Private fostering in Scotland: practice guidance for local authority children's services

Guidance for local authorities in Scotland on how to handle notifications of private fostering arrangements.

3. What is a Private Fostering Arrangement?

Private fostering is where a parent is making an arrangement to have their child cared for by someone who is not an approved foster or kinship carer or guardian of the child and who is not a close relative of the child ( i.e. not a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt whether by blood or by affinity ( i.e. by marriage)), for more than 28 days.

(There have been a couple of instances reported of circumstances where approved foster carers have been involved in private arrangements).

Section 1 of the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984 ("the 1984 Act") provides that, subject to section 2 of that Act, a child is a foster child if he or she is below the upper limit of the compulsory school age and his or her care is undertaken by a person who is not a relative or guardian. Sections 16 and 17 of the 1984 Act extend the application of the Act to certain other children in the circumstances described in those sections.

Section 2 of the 1984 Act provides for a number of exceptions to section 1. For example, a child is not a foster child while he or she is being looked after by a local authority (section 2(1)).

Section 21 of the Act defines the term "relative")

In a private fostering arrangement there will therefore be no statutory order in place, children's services involvement or registered fostering agency involved in placing the child with the other person i.e. the child is not defined as a "Looked After Child".

Some areas of confusion:

  • Private Fostering is often confused with informal kinship care which is provided by close relatives of the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) who are not required to notify local authorities and not subject to the same checks and monitoring as private fostering.
  • The definition of formal kinship care states that a person who is known to the child and with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship can be approved by a local authority as a kinship carer if the child requires being Looked After. Such formal kinship care arrangements can include carers who are not close relatives. This guidance therefore clarifies that only close relatives, as defined above, are exempt from private fostering legislation unless the child is a "Looked After" child and the carer has been formally approved by the local authority as a kinship carer.
  • Independent fostering agencies can sometimes also be referred to as private fostering agencies however these are agencies that provide formal foster care but are run independently from local authorities.


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