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3.3 Private Fostering

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative for 28 days or more in the Bournemouth area and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the Local Authority.

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 require the Local Authority to satisfy themselves of the suitability of the proposed or actual arrangement to privately foster a child, ideally before the child is placed, but at a minimum within 7 days of the notification being given. These procedures describe how notifications of private arrangements should be handled and how the welfare of children who are privately fostered should be protected.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in July 2017 to include local information and should be read in full.


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Notifications
  3. Requirements of a Notification 
  4. Allocation of Work
  5. Requirements of First Visit (within 7 days)
  6. Completing the Assessment
  7. Subsequent Visits to Children who are being Privately Fostered
  8. Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications
  9. Failure to Give Required Notifications
  10. Disqualifications
  11. Appeals
  12. Removal of a Private Foster Child from Unsuitable Surroundings
  13. Children Spending Holiday Periods in Schools
  14. Termination of the Arrangement
  15. Aftercare
  16. International Aspects
  17. Monitoring Role


1. Definition

A privately fostered child is defined as:

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. A close relative is defined as “a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent."

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 and accommodated 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.

Examples of where a child might be deemed to be privately fostered (this list is not exclusive):

  • Local children living apart from their families;
  • Children whose parents have died;
  • Children from abroad sent to study and stay with a host family;
  • Teenagers who have (temporarily) broken ties with their parents and are staying in the short term with friends and non-relatives;
  • Children at Independent boarding schools who do not return to their parents during holidays;
  • Children brought from abroad with a view to adoption;
  • Parents whose work or study commitments lead them to chose to make arrangements for their children to be privately fostered;
  • Asylum seekers & refugees;
  • Trafficked children.

A child who is looked after by the Local Authority, or placed in any residential home, hospital or school is excluded from the definition.


2. Notifications

Notifications of any private fostering arrangement are required from:

  • Any persons who propose to foster a privately fostered child;
  • The parent or persons with Parental Responsibility for the child; and
  • Any person, including a parent or persons with Parental Responsibility for the child;
  • Any person who becomes aware of a Private Fostering arrangement.

Whether or not directly involved in arranging a privately fostered arrangement, who knows it is proposed that a child is to be fostered privately must notify the Authority as soon as he/she becomes aware of the arrangement. This may include teachers, health or other professionals.

Notification should be given to the Local Authority:

  1. At least 6 weeks before the private fostering arrangement is to begin (but not more than 13 weeks before an arrangement begins); or
  2. Immediately, in cases where the private fostering arrangement is to begin within 6 weeks.

A person who is fostering a child privately and has not given notification to the Local Authority must inform them immediately he/she becomes aware that notification is required.

A person who has given notification, as above, (i.e. Carer and/or Parent) must notify the Local Authority within 48 hours of the start of the arrangement of the child.

The private fostering arrangement is deemed to have begun at the point at which the Local Authority becomes aware of it.


3. Requirements of a Notification

The above persons should notify the Bournemouth Borough Council of:

  • 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 any previous address within the last five years;
  • The name and current address of the proposed or current private foster carer and his addresses within the previous five years;
  • The name and address of any parent 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 was, or is to be, received;
  • The name and current address of the minor siblings of the child, and details of the arrangements for their care;
  • The name and address of any person, other than a person specified in sub-paragraph (iv) above, who is involved directly or indirectly in making the fostering arrangement; and
  • The intended date of the beginning of the fostering arrangement or the date on which the arrangement actually began;
  • The intended duration of the private fostering arrangement.

The private foster carer proposing to privately foster a child should further give particulars of:

Any offence of which he or she has been convicted;

  • Any disqualification or prohibition imposed on him/her under section 68 or 69 of the Act or under any previous enactment of either or those sections; and
  • Any such conviction, disqualification or prohibition imposed on any other person living in, or employed at, the same household;
  • Any order of a kind specified in regulation under section 68 of the Act made at any time with respect to him/her;
  • Any order of a kind specified in regulation under section 68 of the Act made at any time with respect to a child who has been in his/her care; and
  • Any rights or power with respect to a child that have been at any time vested in an Authority specified in regulations under section 68 of the Act under an enactment specified in those regulations.

Furthermore, any person who is fostering a child privately must notify the Local Authority of:

  • Any change in his/her address;
  • Any person who begins, or ceases, to be part of the household;
  • Any further offence of which she/he or a person who is part of or employed at his/her household has been convicted;
  • Any further disqualification imposed on him/her who is part of or employed at his/her household has been convicted;
  • Any person who is part of or employed at his/her household, and any offence of which that person has been convicted, and any disqualification or prohibition imposed on him/her under section 68 or 69 of the Children Act 1989 or under any previous enactment of either of those sections.

Notification should be given in advance if practicable or in any other case, within 48 hours of the change of circumstances.

If the private foster carer moves to another Local Authority area, then the Private Fostering team should notify the new Authority of the name and new address of the carer; the name of the child who is privately fostered and the name and address of the child’s parents or those who hold parental responsibility for the child.

The parent of a privately fostered child or any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child must notify the Local Authority of any change of address.

See also Section 14, Termination Arrangements.


4. Allocation of Work

All notifications or new referrals and initial contacts of children thought to be privately fostered are to be passed to the Private Fostering Team who will create a child record on RAISE. The record will include as much of the information specified above (in notifications required) as can be obtained from the referrer.

Note: Private fostering cases in Bournemouth are unusual in that the worker supports all three parties: the child, the birth parent and the carer. The worker will need to enter the carer’s details as well as those of the child and parent(s).

In cases where the carer is already allocated to the Social Worker (private fostering) the case will transfer immediately to him/her after the screening event.

Where the private fostering arrangement has not started, the case should be transferred to the Private Fostering Team as soon as the screening event has taken place, so that the statutory checks and visits can be undertaken in advance.

Where a child is newly referred and is already in the arrangement and the carer is not known to the department, the case will be transferred to the Private Fostering team for allocation to a Social Worker to ascertain that the child is indeed privately fostered. An initial visit must take place within 7 working days of the notification of the arrangement and the child seen. Advice on the statutory checks (see Section 5, Requirements of First Visit (within 7 days)) required should be shared at the first visit and the relevant forms delivered.

Where a child who is already known to the department and is allocated to a worker the case will remain with that worker but the secondary allocation will be made to the Private Fostering Team Social Worker, who will be responsible for undertaking the private fostering assessment. However, the allocated worker will receive guidance/coaching from the social worker (private fostering) and Practice Manager (private fostering) to ensure that all private fostering requirements are met, and regular case discussion and joint working will occur. All other practice decisions remain with the key social worker.


5. Requirements of First Visit (within 7 days)

Where notification has been received an officer of the Local Authority must, within 7 working days:

  • Visit the premises where it is proposed the child will be cared for and accommodated;
  • Visit and speak to the proposed private foster carer and all members of his/her household;
  • Visit and speak to the child alone, unless the officer considers it inappropriate;
  • Speak to and, if it is practicable to do so, visit every parent of or persons with Parental Responsibility for the child; and
  • Establish such matters as listed above (in Section 3, Requirements of a Notification as are relevant);
  • Deliver the forms regarding the completion of a:
    1. DBS check on each member of the household over 16 years or make checks with Language School that DBS checks have been completed;
    2. A Children's Social Care records check;
    3. Medical information on the private foster carer;
    4. The letter of consent to make enquiries re: any disqualifications;
    5. Take two personal references;
    6. All of the above should be shared, explained and consents obtained where possible.

Leaflets regarding private fostering and a copy of the complaint leaflet should be send prior to the first visit and checks should be made that these were received on the first visit.

Having completed these functions the officer must make a written report. (See Section 6, Completing the Assessment)

If the worker is not satisfied with the arrangements made for the care and accommodation for the child they must seek advice from a Practice Manager / Team Manager within the Private Fostering Team and take appropriate steps to safeguard the child’s welfare. This may include returning the child to the Parents or suitable relative or consider exercising any other functions under the Children Act 1989 such as accommodation under Section 20 or support under Section 17 of the Act. (see also Section 8, Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications).

The allocated worker should ensure the child’s parent or carer has informed the child’s school, Health visitor and GP of the private arrangement. Otherwise consents must be obtained for the Local Authority to inform all relevant parties.


6. Completing the Assessment

Private fostering arrangements are unique in that the Social Worker (private fostering) supports all three parties to the private arrangement i.e. the carer, the parent and the privately fostered child.

A separate case record should be opened on the carer and the child and details of the parent or those with PR will be kept on the child’s records.

Bournemouth Borough Council’s private fostering assessment is split into 3 parts

The Part A – Private Fostering Carers’ assessment will be completed within 42 working days of the notification and will be valid for 1 year, subject to any change in circumstance. This will be recorded on Raise. An Annual review with the carers will take place and a new Part A assessment will be completed taking account of Private Fostering experiences during the previous year.

Part B – Private Fostering child’s assessment will be completed within 42 working days of the notification. (see welfare of child). The Regulation 7 visit to the child must be within 7 days of the child‘s placement starting with the host family.

The Private Fostering assessment (Part B) should include an assessment of the carer; the extent to which the parent of the child is to be involved in the arrangement and their views (under the parenting capacity dimension) and a full assessment of the child’s needs.

Copies of the Private Fostering assessment (Part B) should be shared with the parent(s) and those with PR and with the child if of an age to understand.

Assessing the carer’s and arrangement suitability: Discussions with the carer and parent(s) should be open and honest. The Social Worker should always make it clear the welfare of the child is paramount. The carer should be able to work in partnership with the Private Fostering Social Worker and have a positive dialogue with the child’s parent(s). They should be aware of the importance of the child’s health care and education and be able to give an explanation to the child as to why they are privately fostered. The carer should demonstrate that they value and respect the child’s ethnic and cultural heritage and encourage the child to participate in local events and groups that promote his/her culture and interests.

In turn, the parents will need to share information on the child’s routines, capabilities, interests, fears, likes and dislikes and if the child is disabled, his/her special needs. Ideally the child should have a planned introduction to the arrangement with a planned beginning and end.

Continuity and stability are the key to good outcomes. The carer should demonstrate warmth and understanding of the child’s needs. As with good parents they should note and record significant events in the child’s life and pay attention to a balanced and appropriate diet, offering the child exercise and intellectual stimulation. Written references will be obtained and a Health and Safety assessment completed. If the arrangement remains ‘good enough’ then every effort should be made in subsequent visits to improve the care standards in the Home if this is necessary. Workers should be mindful of the option of imposing requirements and prohibitions if standards fall below a certain level.

In all cases a written agreement (pro forma supplied) should be drawn up between the carer, the parent/those with PR and the Local Authority which specifies:

  • The intended duration and arrangements for ending the arrangement as understood by the carer and the parent(s);
  • The wishes and feelings of the child about the proposed arrangement (in light of his/her age and understanding);
  • The financial and maintenance arrangements to support the child in the arrangement;
  • The contact arrangements with all significant persons;
  • The arrangements for medical and dental care, including, registration with a Local GP and access to emergency treatment if required;
  • The arrangements for the child’s education and who will receive reports from the school and attend parent’s evenings etc;
  • The arrangements as to how decisions about the child’s care are being taken;
  • How the Local Authority will provide advice and guidance; and
  • The contingency arrangements if the arrangement were to cease unexpectedly.

It is accepted that in some cases the parent or persons with PR may be unwilling or unavailable to participate in the drawing up of a written agreement. Every effort should be made to establish communication with the birth parent or those with PR to share the above information, to promote the welfare of the privately fostered child.

Record the above arrangements on the child’s case notes.

In cases where a child protection enquiry is necessary the Social Worker should consult with their line manager and where appropriate Section 47 procedures invoked. A decision may be made at this stage to reallocate the case to a member of the Safeguarding team.


7. Subsequent Visits to Children who are being Privately Fostered

During the first year of the private fostering arrangement an officer of the Local Authority must visit each child at intervals of not more than 6 weekly and in any subsequent year at intervals of not more than 12 weekly.

In addition the Local Authority must arrange for a privately fostered child to be visited when reasonably requested to do so by the child, the private foster carer or the parent (or other persons with parental responsibility).

At every statutory visit the officer must:

  • Speak to the child alone (unless he/she considers it inappropriate) and record the child’s wishes and feelings in accordance with his/her age and understanding;
  • Establish the duration of the arrangement and that the details specified in the written agreement (above) are still relevant;
  • Ensure that the child’s intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development is appropriate and satisfactory;
  • Ensure that the child’s needs arising from his/her religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  • Ensure that the suitability of the carer and other members of the household are acceptable;
  • Ensure that the carer still has the capacity to look after the child and that the accommodation is still suitable;
  • The overall standards of care are adequate;
  • Ensure that the financial and other arrangements are working;
  • The child’s medical and educational needs are being met;
  • The contact arrangements are satisfactory;
  • The decisions about the child’s care are being made in an appropriate and satisfactory way and that;
  • Offer advice and guidance, where appropriate;
  • Consider if any requirements, prohibitions or disqualifications are needed.

A written report to the Local Authority must be completed after every statutory visit. This will be recorded on the Regulation 8 visit form on the ICS system. The report should be authorised by the Team Manager or Practice Manager within 6 weeks of the visit taking place or prior to any subsequent Regulation 8 visits, whichever is sooner.

Financial support to the child or the arrangement: The Local Authority can offer support to a privately fostered child or the arrangement in the form of Section 17 monies (if the child is in need). This is essentially a short term or one off payment to cover essential expenses to keep the child in the arrangement. It is recoverable from the birth parents or those with Parental Responsibility.

Private Foster Carers are entitled to Child Benefit.


8. Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications

Requirements can be imposed where a person is fostering any child privately or proposes to foster any child privately, covering the following:

  • The number, age and sex of children who may be privately fostered;
  • The standard of the accommodation and equipment to be provided for the children;
  • The arrangements to be made for the health and safety of the children;
  • The particular arrangements which may be made with the respect to the provisions of care for them e.g. the number, qualifications or experience of persons employed in looking after the children.

Ideally requirements should be imposed before child is placed, where advanced notice has been given.

Requirements can relate to an individual child or a category of children e.g. those of a certain age.

Such requirements must be notified in writing and must inform the carer of the reason for imposing the requirement; their right to appeal. The recipient has 14 days from when the notice is served to appeal to the Court. Requirements do not have effect while an appeal is pending.

If private fostering carers refuse to comply with any requirements, seek legal advice from Legal Services, and see Section 9, Failure to Give Required Notifications of these instructions.

Prohibitions can be imposed if the Local Authority are of the opinion that

  • The proposed or actual foster parents are unsuitable to foster children; or
  • The premises are or will be unsuitable for foster children; or
  • It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child to be accommodated by that person in those premises.

A prohibition imposed may prohibit a person from fostering privately:

  • Any child in any premises within the area of the Local Authority;
  • Any child in any premises specified in the prohibition;
  • A child identified in the prohibition, in premises specified in the prohibition.

The Local Authority may cancel the prohibition on any person:

  • At their own instigation; or
  • An application made by that person.

If the Authority are satisfied that the prohibition is no longer justified.

Prohibitions may be imposed in addition to requirements but it can only have effect if:

  • The time specified for compliance with the requirement has expired; and
  • The requirement has not been complied with.

A prohibition must be imposed by notice in writing addressed to the person on whom it is imposed and informing him/her of:

  • The reason for imposing the prohibition;
  • Rights of appeal (to the Court) under para 8 of Schedule 8 Children Act 1989;
  • The time within which he/she may do so.

Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed under section 69 are disqualified from private fostering and from carrying on or being employed in a children’s Home, voluntary Home, day care or childminding.


9. Failure to Give Required Notifications

Proceedings against a foster parent who has failed to give a required notification must be brought within 6 months of the date when the Local Authority became aware of the offence.

The Service Manager must be notified as soon as it is known that the notification requirements have not been complied with.

A letter must be sent to the Private fostering carer outlining their legal obligations.

When proceedings appear necessary, a report and recommendation must be submitted to the Service Manager who must seek legal advice from the Legal Services as to whether to recommend prosecution.


10. Disqualifications

Certain people are disqualified from privately fostering children. The use of a pro forma is a declaration form to be used for the carer of a suitability and further form is to be completed in order to give their written consent for enquiries to be made with other agencies.

The Local Authority, in certain circumstances, can give their consent to a person to privately foster who would otherwise be disqualified, but only if they are satisfied the child’s welfare would not be prejudiced. In such cases written consent must be given and signed by the Service Manager of Children Social Care.

If the Private Fostering Team refuses consent to allow a disqualified person to foster, the carer may appeal to the Family Proceedings Court within 14 days of the notification of that decision. (See Section 11, Appeals).


11. Appeals

The Private Foster parent must be notified in writing of any requirement, refusal, prohibition, condition, variation, or cancellation which is imposed and informed of his/her right to appeal to the Court within 14 days from the date on which he/she is notified of the requirement, refusal, prohibition, condition, variation or cancellation.

The requirement, condition, variation, or cancellation shall not have effect while the appeal is pending.

If the Court allows an appeal, it can:

  • Vary the requirement, or allow more time for compliance with it; or
  • If an absolute prohibition has been imposed, may substitute a prohibition on using the premises after a time which the Court will specify unless any requirements imposed by the Local Authority have been complied with.

Any requirement or prohibition specified or substituted by the Court shall be deemed to have been imposed by the Local Authority.

Where the Court allows an appeal against a refusal to make an exemption, a condition imposed in such an exemption or a variation or a cancellation of such an exemption, the Court may –

  • Make an exemption;
  • Impose a condition; or
  • Vary the exemption.


12. Removal of a Private Foster Child from Unsuitable Surroundings

See Policy statement at the start of these instructions. Discuss any concerns with the Practice Manager or Team Manager and consider appropriate functions under the Children Act 1989. These may include returning the child to his/her Parents or other close relative; using resources under Section 17; accommodating the child under Section 20 or invoking Pan-Dorset Multi-Agency Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Manual or an Emergency Protection Order in Family Court Proceedings.

This may also require the case to be transferred to a safeguarding team.


13. Children Spending Holiday Periods in Schools

Children under 16 who spend more than 4 weeks (i.e. 28 days or more) in care of host families during holiday time, in a school not run by a Local Authority, become privately foster children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.

The person undertaking the care and maintenance of the children must give written notice to the Local Authority two weeks before the start of the holidays of the estimated number of children staying at the school for the holiday period.

Complete a Private Fostering assessment (Part A) and checks as specified in Section 4, Allocation of Work above.

The Local Authority may exempt any person from giving written notice either for a specified period or indefinitely. This exemption may be revoked in writing at any time.

Where a child in these circumstances dies, the person caring for him/her at the school shall, not later than 48 hours after the death, give written notice of it:

  • To the Local Authority; and
  • Where reasonably practicable, to each parent of the child and to every person who has parental responsibility.
Where a child ceases to be privately fostered at the school, the person caring for him/her must give written notice to the Local Authority within 48 hours.


14. Termination of the Arrangement

The Local Authority should be notified of a child moving within 48 hours by the private foster carer and/or the child’s parents. This notification should be in writing and should include the details of the child’s new address and the name and relationship of the child’s new carer.

This will include notification if the child dies.

When the child leaves the private foster carer, input relevant data into RAISE and close the case.

Notify the Local Authority in whose area the child has moved (as in) Section 2, Requirements of a Notification and inform the Local Authority where the child’s parents reside if this is different.


15. Aftercare

A young person under 21 who was privately fostered at any time after reaching 16 qualifies for advice and assistance as defined a ‘qualifying’ child by Section 24(2) (e) of the Children Act 1989.


16. International Aspects

A Local Authority or private foster parent who are in any doubt about a child’s immigration or nationality status are strongly advised to consult with the UK Visas and Immigration, Nationality Department at the earliest opportunity.

Where a foreign child is abandoned in a private foster Home in the U.K. seek assistance from the International Social Services with a view to tracing the child’s parents and arranging for the child to be returned to them.

For detailed guidance on these matters refer to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 8.

Please also see procedures in respect of Private Fostering and Language School / Agents using host families.


17. Monitoring Role

The Local Authority shall appoint a monitoring officer who will monitor the way in which the Local Authority discharges its duty and functions under part 9 of the Children Act. The monitoring officer will report annually to the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (see Pan-Dorset Multi-Agency Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Manual).

End