South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

3.2 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 more than 27 days and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in February 2018 to add clarity to the definition of private fostering with regards to the legislation and children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school.


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Notifications to the Local Authority
  3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification (Single Assessment) 
  4. Full Assessment of Private Foster Carers
  5. Financial Support for Foster Carers
  6. Imposing Requirements on Foster Carers
  7. Limit on Number of Children
  8. Prohibition and Disqualification
  9. Non-compliance with Requirements 
  10. Visits to the Foster Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records
  11. Review of Foster Carers
  12. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster
  13. Ending of Private Fostering Arrangement and 16+ Support
  14. Children Privately Fostered Outside of Wiltshire
  15. Monitoring and Audit of Records


1. Definition

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if Disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, step parent (including civil partnerships), sister or brother where the child is to be cared for in that person's home for 28 days or more.

A child who is Looked After or placed in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full-time education) is excluded from the definition. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent retains Parental Responsibility.

However, Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.

(Note: 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).


2. Notifications to the Local Authority

Where a child is to be placed with private foster carers, the local authority must be notified in writing at least 6 weeks before an arrangement begins. Where no prior notification of a placement is given, private foster carers must notify the local authority of the placement immediately.

The person making the notification should be asked to provide the following information:

  1. The name, gender, date and place of birth and address of the child;
  2. The racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and religion of the child;
  3. The names and address of the person giving the notice and any previous address within the last five years;
  4. The name and addresses of the child's parents and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
  5. If different, the name and address of the person from whom the child was or is to be received;
  6. The name and address of the private foster carers and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
  7. The name and address of any other person who is involved in making the arrangement;
  8. The name and address of any siblings of the child who are under 18, and the current arrangements for their care;
  9. The purpose and likely duration of the arrangement;
  10. The intended date when the child is to be placed with the private foster carers or the date when the placement began.

In relation to notifications given by the private foster carer or proposed private foster carer, the following information should also be obtained:

  • Any offence of which he/she or any other member of the household has been convicted;
  • Any disqualification or prohibition (see Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification) placed on him/her or any other member of the household;
  • Any actions taken or orders made in relation to the private foster carer or any child who is or was a member of the same household.

Written notification must also be made to the local authority by the private foster carer within 48 hours of any change in circumstances, e.g. a change of address, a change in the household, a criminal conviction/disqualification or prohibition (see Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification) in relation to any person in the household or any intention to foster another child privately.

Where notification is that the private foster carers have moved to live in the area of another local authority, the social worker must immediately pass to the new authority the name and address of the foster carer, the name of the child being privately fostered, the name and address of the child's parents.

Where notification is that the placement has ended, the social worker should ascertain the name and address of the person now caring for the child and his or her relationship with the child.

Parents also have a duty to notify the local authority in writing of the ending of the placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.

Any agency that becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement must immediately notify the local authority in writing of the arrangement and must inform the parent and private foster carer of their intention to do so.


3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification (Single Assessment)

When notification or information is received from any source that a child is privately fostered, the following tasks must be undertaken and a single assessment completed by Safeguarding and Assessment social worker or child's allocated social worker within seven working days:

  1. Visit the private foster carers in the home where the child is to live and speak to them and all members of the household;
  2. Visit and speak to the child alone, unless the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so in which case the reason should be recorded and brought to the attention of the team manager;
  3. Speak to and if possible visit the parents;
  4. Ensure that the purpose and likely duration of the private fostering arrangement is understood by and agreed between the parents and the private foster carers,
  5. Ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child about the private fostering arrangement;
  6. Check the suitability of the accommodation, the capacity of the private foster carer to look after the child, the suitability of other members of the private foster carer's household; PNC checks should be agreed with the carers and should be undertaken;
  7. Ensure that the parents are involved in planning for the child and explore whether the child's needs may be more appropriately met by providing services to the child and parent at home;
  8. Encourage the parents to draw up a written agreement (it may be helpful to use a Private Fostering Agreement form PF6) with the foster carers as to their respective expectations and responsibilities in relation to the fostering arrangement including financial arrangements and the child's contact with his or her parents and other significant family members;
  9. Where the child has already been placed, ensure that the child's development in all aspects is satisfactory, that the standard of care being given to the child is appropriate and that the child's needs arising from his or her religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  10. Where the child has already been placed, check that the financial matters are in order and the contact arrangements are working;
  11. Notify the relevant health and education agencies of the child's placement or proposed placement including the health visiting service where appropriate;
  12. Ensure that any necessary links are or will be established with other agencies for example because of the child's disabilities and/or special educational needs;
  13. Enter the child and the carer's details onto the electronic database.

If safeguarding concerns are identified during the assessment immediate action should be taken by the Safeguarding and Assessment social worker or allocated social worker to safeguard the welfare of the child including seeking legal advice as required.

Immigration and Nationality - for children who are not UK citizens the social worker should on their first visit to a privately fostered child check the child's passport in order to confirm the child's immigration status and confirm the child is lawfully present in UK. This is also important in confirming the child's identity. Where there are issues the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate can be consulted. Authorities in the country of origin or the Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders (CFAB) may be able to provide information about the child's parents and assistance with tracing.

Once the Single Assessment is complete and approved by the Team Manager/ATM a full assessment of the private fostering arrangement must be completed by the fostering social worker.

If the Single Assessment identifies that the child is a child in need and requires ongoing support then a social worker from the Safeguarding and Assessment team will be allocated to provide ongoing support and monitoring of the child and the child in need (CIN) plan. This will include the completion of a Single Assessment.

The private fostering arrangement will be monitored and fully assessed by the fostering social worker. Where the child is not identified as a child in need there will be no further role for Safeguarding and Assessment Team or Safeguarding Team.

Click here to view the Private Fostering Flowchart.

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the foster carers that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child.

Any action required by the local authority to secure the child's safety should be considered and legal advice sought as necessary.

If the initial visit takes place after the arrangement for the child has started, the social worker undertaking the Single Assessment should also:

  1. Ensure that the parents have fully informed the foster carer of the child's medical history and any current need for ongoing professional monitoring and medication, and has handed the child's personal child health records to the foster carer;
  2. Encourage the foster carers to draw up a written agreement with the child's parents as to their respective expectations and responsibilities in relation to the private fostering arrangement including the contact arrangements, finances and expected duration;
  3. Ensure that the child is registered with a GP, dentist and, if necessary, optician local to the foster home;
  4. Ensure that a school place has been arranged for the child if of school age;
  5. Ensure the parent provides the foster carer with a written general consent to cover any necessary medical treatment and that a copy of this consent is given to the GP, dentist, optician and retained on the child's file;
  6. Advise the foster carer to arrange a medical examination of the child with the GP as soon as practicable after the start of the placement.

The social worker completing the Single Assessment should complete a written report on Carefirst and this should be authorised by their manager. The social worker should then inform the Fostering Team of the need for a full Private Fostering Assessment by messaging the Fostering Recruitment and Assessment Team desktop on 641.


4. Full Assessment of Private Foster Carers

The Fostering social worker undertaking the full assessment must:

  1. Explain the assessment process to the foster carers and provide written information to them;
  2. Obtain the written consent of the foster carer and all members of the household over 16 to checks being made with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and ask the foster carer for the names of 2 personal referees; and ask the carer to give consent for their GP to be contacted for a short medical report;
  3. Establish the foster carer's child care experience, access to support and views and intentions regarding behaviour management of the child;
  4. Establish the plans for contact between the child and his or her parents;
  5. Establish the foster carer's understanding of the child's culture, and give advice in relation to resources and facilities which could assist in meeting the child's racial, cultural, religious and linguistic needs, including the use of an interpreter if necessary;
  6. Advise the foster carer of the need for notification to Children's Services in the event of a change in circumstances and preparation of the child before any further move, and for continuity of information being passed to the next carer.

Advise the foster carer in relation to recording the child's development, particularly incorporating the following matters:

  • Maintaining the child's medical history;
  • Keeping a file of school reports;
  • Noting dates of contact with the parents and significant others;
  • Maintaining a financial record;
  • Noting dates of contact with Children's Services.

 The assessment will consider the following:

  • The suitability of the foster carer and all members of the household;
  • The suitability of the accommodation;
  • The carer's capacity to meet the child's needs.

A full assessment should be written using the Carefirst Private Fostering Assessment tool and this report should be sent to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering) for a decision to be made. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed - see Section 6, Imposing Requirements on Foster Carers, Section 7, Limit on Number of Children and Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification.

If during the full private fostering assessment or subsequent visits the childcare/fostering social worker is concerned that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm then departmental child protection procedures must be followed. If the fostering social worker identifies that a child may be a child in need, due to change in circumstances, then contact must be made with the Safeguarding and Assessment Team to agree future action.

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the foster carers that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child. Any action required by the local authority to secure the child's safety should be considered and legal advice sought as necessary.

If any information comes to light during the course of the private foster carer assessment, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should prepare a report to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering). Immediate consideration should also be given to the arrangements for the child and if necessary child protection procedures should be followed.

See Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification.

In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under Local Safeguarding Children Board Inter Agency Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.


5. Financial Support for Foster Carers

Financial support by the local authority to sustain an otherwise satisfactory arrangement may be considered and, where appropriate, the social worker should seek the approval of the relevant Safeguarding and Assessment or Safeguarding manager for such assistance to be given.

The relevant manager will confirm the amount of the financial support in writing to the carers.

The payments could be part of a Child in Need Plan, where appropriate. See Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.


6. Imposing Requirements on Foster Carers

Where appropriate, reports to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering) can include recommendations for requirements to be imposed on the foster carers, for example to restrict the approval to an individual child or to limit the number, age or gender of children who may be cared for privately. Requirements may also relate to the standard of accommodation, health and safety matters and/or practical matters such as equipment. A requirement may include a time-scale within which the foster carer must take the necessary action.

A requirement may be varied, removed or added at any time.

Any requirements imposed must be specified in writing, together with reasons. Written notice of any requirements imposed, together with the reasons, will be sent to the foster carer and to the parent by the social worker responsible for the assessment. The foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the requirement to the Magistrates' Court.


7. Limit on Number of Children

The maximum number of children privately fostered in any one household must not exceed 3 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Any application for exemption from this limit must be made to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering). The application must contain the following information:

  1. The number, names and ages of the children;
  2. The proposed arrangements for the care and accommodation of the children;
  3. The intended and likely relationship between the children and the foster carers;
  4. The proposed length of the placement;
  5. Whether the welfare of the children in the placement will be safeguarded and promoted.

Exemptions will only be granted in relation to named children and will cease when the named children leave the placement.

Where an exemption is granted this will be confirmed in writing to the foster carers.


8. Prohibition and Disqualification

A decision can be made to prohibit the proposed foster carer from fostering on the basis that they are not suitable and/or the premises are unsuitable. Legal advice should be sought at this stage

The fact that a Foster Carer is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) is a good reason upon which to seek a prohibition.

Where the social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a foster carer despite the fact that he or she or a person in the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering) for consideration.

Where a decision is made to prohibit a foster carer from caring for a child, reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of the decision, together with the reasons, must be sent by hand or recorded delivery post to the foster carer and to the parent by the social worker responsible for the assessment. The foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the decision to the Magistrates' Court.

Discussion should also take place with the parent as to the making of alternative arrangements for the child.


9. Non-compliance with Requirements

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 Designated Manager (Private Fostering) recommending that the foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out above must be followed.


10. Visits to the Foster Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records

1. Frequency

Visits by a social worker must be made to the child and the foster carer at the foster home within one week of the, arrangement starting, or the date when notification was received if later, and then visits will be made at least every six weeks in the first year by a social worker.

In subsequent years, visits must be undertaken at least every 12 weeks.

The need to visit more frequently will be decided by the social worker and his or her manager depending on the circumstances and the need to visit unannounced and/or to choose times when all members of the household are likely to be present should also be considered.

Additional visits should be arranged at the request of the child or the foster carer.

The child must be seen alone by the social worker on each visit unless this is not appropriate having regard to the young age of the child or if the child does not wish to see the social worker alone. The child's bedroom should be seen on some visits.

2. Purpose

The purpose of and matters to be discussed at the first visit after the child's placement are set out in Section 3, Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification (Single Assessment) 

The overall purpose of all visits is to encourage the maintenance and improvement of child care standards and check that the child's needs are met within the foster placement and in particular:

  1. To observe the overall standard of care including visiting the child's bedroom;
  2. To ensure that the child is developing satisfactorily and that his or her needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  3. To speak to and ascertain the wishes of the child;
  4. To review the purpose and likely duration of the placement and ensure that arrangements with the parents are working. 

    The parent and the foster carer should be encouraged to plan the ending of the placement and prepare the child for the change;
  5. To check that any requirements imposed are being met and check whether they need to be changed or cancelled;
  6. To ensure that the arrangements for the child's education are satisfactory;
  7. To advise or arrange advice for the foster carer as necessary, for example in relation to the maintaining of the child's links with his or her cultural heritage or in relation to appropriate travel arrangements for the child visiting family abroad;
  8. To check that the financial arrangements for the care of the child are working;
  9. To ensure that the child remains registered with a GP and dentist and that any necessary health care has been provided to take account of any special health needs;
  10. To ensure that the child has access to services as required as a result of any disabilities;
  11. To enquire as to the contact arrangements for the child with the parents and siblings;
  12. To encourage the foster carer to keep a record of the child's development, including accidents, illnesses, immunisations, school reports, achievements and any contact with parents or significant others.

In the event that the child's social worker or the fostering social worker are refused a visit, discussion will take place with their Team Managers and the legal department and a decision made on what further action is required.

If the fostering social worker identifies that the child's circumstances have changed and that the child may now be a child in need and requires ongoing support then a referral must be made to the Safeguarding and Assessment team. A social worker from the Safeguarding and assessment team will be allocated to undertake a single assessment and, if the child if assessed as being a child in need, to provide ongoing support and monitoring of the child and the child in need (CIN) plan.

The private fostering arrangement will continue to be assessed and monitored by the fostering social worker.

3. Reports on Visits

The Fostering Social Worker should complete a Regulation 8 visit form on Carefirst after every statutory visit. The report must state whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone. If the child was not seen, the reasons must be recorded. The record must comment on the child's welfare and how the placement is progressing including any views expressed by the foster carer and the child. It must also contain a recommendation about the continued suitability of the fostering arrangement and whether any action should be taken and/or requirements on the foster carer.

4. Unsatisfactory care

Where there are concerns about the child's care, the parents should be advised and consideration should be given to invoking the Local Safeguarding Children Board Inter Agency Procedures.


11. Review of Foster Carers

The suitability of the foster carer should be reviewed annually by the social worker and reported to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering).


12. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster

Where local authority foster carers notify their intention to privately foster a child, the above procedure should be followed.

The foster carers should be advised of the differences between their two roles.

Consideration will need to be given to the implications for any Looked After Child already placed with the foster carer and contact should be made by the supervising social worker involved with the social workers for such children.

Consideration should also be given to the future placement of any Looked After children particularly having regard to the usual fostering limit of three children.


13. Ending of Private Fostering Arrangement and 16+ Support

If a child ceases to be privately fostered, the carers must notify the fostering social worker (private fostering and kinship) in writing within 48 hours. This should include the name and address of the new carer, where applicable. Private Foster carers are informed of this requirement at the beginning of their assessment by the fostering social worker and it is the responsibility of the fostering social worker to monitor this arrangement and the whereabouts of the child.

In the event of the death of a privately fostered child, carers must notify the fostering social worker and the person who has parental responsibility for the child immediately. The fostering social worker will then notify their Manager, and the Head of Service Children in Care and action will be made to close the case.

Parents or persons with parental responsibility have a duty to notify the fostering social worker of the ending of a Private Fostering arrangement immediately and should provide the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.

Where the child does not have an allocated social worker a meeting will take place at the end of the placement in order to ascertain what further support and services, if any, are needed for the Privately Fostered child. This meeting will be organised by the fostering social worker and invitations to attend would be to the current or proposed Private Foster carer/s, the person who has parental responsibility for the child and any other people (where relevant) who work professionally with the child. If the child is identified as having ongoing needs a referral should be made to the Safeguarding & Assessment team or the family signposted to appropriate services.

The fostering social worker should ensure that health, education and the parent's local authority, if not Wiltshire, are informed of the ending of the private fostering arrangement.

The fostering social worker should ensure the private fostering casework is closed on Carefirst.

16+ years support

Unless a young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Services will review the young person's circumstances and future plans as they approach 16. Where a young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but requires continuing support, he or she should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them up as he or she will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance. It will be provided at the request of the young person on the basis of assessment of need and can continue up to the age of 21 or beyond if the young person is in higher education, up to the end of the course.

The Local Authority has a duty under the Children (Leaving Care Act 2000) to "advise and assist" privately fostered children when they are 16 years old and over and therefore are no longer subject of the Private Fostering Regulations.

Privately fostered children's legal status would be as 'Qualifying young people' and they would be entitled to support offered under section 24 of the Children Act 1989.

Following the young person's 16th birthday, and within one month of the young person reaching the age of 16 years, an end of arrangement meeting will take place to discuss the support the young person may need to move into adulthood and to advise the young person of the advice and assistance available to them as a 'qualifying young person'.

This handover meeting to the Looked After Children Through Care Team should include the young person, private foster carer, parents (where applicable), private fostering social worker, young person's social worker (if applicable) and representative of the appropriate Looked After Children Through Care Team. The meeting should be chaired by the appropriate social worker and should take place within the private foster home unless this is not appropriate.

See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure.


14. Children Privately Fostered Outside of Wiltshire

If it becomes known that a child from Wiltshire is privately fostered outside of the Wiltshire area, it will be the responsibility of the Safeguarding and assessment social worker or the allocated Social Worker to notify the appropriate Local Authority.

If it becomes known that a child from another Local Authority has moved to Wiltshire to a privately foster placement, Wiltshire Children's Services is responsible for assessing the arrangement.


15. Monitoring and Audit of Records

Private foster arrangements are collated onto the Carefirst system and it is the responsibility of the Head of Service Children in Care to monitor numbers and identify trends in placements.

He/She is also responsible for seeing that a file audit is completed bi annually in compliance with the regulations. An annual report to the Local Safeguarding Board and Director of Children's Services regarding how Wiltshire is carrying out its responsibilities regarding privately fostered children is completed by the Fostering Service Manager and Fostering worker for Kinship and Private Fostering.

End