7.4.8 Private Fostering

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Please read this Chapter in conjunction with Private Fostering Procedure.


Contents

  1. Initial Contacts by Social Work Staff
  2. Initial Contact Family Placement Social Work Staff
  3. Evaluation of the Suitability of Private Foster Carer and Other Members of Their Household
  4. Imposing Requirements
  5. Exemption From the Usual Fostering Limit
  6. Prohibitions
  7. Guidance With Regard to Requirements and Exemption From the Usual Fostering Limit
  8. Disqualifications
  9. Exercise of the Local Authority's Powers to Consent to Private Fostering by Disqualified Persons
  10. Practice and Policy Regarding Offences
  11. The Children's Introduction to Private Fostering Arrangements
  12. Advice and Support
  13. Recording the Child's Development and Progress


1. Initial Contacts by Social Work Staff

List of matters to be addressed by field social worker during initial contacts with private foster carers, parents, children and concerned others.

  • Check whether the arrangement falls within the scope of the Private Fostering Regulations - see earlier section for a definition. Advice to be taken as appropriate;
  • Check whether formal notice has been forwarded and whether the written notification addresses all of the relevant issues outlined in the department's notification form. (If necessary, provide a standard notification form for the private foster carer or parent to use);
  • Ensure that the parent(s) private foster carer(s) and other, understand the need to notify the local authority within 48 hours of the child's arrangement;
  • Provide all relevant individuals with copies of department leaflets and guidance notes relating to private fostering;
  • Meet with the parent(s), others with parental responsibility, the private foster carer(s) and or other persons concerned, to:
    • Explain Walsall Council's Policy and Procedure and Private Fostering Regulations and Standards (Provide all parties with copies of relevant department leaflets);
    • Outline the services the department provides to assess, support and advise parents and carers and outline the local authority powers and duties to prohibit, disqualify or impose requirements or otherwise exercise any of their functions under the Children Act 1989 in respect of the child;
    • Discuss whether any support or referral to another agency would diminish the need for the child to be privately fostered;
    • Discuss and agree arrangements to meet the child (if possible, in advance of the arrangement) to ascertain his/her wishes and feeling about the proposed arrangement (where this is appropriate taking into account the child's age and understanding);
    • Undertake a Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment of the child's needs and consider whether the child's needs could be met by the provision of service rather than their arrangement with private foster carers;
    • If a child is not to reside in the Private Fostering arrangement the Single Assessment is to give due consideration to the support needs of the child and family. Where appropriate the case will be transferred to Safeguarding and Family Support, subject to either or both Single Assessment and child's plan;
    • If it is determined that the child is to reside with the private foster carer then the private fostering arrangement record (PFAAR) must be completed. Consideration should be given to the capacity of the proposed/actual private foster carer to look after the child and the suitability of members of their household and their premises;(including whether the private foster carer or anyone in the household is disqualified from private fostering children or is unsuitable from caring for children). See Section 8, Disqualifications;
    • Verify that the anticipated start date and the intended duration of the private fostering arrangement has been understood and agreed between the parent of the child (or other person with parental responsibility for him) and the private foster carer;
    • Ensuring that arrangements for contact between the child and his parent(s) (or other person(s) with parental responsibility for him) and other persons who are significant to him (e.g. siblings other family member close friends) have been agreed and understood, and that those arrangements will be satisfactory for the child and consistent with his welfare;
    • Ensure that the parent(s) (or other persons with parental responsibility for the child) have agreed with the proposed private foster carer satisfactory financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child;
    • Ensure that appropriate arrangements have been agreed for the child to have any access to any necessary medical and dental care treatment whilst they are privately fostered (Obtain details of specific school, GP practice and dental practice);
    • Check what arrangements have been made to ensure that the child has access to appropriate education (obtain details of specific school);
    • Clarify what arrangements have been made to ensure that the child's needs arising from his religious persuasion; racial origin and cultural and linguistic background will be met;
    • Clarify how parental responsibility for the child will be exercised, including what will be delegated to the private foster carer in terms of providing the day to day care of the child;
    • Advise the parents and carer(s) about the value of a drafting some form of written agreement in relation to the above;
    • Check whether the proposed private foster carer, the parent(s) (or other person with parental responsibility for the child) or any person concerned with the child is in need of any necessary advice and make appropriate arrangements for this to be provided;
    • Make the proposed private carer(s) and the parents aware of the need to notify Walsall Council of any changes in their circumstances e.g. convictions changes in composition of household, moving house, serious illness, death;
    • At conclusion of the Single Assessment and Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record (PFFAR) contact will be made with the Family Placement Service to confirm that the previous referral is to progress to a Private Fostering Assessment. A copy of the IA and PFAAR will be forwarded to Family Placements;
    • The case will be transferred to Safeguarding and Family Support. Where appropriate the child will be transferred subject to either or both Single Assessment and Childs Plan. If it hasn't been possible to complete all tasks as set out above due to unavailability of key people e.g. parents or those with parental responsibility, then these tasks should be included within the child's plan. It may be necessary for the child to have either a child's plan or require a Single Assessment but will just transfer due to the Private Fostering Arrangement.


2. Initial Contact Family Placement Social Work Staff

On receipt of a referral from the Safeguarding and Family Support Services or Looked After Children team, the Family Placement Team manager should make arrangements for a family placement social worker to be allocated to complete relevant assessments.

On being allocated this matter, the family placement social worker should:

  • Liaise with the child's social worker who made initial contacts with the private foster carer, parents and others to discuss the proposed arrangement;
  • Arrange for checks to be made as to whether the foster carer or other member of the household is or have been known to the department or other relevant agencies, including OFSTED (Disclosure and Barring Service and Statutory and Precautionary Clearance Checks WSS 302);
  • Make a provisional booking with the fostering panel administrator for the matter to be considered by fostering panel prior to the child leaving home;
  • Undertake a Private Foster Carer assessment (WSS) and present to foster panel within 42 working days from notification of the arrangement or as soon as the outcome of the Disclosure and Barring Service check is known, which ever is the sooner;
  • Meet the prospective private foster carer(s) to:
    1. Ensure that the private foster carer has satisfactory understanding of the statutory requirements and the Children's Service policy and procedure relating to private fostering and that they have received the appropriate information leaflets;
    2. Agree arrangements for completing the assessments of;
      1. The suitability of the privately foster to care for the specific child;
      2. The suitability of other members of the household;
      3. The suitability of the accommodation.

Provide the private foster carer with any advice, guidance or support that they may need, including sign posting them to appropriate training that may be available.


3. Evaluation of the Suitability of Private Foster Carer and Other Members of Their Household

Assessment of carer

The responsibility for assessing the suitability of the overall private foster placement and presenting their findings to fostering panel is jointly held by staff in the children's and family placement teams. (See Private Fostering Procedures, Section 2.9, Accountability: Roles and Responsibilities of Staff).

On receipt of notification of an actual or a proposed future private fostering arrangement, the responsibility for assessing the suitability of the private fostering arrangement should be allocated to a social worker with the family placement service. The allocated family placement social worker should liaise closely with the allocated social worker in the fieldwork team who has responsibility for supervising the child's arrangement.

The family placement social worker should compile a report, which takes into account the views and information provided by the allocated child's social worker and which addresses the following:

  • Confirmation of the child's age, sex, background history, nationality and immigration status;
  • The purpose and intended duration of the private fostering arrangements including details of when the arrangement is due to commence;
  • Whether any other support or referral to another agency could diminish the need for the child to be privately fostered;
  • Confirmation of what arrangements that have been made to introduce the child to the private foster carers and to ensure that the carers have full information about the child's needs, background and circumstances;
  • The child's physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development, and details of any disability or other special needs;
  • Whether the children's needs arising from his/her religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural, linguistic background, are being met or are likely to be met by the private fostering arrangements;
  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child regarding the private fostering arrangements and the child's understanding of their circumstances;
  • The financial arrangements made between the parents, or person with parental responsibility, and the private foster carer, for the care and maintenance of the child;
  • The arrangements for the child's medical and dental care and treatment and in particular, that the child is included on the list of a general medical practitioner, and that the private foster carer is aware of the child's medical history;
  • The arrangements for the child's education, whether the education department has been notified of the child's arrangement and the extent to which the private foster carers is able to promote the child's educational attainment;
  • The standard of the care that the child is being given or is likely to be given including a description of the capacity of the private foster carers to meet the specific child's priority needs;
  • The suitability of the private foster carer to look after the child including confirmation of the outcome of any relevant checks and declarations- details of the private foster carers' lifestyle, health, employment and leisure interests;
  • The suitability of other members of the private foster carer household including the extent to which they make demands on the private foster carer and consideration of any other regular visitors to the household;
  • The extent to which any household members or other individuals will be involved in caring for any children living within the household along with details of any other support that the private foster carer may have;
  • The extent to which the private foster carers understand and apply safer care childcare practices, explanation of how they will deal with discipline or otherwise manage difficult behaviour;
  • Confirmation that parents, private foster carers, and others concerned have been provided with service departmental leaflets on private fostering and that they know how to respond in the event of concerns or complaint;
  • Whether the private foster carer is being given or is in need of advice, support or guidance or whether any additional services are being provided or are required to promote the child's welfare;
  • The needs of other children in the household and what impact, if any, the private fostering arrangement is likely to have on their welfare together with information as to their views about the proposed arrangement(proposed/actual);
  • Whether the contact between the child and his parents, or any other person with whom contact is arranged is likely to be satisfactory and the extent to which the private foster carer will encourage or otherwise facilitate contact;
  • Whether and how the child's parents, or any other person are exercising, or intend to have parental responsibility for the child, the extent to which parental responsibility has been delegated to the private foster carers, confirmation of how communication between private foster carers, parents, and relevant social workers will be maintained;
  • The suitability of the premises and the wider environment in which the private fostering will take place;
  • Confirmation of whether formal notice of the arrangement was given in accordance with the requirements of the regulations together with information about whether an offence may have been committed and an outline of what action the department has taken or intends to take in response to any such offence;
  • Confirmation of how often the child, private foster carer and parents have been seen to date and plans for future visits and meetings;
  • Their conclusion as to the suitability of any proposed or actual arrangement- including a summary statement as to the extent to which the child's needs will be met and their welfare promoted and assessment of whether the child is "in need" of any additional support services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Recommendations for any further action required including recommendation as to the disqualification or prohibition of the arrangement and the imposition of any specific requirements.

References

Written references should be taken up from at least 3 referees. Two of the referees should be subject to follow up interviews.

Where prospective private foster carers have previously worked or are working in a childcare related field, checks should be made with the employer as to the applicant's suitability. Medical references should be sought. Copies of these references should be appended to the reports that are submitted to the panel.

Agency Checks

Checks should be made as follows:

  • Children's Services Client Index for each relevant local authority (where foster carer resides, or have previously resided and where the child currently resides or have previously resided);
  • Enhanced level Disclosure and Barring Service checks;
  • The Clinical Commissioning Group, child's health records;
  • OFSTED;
  • Education references should be taken up with schools if private foster carer has school age children, or where the child is already placed, the child's school;
  • Foster carer household health and safety check form should be completed and recommendations made to the private foster carer as required under general fostering procedures.

Matters to be covered in case recording of supervisory visits

  • Whether the visit was planned or unannounced;
  • Who was present?
  • Whether child was seen, if not why not and whether the child was seen alone;
  • Current understanding/statement of the child's wishes;
  • Comment on the child's welfare and progress and whether the child's primary needs are met;
  • Highlight any matters of concern;
  • Details of any advice, guidance or support given;
  • Details on any significant to plans / arrangements or the household composition;
  • Extent to which the arrangement is meeting the child needs arising from his religious persuasion, racial origin and culture and linguistic background;
  • How agreed contact arrangements are working;
  • How agreed financial arrangements are working;
  • Comment on the child's health and whether he/she has been / remains registered with a GP;
  • Comment on the child's educational progress and the arrangements that are in place for his/her education;
  • Compliance with any specific requirements;
  • Comment on whether the arrangement is satisfactory;
  • Identify whether the child is in need of any services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Any other matter that is relevant in the specific circumstances.

Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive, it simply seeks to provide guidance as to the matters that need to be recorded to comply with the National Standards. Other matters may need to be recorded depending on the prevailing circumstances and the specific case. This is a matter for professional judgment.


4. Imposing Requirements

1.

The Children Act 1989 (Schedule 8, Paragraph 8) provides that the Local Authority may impose requirements on private foster carers as to: 

  1. The number, age and sex of children who may be privately fostered; 
  2. The standard of the accommodation and equipment to be provided for them; 
  3. The arrangements to be made with respect to their health and safety;
  4. And particular arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care for them.
2. The requirements may relate to an individual child or to categories of children, e.g. children over a certain age.
3. If the carer fails to comply with a requirement, the Local Authority can impose a prohibition on the carer, to prevent him or her fostering.
4. A requirement may be linked to a conditional prohibition at the time when it is made. The prohibition would be notified with the requirement but would not take effect unless and until the foster carer failed to comply with the requirement within the time limit provided for compliance with it.
5. The local authority also has power to add, vary or remove a requirement.
6. The imposition or variation of a requirement, or the addition of a further requirement, must be notified in writing, giving reasons for it and specifying the right of appeal and time limit for appealing.
7. The private foster carer can appeal to the Family Proceedings Court within 14 days. In the case of an appeal, the requirement will not take effect before the appeal is decided.


5. Exemption From the Usual Fostering Limit

  1. The same limits on the number of children fostered apply to private foster carers as to agency and local authority foster carers. A private foster carer cannot, therefore, foster more than three children who are not siblings at any one time, unless the Local Authority grants an exemption;
  2. The refusal to grant an exemption from the usual fostering limit must be notified in writing, giving reasons for it and specifying the right of appeal and time limit for appealing;
  3. An exemption can be granted where children are related and separation would be detrimental to their welfare. An exemption from the usual fostering limit form would need to be completed and agreed by the relevant manager;
  4. The private foster carer can appeal to the Family Proceedings Court within 14 days. In the case of an appeal, the requirement will not take effect before the appeal is decided.


6. Prohibitions

Imposition of a Prohibition

1. A social worker who considers that it may be appropriate to impose a prohibition upon a person who proposes to foster a child privately, or who is already doing so, should immediately inform his or her manager;
2. In the case where a child is already residing in the arrangement, but it appears that it is not conducive to the child's welfare, the social worker will call an initial strategy meeting and discuss with the Social Care team in Legal Services, to coordinate a response and timescales;
3. The social worker will undertake a written assessment of the risks to the child/young person, and express a view as to whether the arrangement is in the child's best interests, and, if so, what action may be needed to safeguard the child's welfare. This report will be supplementary to the report to be completed under Schedule 2 to the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations, 2005 (when the arrangement is a proposed arrangement) or under Schedule 3 (when the child is already in the arrangement);
4. The report will be presented to the designated senior manager, who will decide whether or not a prohibition should be imposed;
5. A prohibition may be imposed with immediate effect, if there are serious child protection concerns;
6. A prohibition may also be imposed together with a requirement, to take effect only if the requirement is not met within a specified timescale;
7. The contents of the notice of prohibition must be agreed with the Social Care team of Legal Services. A draft proforma, Notification of Prohibition from Fostering a Child Privately, sets out the format and information required;
8. If the person appeals against the prohibition, the manager of the Social Care team of Legal Services should be informed immediately (unless the appeal is sent direct to Legal Services) and Legal Services will arrange for representation in the appeal proceedings;
9.

If a prohibition is imposed, the parent/s must be informed and the Local Authority must consider making or facilitating alternative arrangements to protect the child or young person's welfare, in particular by, as appropriate:

  1. Taking all practicable steps to arrange for him or her to live with a parent, other person with parental responsibility, or a relative; 
  2. Providing services and support for him or her as a child in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  3. Accommodating him or her under section 20 of the Children Act 1989; 
  4. Taking legal action, including possible application for an emergency protection order, care or supervision order.
10. A full record shall be kept both on the child's file and the file relating to the proposed or actual private foster carer;

Cancellation of a Prohibition

1. If the person on whom a prohibition has been imposed applies to the Local Authority for its cancellation, the case will be reviewed and the social worker must visit the person prohibited from private fostering and make enquiries with other persons and agencies, as appropriate, in order to obtain the information required under Schedule 2 of the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2002. The social worker shall prepare an assessment report in the terms of Schedule 2;
2. If the Local Authority considers, for any reason, e.g. a change of circumstances, that it may be appropriate for the prohibition to be cancelled, the social worker must contact the person prohibited from private fostering and ask whether he or she wishes for the case to be reviewed, with a view to the prohibition's being cancelled. If the person does wish the prohibition to be cancelled, the social worker shall proceed as in (1) above;
3. The social worker will then prepare a supplementary report, assessing the risks to the child or young person whom it is proposed that the prohibited person should foster, and will express a view as to whether the prohibition should be cancelled;
4. The reports will be submitted to the designated manager, who will make a decision on whether or not to cancel the prohibition;
5. The designated manager will notify the applicant for cancellation of the prohibition in writing. The terms of the notification letter will be agreed with the Social Care team of Legal Services;
6.

If the decision is made not to cancel the prohibition, the notification letter will specify:

  1. the reason for the decision;
  2. the right to appeal;
  3. the time limit for appealing.
7. If the person appeals against the refusal to cancel the prohibition, the manager of the Social Care team of Legal Services should be informed immediately (unless the appeal is sent direct to Legal Services) and Legal Services will arrange for representation in the appeal proceedings;
8. The child's parents must be informed of the outcome;
9. A full record shall be kept both on the child's file and the file relating to the proposed or actual private foster carer.

6.1. Exercise of the Local Authority's powers with regard to the imposition and cancellation of Prohibitions

  1. Each case will be considered in the light of individual circumstances;
  2. The child's welfare will be the Local Authority's paramount consideration. The Local Authority will consider all the matters specified in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of the Children (Private Fostering) Regulations 2005, as the case may be. In particular, the safety of the child, the extent to which the child's needs can be met in the arrangement, the child's wishes and feelings, and the child's relationship with the carer, will all be taken fully into account;
  3. A decision shall be made without unnecessary delay, consistent with the need for full investigation and consideration;
  4. The Local Authority will consider whether the child's welfare could be safeguarded adequately by the imposition of a requirement, with a prohibition to take effect only if the requirement is not met within a specified timescale;
  5. If a decision is made to impose a prohibition, the Local Authority will consider whether it must exercise any of its powers under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard the welfare of the child concerned;
  6. If a decision is made to cancel a prohibition, the Local Authority will consider whether there is a need for provision of services, e.g. education or training of the carer, and whether a Requirement should be imposed to safeguard the welfare of the child.


7. Guidance With Regard to Requirements and Exemption From the Usual Fostering Limit

Requirements

  1. In the course of assessing a proposed arrangement, or of reviewing an established arrangement, a social worker may consider that a requirement should be imposed to protect the child's welfare, for example relating to the accommodation, or an aspect of the child's care, or limits on the number of children in the placement. The social worker should discuss this with his or her manager, and also consider whether the matter is so important that the requirement should be linked to a prohibition, to come into effect if the private foster carer fails to comply with the requirement within the time limit allowed;
  2. Following enquiries with the proposed or actual private foster carer and with other persons and agencies, as appropriate, the social worker will then prepare a report on the matters specified in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2002, depending on whether the arrangement is proposed or actual;
  3. The social worker should also prepare a supplementary report, assessing any risks to the child or young person, and explaining why he or she considers the requirement should be imposed, the time limit within which it should be complied with, and whether it should be linked to a prohibition;
  4. The same procedure applies to the proposed variation or removal of a requirement, or the imposition of an additional requirement;
  5. The reports will be submitted to the designated manager, who will make a decision on whether or not to impose the requirement and whether it should be linked to a prohibition, or whether or not to remove or vary an existing requirement;
  6. The designated manager will notify the proposed or actual foster carer in writing of the decision. The terms of the notification letter will be agreed with the Social Care team of Legal Services. See draft Notification of Imposition of Requirements;
  7. If the decision is made to impose or vary a requirement, the notification letter will specify: 

    the reason for the decision;

    the right to appeal; 

    the time limit for appealing;

    The Government Guidance indicates that it should be made clear in the letter that a time is allowed within which the requirement should be implemented to allow for negotiation. If a prohibition is also to be imposed, this should also be notified in the letter.
  8. The child's parents must be informed of the outcome;
  9. If the person appeals against the imposition of the requirement, the manager of the Social Care team of Legal Services should be informed immediately (unless the appeal is sent direct to Legal Services) and Legal Services will arrange for representation in the appeal proceedings;
  10. If the person appeals, the requirement will not take effect before the Court has considered the appeal;
  11. A full record shall be kept both on the child's file and the file relating to the proposed or actual private foster carer.

Exemption from the Usual Fostering Limit

1. If an actual or prospective private foster carer seeks to foster children above the usual fostering limit, the social worker should make enquiries with the proposed or actual private foster carer and with other persons and agencies, as appropriate, and will then prepare a report on the matters specified in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2002, depending on whether the arrangement is proposed or actual;
2. The social worker should also prepare a supplementary report, assessing any risks to the children concerned, and expressing a view whether the usual fostering limit should be exceeded in this case;
3. The reports will be submitted to the designated manager, who will make a decision on whether or not to exempt the carer from the usual fostering limit;
4. The designated manager will notify the proposed or actual foster carer in writing. The terms of the notification letter will be agreed with the Social Care team of Legal Services;
5.

If the decision is made to refuse exemption, the notification letter will specify:

  1. The reason for the decision;
  2. The right to appeal;
  3. The time limit for appealing.

    See draft letter, Notification of Refusal of Exemption from the Usual Fostering Limit. 
6. The children's parents must be informed of the outcome;
7. If the carer appeals against the refusal of exemption, the manager of the Social Care team of Legal Services should be informed immediately (unless the appeal is sent direct to Legal Services) and Legal Services will arrange for representation in the appeal proceedings;
8. If the person appeals, the refusal will not take effect before the Court has considered the appeal;
9. A full record shall be kept both on the child's file and the file relating to the proposed or actual private foster carer.

Requirements and Exemptions from the Usual Fostering Limit

  1. Each case will be considered in the light of individual circumstances;
  2. The child's welfare will be the Local Authority's paramount consideration. The Local Authority will consider all the matters specified in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of the Children (Private Fostering) Regulations 2005, as the case may be. In particular, the safety of the child, the extent to which the child's needs can be met in the arrangement, the child's wishes and feelings, and the child's relationship with the carer, will all be taken fully into account.
  3. A decision shall be made without unnecessary delay, consistent with the need for full investigation and consideration;
  4. If a decision is made to impose a requirement, the Local Authority will consider whether, in order to safeguard the child's welfare, it should also impose a prohibition, to take effect conditionally upon the private foster carer's failure to implement the requirement within the time specified;
  5. If a decision is made to exempt a carer from the usual fostering limit, the Local Authority will consider whether, in order to safeguard the welfare of the children concerned, it should also impose a requirement;
  6. If a decision is made to impose a requirement, or to exempt the carer from the usual fostering limit, the Local Authority will consider whether there is a need for provision of services, e.g. education or training of the carer.

Prohibitions

1. Under the Children Act 1989, section 69, the Local Authority has power to prohibit a person from fostering a child privately.
2.

The grounds of the prohibition may be that:

  1. The person is not a suitable person to foster the child;
  2. The premises in which the child is being, or will be, residing, are not suitable; or
  3. That it would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child for him or her to be, or continue to be, resident with that person on those premises.
3.

The prohibition may be specific to the child concerned, or more general. Thus it may specify either that the person is prohibited from fostering,

  1. Any child in any premises within the area of the local authority; or 
  2. Any child in premises specified in the prohibition; or 
  3. A child identified in the prohibition, in premises specified in the prohibition.
4. The Government Guidance indicates that Local Authorities are encouraged to use their powers to impose prohibitions in order to safeguard the welfare of privately fostered children;
5. A prohibition may be imposed together with a requirement, and in that case it must be stated it will not take effect until the time for complying with the requirement has expired, and if the requirement is not complied with. The Government Guidance indicates that Local Authorities are encouraged to use their powers to impose prohibitions in order to safeguard the welfare of privately fostered children;
6. Once a prohibition has been imposed, the person concerned becomes disqualified from private fostering. See Section 8, Disqualifications. To foster a child privately in contravention of a prohibition is a criminal offence, punishable on conviction by a sentence of not more than 51 weeks' imprisonment, and a fine, or both;
7.

If the Local Authority decides to impose a prohibition, the prohibition must be notified in writing and must specify:

  1. The reasons for imposing the prohibition;
  2. The right to appeal; and
  3. The time limit for appealing.

    If linked to a requirement, the notification should state that it will not take effect until the time for complying with the requirement has expired, and then only if.
8. The private foster carer can appeal to the local Family Proceedings Court within fourteen days. There is a possibility of a further appeal from the Family Proceedings Court to the High Court;
9. If a prohibition has been imposed, but the Local Authority considers that it is no longer justified, the Local Authority may cancel the prohibition. The Local Authority may do so following an application by the prohibited person, or may itself decide to do so, following enquiries, or following a notification of change of circumstances by the prohibited person;
10. A private foster care who has applied for cancellation of a prohibition may appeal against refusal, as in (8) above.


8. Disqualifications

Persons disqualified from caring for children

1. The Children Act 1989, section 68, provides that people whose background indicates that they are unsuitable to care for children are automatically disqualified from fostering, unless the Local Authority gives consent to them to foster. They have a duty to disclose the fact and circumstances of their disqualification to the Local Authority;
2. Similarly, under section 68 of the Children Act 1989, if the proposed or actual foster carer has a disqualified person living in the household as a member of the household, or employed there, he or she cannot foster privately without the consent of the Local Authority. He or she has a duty to disclose the presence of the disqualified person in the household to the Local Authority; 
3. The Local Authority has the power to give consent to a person, who would otherwise be disqualified, acting as a private foster carer, but only if it is satisfied that the welfare of the child concerned would not be prejudiced by the proposed, or actual, private foster carer, or a member of his or her household;
4. To foster a child privately in contravention of section 68 is a criminal offence, punishable on conviction by a sentence of not more than 51 weeks' imprisonment, and a fine, or both. It is a defence, in a case where the disqualified person is a member of the household or an employee, if the private foster carer was unaware of the person's disqualification;
5. If the Local Authority gives consent, it must be in writing and by a senior manager;
6. If the Local Authority refuses to give consent, the private foster carer can appeal to the local Family Proceedings Court within fourteen days. There is a possibility of a further appeal from the Family Proceedings Court to the High Court;
7.

If the Local Authority refuses consent, the refusal must be in writing and must specify:

  1. The grounds of the refusal;
  2. The right to appeal; and
  3. The time limit for appealing

Grounds for Disqualification from caring for children

1. The grounds on which a person may be disqualified from fostering privately are given in the Disqualification from Caring For Children (England ) Regulations 2002; 
2. The grounds are numerous and, necessarily, refer to some legislation which has been repealed, or relates to other parts of the United Kingdom. Therefore it is impossible to give an exhaustive list here, and advice should always be sought from the Social Care team of Legal Services in order to confirm whether or not disqualification applies;
3.

In summary, the following persons are disqualified

  1. The parent of a child who at any time has been made the subject of a care order under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (i.e. a final care order);
  2. A person who has had a child removed from his or her care as a result of the making of any care order, deemed care order, or similar statutory order;
  3. A person convicted of an offence against a child specified within the meaning of section 26 (1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, or in the Schedule to the Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002, or any other offence involving bodily injury to a child;
  4. A person who has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, in respect of a children’s or voluntary home, or been concerned financially in the running of such a home, in respect of which the registration of any person has been cancelled;
  5. A person who has at any time been prohibited from fostering; 
  6. A person who has at any time been refused registration in respect of provision of nursery or day care or child minding, or has had such registration cancelled;
  7. A person in respect of whom similar events have taken place under the legislation of Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Procedure with regard to disqualification

1. When the Local Authority becomes aware of a prospective or actual private foster arrangement, the social worker must arrange for a form, Declaration Regarding Suitability to Foster Children Privately, to be completed in addition to the notification form giving the details of the arrangement. A copy of the form must be completed by each of the private foster carers and by each of any people over the age of 16 who are living with the carer/s as members of the household or, if applicable, employed there. The social worker should go through the form with the carer/s and emphasise the need for full disclosure;
2. If the completed form indicates that the person is, or may be, disqualified from caring for children, this should be brought to the attention of the social worker's manager. The social worker should consult with the Social Care team in Legal Services, to confirm whether the person comes within any of the legally specified grounds for disqualification;
3. It may be necessary to make further enquiries with the private foster carer, or, with consent, third parties such as the police etc, to clarify the situation;
4. If it is confirmed that the carer, or a person in his or her household is disqualified from caring for children, the social worker will call an initial strategy meeting and discuss with the Social Care team in Legal Services, to coordinate a response and timescales;
5. The social worker will undertake a written assessment of the risks to the child/young person, and express a view as to whether the arrangement is in the child's best interests, and, if so, what action may be needed to safeguard the child's welfare. This report will be supplementary to the report to be completed under Schedule 2 to the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations, 2005 when the arrangement is a proposed arrangement) or under Schedule 3 (when the child is already in the arrangement;
6. The report will be presented to the designated senior manager, who will decide whether or not to give consent to the person's acting as a private foster carer and will notify the person in writing. Written consent for the person to privately foster the child or young person is specific to that particular child in that particular arrangement and can only be given by the designated manager.
7. The contents of the notice either of consent, or of refusal to give consent, must be agreed with the Social Care team of Legal Services. A draft proforma, Notification of Refusal to Consent to Private Fostering, sets out the format and information required;
8. If the person appeals against the disqualification, the manager of the Social Care team of Legal Services should be informed immediately (unless the appeal is sent direct to Legal Services) and Legal Services will arrange for representation in the appeal proceedings;
9.

If the Local Authority cannot consent to private fostering of the child or young person, the parent/s must be informed and the Local Authority must consider making or facilitating alternative arrangements to protect the child or young person's welfare, in particular by, as appropriate:

  1. Taking all practicable steps to arrange for him or her to live with a parent, other person with parental responsibility, or a relative;
  2. Providing services and support for him or her as a child in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  3. Accommodating him or her under section 20 of the Children Act 1989; 
  4. Taking legal action, including possible application for an emergency protection order, care or supervision order.
10. The above procedures will also be followed if the Local Authority becomes aware, or is notified, that a person who is already fostering a child privately has committed a relevant offence or otherwise incurred disqualification;
A full record shall be kept both on the child's file and the file relating to the proposed or actual private foster carer;


9. Exercise of the Local Authority's Powers to Consent to Private Fostering by Disqualified Persons

  1. Each case will be considered in the light of individual circumstances;
  2. The child's welfare will be the Local Authority's paramount consideration. The Local Authority will consider all the matters specified in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of the Children (Private Fostering) Regulations 2005, as the case may be. In particular, the safety of the child, the extent to which the child's needs can be met in the placement, the child's wishes and feelings, and the child's relationship with the carer, will all be taken fully into account;
  3. A decision shall be made without unnecessary delay, consistent with the need for full investigation and consideration;
  4. If a decision is made not to give consent to the disqualified person to foster a child privately, the Local Authority shall consider whether it must exercise any of its powers under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard the welfare of the child concerned;
  5. If a decision is made to give consent, the Local Authority shall consider whether there is a need for provision of services, e.g. education or training of the carer, and whether a Requirement should be imposed to safeguard the welfare of the child;
  6. If the proposed or actual private foster carer discloses information, or information comes to light, indicative that the person may be unsuitable to care for a child, although it does not come within the legal criteria for disqualification, the Local Authority shall investigate and, if it is concluded, on the basis of the evidence, that the person is unsuitable to foster, a Prohibition may be imposed.


10. Practice and Policy Regarding Offences

For a list of the Offences which present a risk to Children, go to the following link (Home Office Circular 16/2005)

Action to be taken if an offence appears to have been committed

1. Because of the possibility of a prosecution, in any case where it seems likely that an offence could have been committed, for example if the local authority is informed that a child is being privately fostered, but has not been notified within the required time limits, the social worker performing the initial visit (a social worker must visit the private foster arrangement who has) must have received training in Police and Criminal Evidence Act interviewing and cautioning procedures, and must be prepared to give evidence in court;
2. If it appears that any of the offences relating to private fostering may have been committed, the social worker must report this to the relevant manager immediately, and agree a plan for investigation, in conjunction with the manager;
3.

When interviewing the private foster carer and the child's parent/s, or other relevant parties concerned in making the private fostering arrangements, the social worker must explore the circumstances of the possible offence, in particular: 

  1. Whether the person concerned understood the legal requirements;
  2. Whether there were any personal circumstances which could have affected the person's capacity to comply with the legal requirements, e,g, learning difficulties, mental or physical illness, coercion by another person, reaction to a recent bereavement, etc.;
  3. Whether the evidence suggests that the person may have deliberately ignored the legal requirements, given false or misleading information or withheld information in order to deceive the Local Authority.
4. Besides investigating the circumstances of the offence, the social worker has a paramount duty to consider the welfare of the child;
5. A full record must be kept both on the child's case record and on that of the private foster carer;
6. The manager must then decide whether to consult Legal Services with a view to a possible prosecution, which would be conducted by the Litigation Team of Legal Services;
7. If an offence has been committed, the Local Authority has a discretion whether or not to prosecute the person responsible. See Prosecution Criteria.

If the manager considers that prosecution may be appropriate, he or she should consult Legal Services

  1. If the case is straightforward, Legal Services will advise on the documentation required and will arrange for filing and service of the summons, etc, and will notify the social worker when the matter is listed for hearing;
  2. In more doubtful or complex cases, Legal Services will arrange a meeting between the social worker, the manager, and a member of Legal Services. In some cases it may also be necessary to involve a member of the Social Care legal team.
8. If the manager considers, or is advised that, prosecution is inappropriate, he or she will consider taking alternative action, e.g. training for the private foster carer;
9. If it appears that a private foster arrangement is not consistent with the child's welfare, or there appears to be significant harm or a risk of such harm, the manager must, as well as considering prosecution, consider whether action is needed to protect the child, such as agreeing different arrangements for the child's care with his or her parent, or, if necessary, considering legal action to remove the child from the private foster carers, e.g. applying for an emergency protection or interim care order.

Prosecution Criteria

1.

The evidence must be sufficient to prove the case on the criminal standard of proof, i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. The Court will expect direct evidence, rather than hearsay evidence, which could be acceptable in civil proceedings, such as care proceedings. The burden of proof is on the Local Authority, i.e. the Local Authority has to prove that the offence has been committed, rather than the defendant having to prove his or her innocence. In particular:

  1. There must be contemporaneous recording of the investigation;
  2. Interview records must comply with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provisions;
  3. Any areas of doubt must have been clarified, e.g. if someone says they contacted Children's Services several months ago, full details of the alleged contact should be taken, and checks made to see if the account could be credible; 
  4. Where, as in the case of a failure to give notice, or to provide information required, or to comply with requirements, the offence is only committed if the person acted 'without reasonable excuse', the circumstances need to be considered to see whether the Court would be likely to accept that the person had a 'reasonable excuse.'
2. If the evidence is sufficient, then the Local Authority must go on to consider whether or not a prosecution would be in the public interest. While, in general terms, the legislation forbidding private fostering by persons with a record of offences against children, requiring notification of private fostering, etc, is made in the interest of protecting the welfare of children, in individual cases, a prosecution might not further the public interest if, e.g. the carer had acted unlawfully but was meeting the child's needs;
3. Every case must be considered individually, and always in the context of the need to promote the welfare of the child concerned;
4.

In particular, the Local Authority will consider:

  1. The degree, if any, to which the child's welfare has been prejudiced by the person's offence;
  2. Whether the child will be living, or continuing to live with the person, and, if so, the potential effect on the child's welfare of prosecuting the carer;
  3. Whether the person acted wilfully and dishonestly;
  4. Whether the circumstances suggest that the person is likely to commit a similar offence in the future, or has done so in the past, and a prosecution is likely to have a deterrent effect;
  5. Whether prosecution would be inhumane and would serve no useful purpose, due to the person's old age, vulnerability or serious ill health, whether physical or mental;
  6. Any other special circumstances which may arise in any particular case. 
 

Legal Guidance

The social care legal advisors have developed procedures, which set out how the department will respond when an offence has been committed and the service has decided to take legal action. (Staff and managers should note that criminal proceedings require evidence that will allow a court to come to a verdict using the test of 'beyond reasonable doubt' rather than the low standard of evidence (balance of probability) that is required in family proceedings). This being the case, staff and their managers should consult with Legal Services at the earliest opportunity whenever information comes to light, which suggests that there may have been a breech of the requirements of the regulation and before arriving at any conclusion to prosecute the alleged offender. (See also Practice Guidance for legal guidance in relation to non-notification)


11. The Children's Introduction to Private Fostering Arrangements

Private foster carers will need information about the child, the child's needs and history, medical background, educational attainment and the child's understanding of the reasons for any for and during of the arrangement so that they fully understand the task that they intend to take on. Information on routines, capabilities, interests, habits, fears, likes and dislikes, needs and, where appropriate, sufficient information about the implications of the child's disability or learning difficulty are essential if the private foster carer is to offer good quality continuity of care and help the child settle into his new home. At the same time the child should be told as much about the prospective private foster carer as he is able to understand e.g. interests of other children and location of the private foster home.

The way the introduction to his or her new home is organised is important for the child's sense of security and acceptance of the change. A process of introduction helps to minimise the pain of separation. Private foster carers need to be prepared for the possibility of disrupted behaviour following such a significant change for a child.

Planned Endings

The private foster carer will need a clear written agreement with the child's parents on the expected duration of an arrangement. The duration of the arrangement should be reviewed with the private foster carer on every visit so that any change can be anticipated to enable parent, child and other carers to be involved and consulted, thus helping to avoid unplanned moves or drift. If plans change, the reasons given for the change and the nature of the revised arrangements should be clearly understood by all parties, including the child, along with appropriate timescales for implementing the changes. All significant changed should be notified to the local authority. 

Advice to private foster carers and parents should include the importance of planned endings to arrangements and preparation of the child for the change. This is particularly important where the child is to move top a new private foster carer. 

Continuity and Change

Private foster carers and the child's parents should be aware of the importance of continuity of health care and education and, all aspects of the child's life, and share all relevant information. A child who is geographically mobile should not miss out on diagnosis and treatment of specific health needs.

As much continuity as possible should be maintained, e.g. continuity at the same school and remaining with the same GP. Also, private foster carers should be encouraged to maintain a photograph album for the child and a diary of significant events which the child can keep when he moves on. 

A child's return to his family may also need careful preparation by both the private foster carer and the child's parent, depending on the length of time the child has been away and the extent of changes within the family. The need for continuity is equally critical at the end of the arrangement as at the beginning. Children often return to different addresses, and unfamiliar culture and new family members. The former private foster carer should be advised to pass on information to the parent on the habits, food preferences, interests, routines and connection developed by the child. Ideally, parents should be prepared for these changes and the possibility of disruptive behaviour while the child re-establishes himself in his family. 

The private foster carer has no authority to arrange another private foster arrangement other than at the specific request of the parent. If they can no longer keep the child it is for the parent to make alternative arrangements. 

Religion, Culture, Languages and Race

The quality and consistency of care a child receives in his formative years is critical to his physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development. The practice among some ethnic minority families to place their child in private foster homes of a different race and culture may, in some instances, require local authorities to pay particular attention to ensuring that the private fostered child is able to maintain contact with people from his race, culture and religion.

In circumstances where it is known that a child comes from a minority ethnic group or from a particular cultural background, the social worker should seek to establish whether the person proposing to privately foster the child has an understanding of the particular culture and knowledge of the child's language. Social workers should explore the extend to which the prospective private foster carer is prepared to develop such understanding and give advise as appropriate. 

Attention may need to be given to the expectations of private foster child participating in the religious life of the private foster carer and his household, and whether this would be compatible with the expectations of a child and his parents. Account should also be taken of the private foster carers' willingness to provide a child from an ethnic minority group with a diet which is familiar to him, including food that may be part of a religious observation. 

Local authorities are encouraged to see that the private foster carer is advised about the provision of resources and facilities which could assist him meet the racial, cultural, religious and linguistic needs of the child. This can be done for example, by involving local religious groups, minority ethnic communities and the voluntary sector. 

Local authorities will need to be aware of particular difficulties which such arrangements can present and be prepared to address them at an early stage to avoid problems for the future. It is important to remember that the local authority has an important role in providing advice on how potential or actual difficulties can be overcome within their overarching duty to ensure that the child's welfare is safeguarded and to promote it. 

Healthcare and Treatment

Children of certain racial origins or from certain parts of the world may have particular healthcare needs and full consideration should be given to this aspect of the child's care. If a child is well and active then no special screening may need to be undertaken, over and above routine screening and surveillance offered to all children in the United Kingdom. If, however, the child is unwell, special factors should be taken into account as they may be the key to the child's ill health. For example children of particular racial; origins or from certain parts of the world may be at risk of developing or suffering a range of illnesses such as malnutrition, sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, tuberculosis, hepatitis B & C, certain forms of diabetes, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS or tropical diseases such as malaria.

Children of school age are included in health care provided under the school health service. Children aged under 5 who are privately fostered should not miss out on child health surveillance program. Health checks are usually offered at age 6 weeks, 8 weeks (range 7 - 9 months), 21 months (range 18 - 24 months), 39 months (range 36 - 42 months) and in some areas, entry at 5 years into school (range 48 - 66 months). Private health checks, vaccinations etc. (This schedule of surveillance checks is recommended in the report 'Health for all children' - Hall Report.)

All private foster carers should have a working knowledge of, and skills in, first aid or be encouraged to obtain such knowledge and skills. 

Personal Child Health Record

The Personal Child Health Record (PCHR) should normally be held by the private foster carer i.e. the person who has care of the child. For some disabled children parents will also need to share any necessary information about specific techniques for feeding and personal care. Children with disabilities may have been receiving medical services from specialist units and special arrangements may be necessary to ensure continuity of care and treatment. Local authorities should therefore, ensure that the primary care services are aware of the private fostering arrangement. 

Child's Medical History

The parents of the child to be privately fostered should make known the child's medical history to the prospective private foster carer and the local authority. The parent(s) should be asked to give the private foster carer the Personal Child Health Record for the duration of the arrangement. In addition to basic details of the child - height, weight, etc, details in a child's medical history should include

  • Immunisations given and dates including, where practicable, the results of any neo natal screening test;
  • History relating to infectious diseases, with dates;
  • Any episodes of in patient or out patient treatment, for any condition with dates, giving details where possible;
  • Whether the child has, or is know to have, any congenital condition which has, or may have, medical implications and/or which necessitates ongoing health care;
  • Whether the child is know to have any allergies, including allergies to any medication;
  • Current short-term or long term medication and any other treatment, including the names of the consultants involved in the treatments;
  • Information on any special dietary requirements or dietary restrictions.

Consent to Medical Examination or Treatment

Consent to medical examination or treatment for which the child himself is not capable of giving maybe given by a parent or other person with parental responsibility. Although a person may not transfer or abdicate responsibility, they may arrange for some or all of it to be met by one or more person acting on their behalf (section 2(9) of the Children Act 1989). There is no requirement for such arrangement to be evidenced in writing. However, it is recommended that, at the commencement of the arrangement, the parent or other person with parental responsibility record in writing their agreement for the private foster carer to give consent on behalf of the child to everyday treatment which may become necessary. It maybe appropriate for the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group or the child's general medical practitioner to have copies of this document.

Children of sixteen and over give their own consent to medical treatment (see Seeking Consent: working with children, Department of Health 2001). (Needs checking) Children under sixteen may also be able to give or refuse consent depending on their capacity to understand the nature of the treatment; it is for the doctor or other person providing treatment to decide this.

Education

Where possible and appropriate, children should remain at the same school. However, if a school change is required, care must be taken to ensure that the school is appropriate in terms of the child's educational need, race, culture, gender and disability.

Local authorities are obliged to satisfy themselves about arrangements for the child's education and the local educational authority has been informed of the private fostering arrangement.

Local authorities should explore the private foster carer's or prospective private foster carer's attitudes and expectations in relation to a child's education. The objective should be to establish a view as to this person's:

  • Understanding and recognition of the need to provide educational support to a privately fostered child, including a commitment to ensure the child's regular attendance at school;
  • Ability to cope with the additional parenting tasks of providing support to a child with special educational needs (where appropriate).

Standard of Care

Expectations regarding the physical care of the child should be established from the first contact between the parent and private foster carer and are best achieved thought cooperation, encouragement, availability of advice and mediation, all of which focus on achieving the best interests of the child and safeguarding and promoting their welfare.

Contact with the Child's Family

Where the private fostering arrangement will not be, or is not, within easy reach of the child's family, the local authority should explore whether clear arrangements have been made to facilitate contact. Contact with members of the child's extended family who are living in the UK should also be encouraged. Where the proposed or actual private foster carers is from a different racial or culture group to that of the child, the local authority should ensure that the carer will enable links to be maintained with the child's racial, cultural and religious heritage.

The private foster carers or prospective foster carers, attitude and expectations should be explored concerning his promoting contact between the child's parents, or other person with parental responsibility, and any other significant person in the child's earlier life, and his willingness to facilitate visits by parents and relatives to the private foster home for the duration of the arrangement. It is essential that the person privately fostering, or proposing to privately foster a child, is aware of the implications of caring for other peoples children and of the need to work in partnership with the child's parents and private foster carers. Parents and private foster carers may need advice on the importance of continuing links for the child's emotional wellbeing. The social worker should ensure that adequate arrangements are made for relationships between siblings to develop. 

Arrangements for contact with the parent need to be agreed between the private foster carer and the parent (or other person with parental responsibility) so that the child retains emotional links with his birth family. Equally, arrangements for contact with siblings, relatives and others should be agreed and organised and the arrangements set down in writing. Arrangements for the private foster carer to contact the parent should also be set down. If the parent and the private foster carer are working together then the child is more likely to feel secure. Of course, all contact between the child and others must be satisfactory for the child. 

At every visit the local authority should enquire about any changes to the original planned duration of the arrangement and, if appropriate, offer advice and help in resolving any difficulty, even, if necessary, by providing a venue for families to meet. In normal circumstances the costs of contact is a matter between the parents and private foster carer. The social worker should also enquire about the contract arrangements and how well they are working.

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility is one of the key concepts of the Children Act 1989. Because parents have the legal responsibility for their children they should be encouraged to participate in all decisions made in relation to a private fostering arrangement. It is most important for the well being of the child that the parent provides the prospective private foster carer with as much information about the child as possible, including his health record, diet preferences, school records, hobbies, religion, ethnicity and so on. 

The Children Act 1989 defines 'parental responsibility' to include all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property (section 3 (1)). 

A person, such as a private foster carer, who has day to day care of a child or whom he does not have parental responsibility is empowered to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child (section 3(5)). A person with parental responsibility may arrange (under section 2(9)) for a private foster carer to meet that responsibility by acting on his behalf, for example, delegating responsibility for consent to medical examination or treatment. Such an arrangement may prove useful in situation where the parent of the child is unable to exercise his responsibility. However (under section 2(11)) such an arrangement does not affect any liability of the person with parental responsibility which may follow from a failure to meet that responsibility.

Whilst the day to day care of the child can be delegated to the private foster carer, parental responsibility is retained by the parent. How they exercise this is a matter for agreement with the private foster carer at the start of the arrangement. However, parents should be encouraged to remain as closely involved as possible in their child's life. Any drift could leave the position of the child uncertain as to which family they belong to, and allow the arrangements to be regarded as a quasi adoption. The parents should be encouraged to leave photos of themselves and family, and keep the child up to date with happenings in the family either directly and all through the private foster carers. The private foster carers should encourage this as well as contact with any siblings who may also be privately fostered, the natural family and significant people from the past. 

If the parents are failing to exercise their responsibility, e.g. failing to pay financial maintenance or to keep in touch, the social worker should try to locate the parents and find out if there is a problem, give advice and take appropriate action as necessary. 

Wishes and Feelings of the Child

The child's views and feelings about a private fostering arrangement (proposed or actual) should always be sought, subject to the child's age and understanding. The social worker should be clear on how confidences should be handled. The child's views on him becoming, or actually being a privately fostered child needs to be taken into account when an arrangement is being considered. If the child expresses a wish not to be privately fostered, the social worker needs to try to understand whether this is related to the child's anxiety about leaving the birth parent or whether there is a specific reason why they do not wish to be privately fostered by a particular person. 

The social worker should be particularly aware that there may be good reasons why the child's views are different from those of his parents, or any other person with parental responsibility for him and, in the case of a child who is privately fostered, the views of the private foster carer. The more mature the child, the more fully he will be able to enter into discussion about plans and proposals, and participate in the decision making process. 

All children need to be given information and explanations so that they are in a position to develop their own views and make choices. Providing children with reassurance and helping them over their anxieties is essential if their welfare is to be safeguarded and promoted. 

Where the child has communication difficulties, social workers should ensure that all necessary means are employed to enable the child to express his views, feelings and for them to be considered.  Such means could include consulting someone who has the appropriate communication skills, such as sign language and making use of Makaton or Bliss symbols - a language of signs used by people with several learning difficulties. With young children their wishes and feelings can often be established indirectly by observations and through play, or in the case of a very disturbed child, through any therapy which the child may be receiving. 

In the case of a child whose first language is not English, an interpreter may be required. The importance to a child of maintaining his first language should be addresses since eventual return to his family or community is made even more difficult if he is unable to use his 'own' language. 


12. Advice and Support

For parents

Local authorities may need to give advice and support to parents to enable them to make alternative arrangements for the care of their child where in all the circumstances of the case the local authority considered that it is not appropriate for the child to be privately fostered, and where a private fostering arrangement is prohibited and no other is contemplated. Parents may need to be advised on the desirability to keep siblings together if possible unless a child has particular needs which have to be met separately. They may need advice on attachment issues, and the implications of a child living away from home with someone else to whom they may become attached if parental involvement is not maintained. They may also need advice on what to do if they are concerned about their child's care. 

In each case the local authority will need to consider whether support of referral to another agency would remove the necessity for the child to be privately fostered and, where feasible and in the child's best interests, provide that support to make that referral. 

For Private Foster Carers

Local Authorities should provide information to private foster carers (prospective and actual) on the support that is available from other agencies, including health services, education, Housing services, Connexions, voluntary organisations and community groups. They might in some circumstances need to refer private foster carers on to other agencies. 

Advice may cover a range of topics from the advisability of taking out public liability insurance to the potential for racial harassment where a white carer is caring for a black child. Where appropriate local authorities will need to give advice to private foster carers about needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic back ground. They will also, where appropriate, need to give advice which would enhance a private foster carers ability to care effectively for a child (including in relation for age, sex and disability), and the opportunity to utilise and training or support services that may be available.

Advice to private foster carers can be given in a number of ways:

  • Individually by the social worker, health visitor or other professional;
  • In a 'self help' group, learning from other private foster carers. This can be particularly useful if it includes some experienced private foster carers with good standards of care who can act as role models to others;
  • Via 'drop in' centres, possibly with the child minders;
  • By being linked to local resources, e.g. a toy library, equipment loan scheme, playgroup or other relevant agencies;
  • Training set up specifically for private foster carers or generally for all foster parents, child minders or others. 


13. Recording the Child's Development and Progress

It is good practice for the local authority social worker to offer private foster care advice about the information they should keep and the manner in which they should keep it, to be shared with the parents, and where appropriate, the local authority social services, health and education services. Such advice should cover

  • Maintaining and updating the child's medical history (with appropriate input from health personnel) and include notes / dates of visits to the GP, health clinic, etc;
  • Keeping a file of school records;
  • Noting the dates and means of contact with the parent and other significant people in the child's life (visits, letters, phone calls);
  • Record of child's out of school activities, such as sport, art, music, drama, brownies / cubs, etc;
  • Maintaining a financial record of monies received on behalf of the child's upkeep;
  • Noting the dates and nature of social services contact keeping a photograph album of significant events / people in the Childs life.

For Children

The local authority will need to provide the privately fostered child with information, in formats appropriate to the child's age and level of understanding, including about their privately fostered status and what it means, their right to be safeguarded and the responsibilities of the adult who cares for them.

In addition, they should be given the contact details of a named worker who will be visiting them while they are privately fostered. The local authority should ensure that the privately fostered child is given information about advocacy services, if he is a child in need.

End