following specific areas of the foster parents capacity to respond to the child’s needs and provide a suitable household will be assessed in order to inform the overall decision about the suitability of all aspects of the Private Fostering arrangement.

18. DISCIPLINE

The local authority should ascertain the proposed private foster carer’s views on discipline and ensure he has an understanding of positive approaches to discipline.

The local authority should also check and reinforce the proposed private foster carer’s understanding that the general law on assault applies equally to the physical punishment of children: there is no exception for private foster carers. The “reasonable chastisement” defence can be relied upon by anyone exercising parental authority for a child. A private foster carer should not physically punish a Privately Fostered child. The social worker should, where appropriate, provide advice on positive parenting techniques, which reward the child for good behaviour rather than focusing on the negative. Whilst there may sometimes need to be a consequence for bad behaviour, it should not involve withdrawal of meals or restrictions on contact with family and should not be unreasonable or excessive.

19. LIFESTYLE

The local authority will need to determine the standard of living and “life style” of the private foster carer or prospective private foster carer and, for example, should explore the type of leisure activities and other interests pursued, and how his type of employment affects family life. Where he is employed outside the home, he will need to make arrangements to ensure proper care, for example, after school, and during sickness and holidays.

20. HOUSEHOLD RELATIONSHIPS

The extent to which members of the household may participate in the daily care of a Privately Fostered child is an important consideration, as are demands made by other members of the household on the private foster carer or prospective private foster carer. The impact of privately fostering a child on family life should be discussed fully with that person and all members of his household. The extent of contact with persons staying with the family or working in the household should also be explored. Where such a person is over 16 and the degree of contact and involvement is significant, an Enhanced DBS check may be relevant.

21. DISCLOSURE AND BARRING SERVICE (DBS) AND OTHER CHECKS

Local authorities should arrange for Enhanced DBS checks to be carried out for someone who is privately fostering or proposing to privately foster a child, and all members of his household aged over 16 years. The actual or proposed private foster carer and each member of his household aged over 16 should be asked to provide written consent for such a check to be carried out by completing a Declaration of Suitability to Foster Children Privately (see Appendix 2). The local authority will need to advise the person concerned that spent convictions must be disclosed.

Unless the proposed or actual private foster carer and members of his household agree to Enhanced DBS checks being made local authorities will not be able to satisfy themselves that the welfare of the child will be satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. A record of convictions will not necessarily preclude the person from fostering a child privately, but will require careful consideration in consultation with senior staff. The disqualification provisions contained in section 68 of the Children Act 1989 and the Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2004 are relevant in this respect.

Local authorities should check their own records to see whether the proposed or actual private foster carer or any member of his household is known to social services (and liaise with other local authorities if the proposed private foster carer has only been in the present local authority area for a short-time).

22. SUITABILITY OF ACCOMMODATION

Local authorities may inspect premises where a Privately Fostered child is being, or is proposed to be, Accommodated, and may also enquire about and interview the children in them (section 67(3) of the Children Act 1989). The type of premises in which a child is privately fostered will vary considerably and local authorities should decide whether the standard of accommodation is suitable, having regard to the child’s age and developmental needs.

The local authority should ensure that the home and immediate environment are free from avoidable hazards (that might expose a child to risk of injury or other harm), and contain safety barriers and equipment appropriate to the child’s age, development and level of ability.

When inspecting premises the local authority should take into account conditions which may have a direct effect on the health of a child. Dampness and extremes of temperature, for example, may in particular have a serious effect on the health of a child, such as those suffering from certain conditions e.g. sickle cell anaemia or thalassemia. Private foster carers (proposed or actual) should be made aware of the factors being considered by the local authority when an assessment of the accommodation is made.

The assessment should also include the nature of living and sleeping facilities and the effect of possible overcrowding. Each Privately Fostered child must have his own bed, and the accommodation arrangements should reflect the child’s need for privacy and space, and any specific need resulting from disability. Where a child is to share a bedroom with another member of the household, particular attention should be given to ensuring that the arrangements will not be prejudicial to his welfare or the welfare of other children in the household. Under normal circumstances a privately fostered child over the age of two, should not share a bedroom with a teenager, the private foster carer or other adult member of the household.

Requirements can be imposed, and advice given, regarding the standard of accommodation and equipment.

23. FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS

The proposed private foster carer will need to agree with the child’s parents the financial arrangements for his care and maintenance. Ideally, these arrangements should be set down in writing. Local authorities should ensure that proposed private foster carers have realistic expectations about the costs of maintaining adequately a child. Proposed private foster carers should also be clear about how far they are prepared themselves to contribute to the child’s maintenance (if at all). In any event they should have sufficient resources to tide over any gaps in maintenance payments, at least temporarily. If financial arrangements are not satisfactory the local authority should discuss with the private foster carer how this could be addressed and what the local authority might do to help. Exceptionally, action by the local authority could be considered to assist the private foster carer through a short period of financial hardship which coincided with a fall in maintenance payments. Such payments can be recovered. Any state entitlements should also be taken into account.

Private foster carers can receive child benefit, but any maintenance payments received from the child’s parents will be taken into account in any assessment for means-tested benefits. Local authorities should provide basic advice to private foster carers on access to child benefit and other benefits.

24. STANDARD OF CARE

Having considered all aspects of the child’s needs and the capacity of the private foster carer, the social worker will be able to make an assessment about the overall standard of care provided to the child. The basic standard will be determined by the threshold of “good enough parenting”; but an aspiration for higher standards of care will be maintained at all times.


Appendix 2: Declaration of Suitability to Privately Foster - pro forma

Click here for Appendix 2: Declaration of Suitability to Privately Foster - pro forma.


Appendix 3: Practice Flowchart

Click here to view Private Fostering Flowchart

Click here to view Private Fostering 2 Flowchart

End