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Private Fostering
Information for Professionals

This page is known as: www.birmingham.gov.uk/private-fostering

What is Private Fostering?

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made without the involvement of a local authority.

Private fostering is defined in the Children Act 1989 and occurs when a child or young person under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for and provided with accommodation, for 28 days or more, by someone who is not their parent, guardian or a close relative. (Close relatives are defined as; step-parents, siblings, brothers or sisters of parents or grandparents).

A Cause for Concern
The risks involved in private fostering received widespread media coverage following the tragic death of Victoria Climbie in 2000. Victoria was privately fostered by her great aunt and Lord Laming’s report into her death recommended that the government review the law regarding the assessment and approval of private foster carers.

It is estimated that there may be as many as 8,000 - 10,000 privately fostered children living in England and Wales. Last year there were fewer that 2,000 notifications of these arrangements. Most private foster carers will have the best intentions in caring for somebody else’s child, but privately fostered children and young people may not receive the services and protection they are entitled to because they are not known to safeguarding agencies. Most alarmingly in some cases children risk becoming “invisible” and are extremely vulnerable to safeguarding issues such as child trafficking and exploitation.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has identified some common situations in which children are privately fostered:

  • African and African Caribbean children with parents or families overseas;
  • black, white and minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK;
  • unaccompanied asylum seeking children and refugees;
  • trafficked children;
  • local children living apart from their families – adolescents and teenagers;
  • children at independent boarding schools who do not return home for holidays;
  • children brought in from abroad with a view to adoption;
  • children whose parents are in the armed forces;
  • children who stay with a host or guardian during the school holidays; and
  • parents whose employment takes them out of the home for long periods of time.

What to do if you believe you have identified a privately fostered child
Read the first question and depending on whether the answer is YES or NO follow the arrows until one of the final boxes is reached:

Contact the Information, Advice and Support Service via the Children's Information and Advice Service on 0121 303 1888

Interagency Referral Forms are available from the Birmingham Safeguarding Children’s Board

See also:

‘Somebody Else’s Child’: the BAAF guide to private fostering: www.somebodyelseschild.org.uk