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Private fostering

Are you the parent of a child being looked after by an adult who is not a close relative or approved foster carer for a period of more than 28 days?

Or, are you an adult not approved as a foster carer who is caring for for a child who isn’t a close relative for a period of more than 28 days?

If so, you have entered a private fostering arrangement and need to notify your local authority.

This means when a parent arranges for a child aged under school leaving age to be looked after by somebody for more than 28 days, who is not a close relative or an approved foster carer - there's a list of private fostering examples at the end of this page.

What do I need to do when setting up private fostering?

Private fostering - Guide for parentsBy law, you need to inform your local authority if you plan to do this, two weeks before you start.

Families and carers often do not tell professionals or agencies about private fostering arrangements simply because they are not aware they are legally obliged to do so.

How can services help?

Private fostering - Guide for service providersAlthough Professionals whose work brings them into contact with children are not under a legal obligation to report suspected cases of private fostering, we encourage them to make inquiries about parental rights and responsibilities for children and to pass on information to parents and carers about their responsibility to notify the local authority, if private fostering is identified. They should also inform local authorities if they believe private fostering is taking place or if they have concerns about the welfare of any child.

A child who is privately fostered who is not brought to the attention of the local authority may be a child in need or a child at risk of harm.

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of children.

Examples of the range of children living in private fostering arrangements

  • Children from overseas where parents are/are not resident in this country
  • Children from abroad who attend language schools or mainstream school in this country and are staying with host families
  • Adolescents estranged from their parents
  • Children at boarding schools who do not return to their parents in the holidays but stay with people who may be referred to as education guardians
  • Children on holiday exchanges
  • Children attending independent / private / special schools as day students
  • Children (sometimes very young) where a parent is is prison or where a parent is unable to care for them because of chronic ill health or where there are alcohol or drug issues
  • Children left with partners of birth parents following a death or separation
  • Children in services families where parents are posted overseas
  • Children whose parents are undertaking a course of study and are unable to care for the child while they progress their education

This is not a complete list, but shows the scale and variety of situations which may involve private fostering.