4.3.1 Private Fostering

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Please read this chapter in conjunction with:

Private Fostering Guidance

Private Fostering Statement of Purpose

AMENDMENT

In February 2014, Appendix 8: Private Fostering Do’s was added.


Contents

1. Policy Statement and Legal Context
2. Procedures
2.1 Notification of the Private Fostering Arrangement and Changes in Circumstances
2.2 Content of Notice
2.3 Changes of Circumstances
2.4 Notifications to Other Authorities
2.5 Duties of Other Professionals to Notify the Local Authority
2.6 Awareness Raising
2.7 Monitoring the Effectiveness of Public Awareness Raising Activity
2.8 Action Required Following Formal Notification of a Proposal to Place a Child With Private Foster Carers
2.9 Accountability: Roles and Responsibilities of Staff
2.10 Responsibilities of the Child's Social Worker
2.11 Responsibilities of the Family Placement Social Worker
2.12 Action After Receipt of Notification
2.13 Action to be Taken After Child is Placed
2.14 Subsequent Visits and Supervision of Children who are Being Privately Fostered
2.15 Suitability Decisions
2.16 Private Fostering Scrutiny Panel
2.17 Supervision of the Child's Placement With a Private Foster Carer
2.18 Financial Support
2.19 After Care Support
2.20 Review of Private Fostering Placements and the Suitability of Arrangements
2.21 Refusal to Allow Visits
2.22 Child Protection Matters, Standards of Care Issues and Child Welfare Concerns
2.23 Procedure for Imposing Requirement, Prohibitions and Disqualifications
2.24 Representations
2.25 Private Foster Carers Already Known to the Department
2.26 Monitoring Compliance With the Regulations and Standards
2.27 Annual Reporting


Appendix 1: Declaration for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks
Appendix 2: Private Fostering Assessment
Appendix 3: Health and Safety Checklist
Appendix 4: Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record
Appendix 5: Regulation 8 Visits/Arrangements
Appendix 6: Private Fostering Agreement
Appendix 7: Medical Consent Form
Appendix 8: Private Fostering Do’s


1. Policy Statement and Legal Context

This policy is for the benefit of children who are or who will be privately fostered. It is also for the benefit of private foster carers, prospective private foster carers and parents or persons with Parental Responsibility who are or have made arrangements for their child to be privately fostered. Children's Services will use the National Minimum Standard to help it and partner agencies focus on securing positive outcomes for privately fostered children and to promote their welfare and safety.

1.1 Purpose

Private Fostering arrangements can be a positive response from within the community to difficulties experienced by families. However, privately fostered children can be a diverse and potentially vulnerable group. This policy therefore aims:

  • To ensure that there is a high level of public awareness of the requirements of the Private Fostering Regulations;
  • To ensure that the relevant staff from within Children's Services and professionals in other relevant agencies are aware of Local authority duties and functions in relation to private fostering;
  • To ensure that Children's Services are notified about children privately fostered in Walsall;
  • To respond effectively to any notifications about private fostering and to ensure that the welfare of children who are privately fostered are being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted;
  • To provide advice to those caring for privately fostered children as required and to all other individuals concerned with the child who is proposed to be, or who is actually, privately fostered;
  • To ensure that in the event that it is not satisfied that the arrangement is going to be suitable, make arrangements for the care and accommodation of the child to be undertaken by his/her parents, others with Parental Responsibility, a relative or an alternative carer;
  • To set out how Children's Services will monitor the way in which it meets its duties in relation to private fostering;
  • To clarify roles and responsibilities between the Fostering Service and other parts of Children's Services.

1.2 Legal Context

This policy and procedures document should be read in conjunction with the following:

  • The Children Act 1989, Part IX (sections 66 to 70) and Schedule 8, as amended by Section 34 of the Children Act 2004, as follows;
  • Section 66: definition of private fostering;
  • Section 67: local authority duties to safeguard welfare of privately fostered children, e.g. by regular visits;
  • Section 68: disqualification from private fostering;
  • Section 69: prohibition from private fostering;
  • Section 70: offences, e.g. failure to notify, obstruction;
  • Schedule 8: exemptions, further clarifying the definition of private fostering (paragraphs 1 to 5); imposition and variation of requirements by the local authority (paragraph 6); reference to regulations in respect of notification (paragraph 7); local authority duty to promote public awareness within its area of the requirement to notify actual or proposed private fostering arrangements (paragraph 7A); appeals (paragraph 8); extension of provisions to cover children staying at schools not maintained by LEAs during the holidays (paragraph 9); prohibition of advertisements relating to private fostering unless advertiser's name and address are given (paragraph 10); provision that a private foster carer be deemed not to have an insurable interest in the life of a fostered child (paragraph 11);
  • The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, which cover, in detail, the requirements for all notifications of private fostering to be given by the proposed or actual private foster carer, and the local authority's action in response (regulations 1 to 7); the local authority's duty to visit privately fostered children (regulation 8); the duty to notify a change of circumstances, or the end of the private fostering arrangement (regulation 10); requirement for notification to be in writing (regulation 11); local authority's duty to monitor performance of its functions in relation to private fostering and appoint an officer of the authority for that purpose (regulation 12). The Schedules to the Regulations give details of the information required in notifications (Schedule 1), and the matters relating to the child's welfare to which the local authority must have regard in assessing a proposed or actual placement (Schedules 2 and 3);
  • The Replacement Children Act 1989 Guidance on Private Fostering, issued by the Department for Education and Skills, which gives detailed guidance on the interpretation and implementation of the relevant sections of the Act and the Regulations;
  • The National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering which impose requirements as to the local authority's duty to prepare a statement or plan relating to private fostering (Standard 1); notifications to the local authority (Standard 2); safeguarding and promoting welfare (Standard 3); advice and support (Standards 4 to 6); monitoring compliance with duties and functions in relation to private fostering (Standard 7);
  • The Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002, which specifies categories of persons disqualified from private fostering, e.g. because their own children have been removed under public law orders, they have been convicted of specified offences*, or they have been refused registration as child minders, providers of day care or in respect of a children's home, or had their registration cancelled, or they have been prohibited from private fostering. For a list of the Offences, which present a risk to Children, go to the following link (Home Office Circular 16/2005).

1.3 Definition of a Private Foster Placement

The definition of a private foster placement is set out in section 66 and Schedule 8, paragraphs 1 to 5 of the Children Act 1989 (as amended).

The Guidance stresses that a private fostering arrangement is one that is made privately, not by the local authority.

A private fostering placement is one in which:

  • Either a child who under the age of 16, or a disabled child who is under the age of 18;
  • Is cared for and accommodated by someone other than a parent or person with Parental Responsibility for him, or a 'relative' in the limited sense defined by the Children Act 1989;
  • Or a period of 28 consecutive days or more.

A 'relative' is defined by the Children Act 1989 as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or the half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent'.

N.B. It is important to check legal status in determining whether the carer can be treated as a 'relative' or whether the private fostering provisions apply. The definition excludes some people in the extended family, e.g. cousins, great aunt or great uncle. A 'step parent' means a legal step parent, i.e. someone who has married, or joined in a civil partnership, with the natural parent. Therefore, in the case where the child is cared for by the former cohabited of a parent, or uncle, aunt, grandparent etc, where the child's blood relative has died, or left the household, the arrangement will have to be assessed and monitored as a private fostering arrangement.

However, for the purposes of the Children Act 1989 (in accordance with the Family Law Reform Act 1987) the definition of 'father' includes an unmarried father. Therefore, even if the child's parents were unmarried and he does not have Parental Responsibility, the child's paternal grandparents, uncles and aunts will come within the Children Act definition of 'relatives.'

Children are not privately fostered if they are:

  • Looked After by the local authority;
  • Living in the same household as a parent or someone with Parental Responsibility for them;
  • In hospital, a children's home or a school where they are receiving full time education (with exceptions for children living at the school during school holidays);
  • Living with a carer under a criminal supervision order;
  • Detained, or subject to guardianship, under the Mental Health Act 1983;
  • In a pre adoptive placement.

1.4 Legal Effect of a Private Fostering Arrangement

The child's parent/s or other person/s with Parental Responsibility will continue to have 'all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property' (as defined by section 3 of the Children Act 1989). They continue to have overall responsibility to exercise their Parental Responsibility for the benefit of the child's welfare and remain liable for any failure to do so.

The private foster carer does not have Parental Responsibility, but acts on behalf the person with Parental Responsibility for the child. The private foster carer is responsible for the day to day care of the child in a way which will safeguard or promote his or her welfare, and can (under section 3 of the Children Act 1989) do what is reasonable in all circumstances for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare. 

1.5 Duties of the Local Authority

Local Authorities have a duty to:

  • Publicise and make available advice and information to prospective private foster carers, parents and others on the requirement to notify;
  • Ensure relevant local authority staff are sufficiently conversant with the requirements of the regulation;
  • Respond appropriately to notifications received, and ensure that proper checks and visits are carried out within required timescales;
  • Satisfy themselves that the welfare of privately fostered children in their area is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted by assessing the suitability of all aspects of a private fostering arrangement in accordance with the Regulations;
  • Take steps to ensure that private foster carers and their household and premises provide an environment in which the welfare of the child concerned will be safeguarded and promoted in accordance with the Regulations (Parents also have a specific duty to ensure their child's welfare is promoted);
  • Make arrangements for privately fostered children to be visited by an officer of the Authority at prescribed intervals;
  • Ensure that privately fostered children are seen at each visit and seen alone unless it is considered inappropriate. A written report of each visit includes the conclusion drawn, whether the child was seen alone and, where appropriate, the reasons why the officer considered it inappropriate to see the child alone; and the child's wishes and feelings about the arrangement. They comment on the child's welfare and whether the placement is satisfactory, and include any comments about these matters made by the child or the carer. Any matter for concern is highlighted and that a written report is made after each visit;
  • Investigate any complaints made by privately fostered children;
  • Provide private foster carers, parents and all concerned with such advice and information they may need to promote the child's welfare;
  • Inform parents (or others with Parental Responsibility) of any concerns that they may have about the welfare of privately fostered children;
  • Consider whether the local authority needs to impose specific requirements (e.g. as to the number of children to be privately fostered by the carer, the standard of accommodation and equipment, arrangements for health and safety) and prohibitions which may either be a general prohibition against that persons undertaking private fostering or may be linked to an requirement so that it will not take effect unless the requirement is not fulfilled within a reasonable time limit needs to exercise and wider powers allowed under regulations, e.g. prohibition of arrangements or disqualifications of persons;
  • Disqualify the person from acting as a private foster carer in certain circumstances, e.g. if he/she is a parent of a child who has been made subject of a Care Order, etc, or if he/she has been convicted of offences described in a relevant schedule*. The Local Authority also has discretion to permit a person, who would otherwise be disqualified from caring for children under the Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002, to foster a child privately, if, in the opinion of a senior manager, the welfare of the child would not be prejudiced by this.

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

  • Where they are not satisfied that the welfare of a privately fostered child is being or would be satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted, take steps to secure that the child is looked after by a parent or relative of his, or someone else with Parental Responsibility and consider the extent to which (if at all) they should exercise any of their functions under the Children Act with respect to the child;
  • Inform the private foster carer and parents and others concerned in writing of any requirements, disqualifications or prohibitions that it may impose during the course of fulfilling its duties and provide information about how they may appeal against any decisions made by the local authority in respect of the private fostering arrangement;
  • Records are kept and monitored about the numbers of privately fostered children and private foster carers living in the Local Authority's area;
  • New notifications are recorded on the statistical data return PFI, and submitted to the relevant Government department, as required;
  • There is a system for recording the number and nature of enquiries received in relation to private fostering, the responses given and any action taken;
  • Investigates any pattern of concern raised by privately fostered children and takes action to improve practice where necessary;
  • Provide annually to the Director of Children's Services an evaluation of the outcomes of their work in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the privately fostered children in their area;
  • Report annually to the Chair of the the Local Safeguarding Children Board) on how they safeguard and promote the welfare of privately fostered children, including how they co-operate with other agencies in this connection.


2. Procedures

2.1 Notification of the Private Fostering Arrangement and Changes in Circumstances

There is a shared and individual responsibility for interested individuals to notify the local authority in relation to private fostering as below:

A person who proposes to privately foster a child and is not yet caring and providing accommodation for that child is required to notify the local authority in writing not less that 6 weeks and not more than 13 weeks before he receives child unless he is to receive him in an emergency (Regulation 3(1)).

A parent of a child or any other person with Parental Responsibility for the child, who propose, or know that it is proposed that the child is to be privately fostered must notify the local authority in writing not less than 6 weeks and not more that 13 weeks before the arrangement is to begin, unless the private fostering arrangement is made in an emergency (Regulation 3(2)).

A person who is involved (whether or not directly) in arranging for a child to be privately fostered shall notify the appropriate local authority in writing not less that 6 weeks and not more than 13 weeks before the arrangements is to begin, unless the arrangement is made in an emergency (Regulation 3(3)).

Any person receiving a child in an emergency or already caring for and providing accommodation for a child, when he became a 'privately fostered child' must notify the local authority for the area in which the child is privately fostered and should do so in writing not more than 48 hours after the private fostering arrangement begins (Regulation 7(1)). The content of the notice is as specified below.

2.2 Content of Notice

Regulations 3(4) and 7(2) requires that the content of the notice must specify:

(Complete notification pro forma WSS)

  • The name, sex, date place of birth, religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background of the child to be privately fostered;
  • The name and current address of the person giving notice and any previous address of his within the last 5 years;
  • The name and address of the proposed or current private foster carer and his addresses within the previous five years;
  • The name and address of the parents of the child or of any other person with Parental Responsibility and (if different) of the person from whom the child is to be, or was, received;
  • The name and current address of any brothers and sisters (where known) and the details of the arrangements for their care;
  • The name and address of any other person who is involved in making the arrangement;
  • The intended date on which the private fostering arrangement will start, or which it did start;
  • The intended duration of the private fostering arrangement;
  • The particulars of any offence of which the proposed private foster carer has been convicted;
  • Any disqualification or prohibition imposed on the proposed private foster carer under section 68 or 69 of the Children Act 1989 and any such conviction, disqualification or prohibition imposed on any other person living or employed at his household.

A person who gives notice that he proposes to privately foster a child must within 48 hours of receiving that child notify the local authority that he has received the child (Regulation 9).

2.3 Changes of Circumstances

Regulation 9 requires that private foster carers are required to notify the local authority in writing of certain changes in circumstance in advance if practicable but not more than 48 hours after the change. They are required to notify the local authority of:

  • Any change in their address (if change to another local authority area see below for duty to notify other authorities);
  • Any further offence of which he or a person who is part of or employed at his household has been convicted;
  • Any further disqualification imposed on him or a person who is part of or employed at the household;
  • Any person who begins or ceases to be part of their household; and
  • If the child leaves their household - or the private foster placement is otherwise ended;
  • The child's death.

2.4 Notifications to Other Authorities

If the carers move to another authority area - including Scotland, Wales (and Northern Ireland) - the authority to whom the notification was given must inform the other local authority of the name and new address of the private foster carer.

In informing another local authority that a private foster carer has moved to their area it is good practice to draw their attention to any important matters relating to the welfare of the child (e.g. a disability or health problem), special educational needs or the suitability of the private foster carer, along with the names and address of the child's parents or any other person with Parental Responsibility. It is also good practice for the local authority to notify other agencies of a change in address, e.g. the Clinical Commissioning Group if the child has special health needs.

The parent of a privately fostered child, and any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child, who knows that the child is being fostered privately, must notify the appropriate local authority of any change of their own address.

2.5 Duties of Other Professionals to Notify the Local Authority

Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the local authority have been or will be notified of the arrangement, so that the local authority can discharge its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the privately fostered child.

2.6 Awareness Raising

The Walsall Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) should take action at regular intervals to raise and maintain public awareness of the need for private fostering arrangements to be formally notified to the children's services. These public awareness efforts should be geared at raising the awareness of parents, prospective and actual private foster carers and professionals in all the relevant partner agencies. The WSCB will seek to raise awareness by:

Holding briefing sessions for professionals and by incorporating guidance on private fostering into relevant inter- agency training.

Arranging for posters and/or public information leaflets to be displayed in key locations; e.g. schools and GP practices, children's information service, housing youth service etc.

Identifying any other relevant organisations and groups and offering to give them a presentation on private fostering.

Including reference to private fostering requirements in relevant WSCB publications.

Taking such action as may be required to promote professional awareness of private fostering arrangements across the WSCB and within partner agencies.

2.7 Monitoring the Effectiveness of Public Awareness Raising Activity

Public and professional awareness will be monitored via the collection of relevant data collection and analysis from the Mosaic system and reported within the DfE return.

The effectiveness of the awareness raising activity will be fed into the WSCB performance management framework on a quarterly basis for consideration. Local notification rates will be monitored and related to the awareness raising activity. Comparisons will be made nationally and this data will be reported on annually to the WSCB.

2.8 Action Required Following Formal Notification of a Proposal to Place a Child With Private Foster Carers

The children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 require local authorities to satisfy themselves of the suitability of a proposed arrangement or other wise exercise their powers to prohibit, or to impose requirements on, the arrangement before the child is privately fostered, where advance notice of the arrangement is given, thereby providing additional safeguards for privately fostered children.

Notifications may be received by staff in MASH or staff working in any team within Children's Services.

If a verbal notification is received, staff should explain the legal requirement for the notification to be made in writing and provide the person making the notification with a copy of the service standard notification form to use Mosaic.

At the point of receiving written notification, staff should ensure that the matter is formally recorded on Mosaic and provide written confirmation that the notification has been received.

If notification is received from another local authority about a private foster placement in the Walsall area, care should be taken to ensure that full written information is received from the previous authority including, where available, details of any previous assessments of suitability, reports on the subsequent progress of the placement and any concerns that may have arisen.

Following notification, contact should be established with relevant parties as soon as and assessments should be conducted. Assessment should give effective consideration to the suitability of all aspects of the private fostering arrangement, and to determine whether with the provision of additional services the child still requires to be subject of a private fostering arrangement. See Private Fostering Guidance, Initial Contacts by Social Work Staff.

Also see:

Appendix 2: Private Fostering Assessment.

Appendix 3: Health and Safety Checklist.

2.9 Accountability: Roles and Responsibilities of Staff

Safeguarding and Family Support Services and Family Placement Service each have defined duties in relation to private fostering. The FPS will assess the suitability of the Private Foster Carer and VCS will assess the needs of the child in the arrangement.

2.10 Responsibilities of the Child's Social Worker

The primary role is to:

  • Make initial contacts with the private foster carer, the child, parents, others with Parental Responsibility or who are otherwise concerned to gather basic information about the proposed or actual placement;
  • Complete the Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record outlining the child's needs;
  • Evaluate whether the provision of support or other services would diminish the need for the child to be placed with private foster carers;
  • Ensure that proper arrangements are made between interested parties as to the child's care in all-important respects and completion of the Private Fostering Parents Agreement (see Appendix 6: Private Fostering Agreement);
  • Evaluate the extent to which the child's needs are being or are likely to be met by the arrangement with the specific private foster carers;
  • Make recommendations to the department's Acceptance Panel as to whether the child's welfare is being or is likely to be promoted by his/her arrangement with the private foster placement;
  • Provide ongoing advice, support and assistance to the carer, parent, others with Parental Responsibility or otherwise concerned, where necessary;
  • Supervise the ongoing arrangement and conduct an ongoing evaluation of its suitability for the specific child. Visits must be undertaken 6 weekly in the first year, thereafter 12 weekly visits are appropriate;
  • Monitor the carer's compliance with any requirements that have been made;
  • Consider what other action should be taken or services provided to promote the child's welfare, including informing the child of the name of the Advocacy Provider;
  • In the event of concerns, take action in accordance with Children's Services wider policies, procedures and duties to Children in Need.

2.11 Responsibilities of the Family Placement Social Worker

The primary role is to:

  • Conduct an evaluation of the suitability of the private foster carers and other members of the household, the accommodation and the wider environment;
  • Liaise closely with the child's social worker about the suitability of the arrangement and the extent to which the arrangement is meeting or is likely to meet the child's needs and otherwise promote his/her welfare;
  • Make a recommendation for acceptance of the private foster carer, or otherwise, as to the suitability of the private arrangement in all respects as required by regulations;
  • To provide additional advice, support and assistance to the carer, parent and others with Parental Responsibility, or otherwise, concerned where necessary.

The Family Placement social worker's involvement will usually shortly end after the matter has been presented to the Acceptance Panel (see section 2.15). However, in some circumstances the family placement social worker may continue to be involved subject to the agreement of the Family Placement Team Manager. For example, where it is deemed necessary to provide additional support to the private foster carer where such involvement is needed to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

2.12 Action After Receipt of Notification

Action to be taken after receiving notification that a child has been placed with private foster carers who have previously given advance notification of their intention to privately foster a child and the suitability of the arrangement has been satisfactory during the subsequent assessment:

  • Visit the child and the private foster carer as soon as possible within 7 days:
a.

See the child alone where appropriate, to:

  1. Discuss their wishes and feelings as to the arrangement;
  2. Provide the child with the relevant leaflets on private fostering - which include confirmation of their rights and the contact details of their allocated social worker if this was not done during the period of notification and prior to arrangement;
  3. Address any matters highlighted during the period of assessment following notification.
The allocated social worker should inform the following agencies and individual of the child's placement with private foster carers:
b. Head teacher of child's school;
c. The relevant local GP, health visitor and school nurse;
d. Children's Service in the area where parents live and the child previously lived of the child's placement in the Walsall area under Private Fostering Regulations;
e. Notify the family placement team manager (or the allocated family placement team social worker that the child has been placed).
  • Ensure the child's details and date of placement are recorded on Mosaic.

2.13 Action to be Taken After Child is Placed

Action to be taken after receiving information that a child has been placed with private foster carers who have not given the statutory notice (2) of their intention to privately foster a child.

  • Visit the arrangement as soon as possible within 7 days at latest to:
  1. Ascertain the child's wishes and feelings as to the arrangement;
  2. Provide the child with relevant leaflets on private fostering which include confirmation of their rights and the contact details of their allocated social worker. Ensure the child is provided with the name of the Advocacy Provider and the contact information for this service;
  3. Conduct a single assessment of the child's needs;
  4. Evaluate the extent to which the placement is likely to meet their needs;
  5. Meet the private fostering carer to discuss, agree and otherwise action the various matters listed in Appendix 3 - including obtaining copies of notification, declaration and consent form.
(See later section for guidance on the conduct of visits and required visiting frequency.)
  • Meet with parents(s) as soon as possible, see Private Fostering Guidance;
  • During initial contacts and visits, ascertain whether the placement has recently been made on an emergency basis and whether formal notice has been provided of this emergency placement within regulatory timescales (3) or whether there may have been a breach of the notification requirements and an offence committed (see later section for guidance on steps to take if there has been a breach of the Regulations);
  • Notify the family placement team manager of the child's placement with private foster carers and the need for a family placement team social worker to be allocated to conduct an assessment of suitability;
  • Notify the following agencies and individuals of the child's arrangement with private foster carers:
  1. The head teacher of child's school;
  2. The relevant local GP and health visitor/school nurse;
  3. Children's Services in the area where parents live and the child previously lived of the child's placement in the Walsall are under Private Fostering Regulations if the child lived out of the area prior the arrangement.
  • Ensure the child's details and date of arrangement are recorded on Mosaic;
  • Liaise with the allocated family placement social worker to agree / coordinate the process of conducting the joint assessment of the suitability of the arrangement and agree dates for presentation to the Acceptance panel.

2.14 Subsequent Visits and Supervision of Children who are Being Privately Fostered

A Private Fostering Arrangement Record (Visit under Regulation 8) is to be completed to record the outcome of any visits to a private fostering arrangement. These visits should take place at intervals of not more than six weeks during the first year of the placement and in any second or subsequent year of intervals of not more that twelve weeks. If the Local Authority considers it to be appropriate some visits should be unannounced and planned to include visits when all other household members are present.

At each of these visits the Local Authority should ensure that the needs of the child are being met and that the arrangement is suitable, the record should be completed after each visit. The child's plan should be reviewed as appropriate, this should be at a minimum of six months. The Local Authority may also exercise any of its functions under the Children Act 1989, where appropriate. Every effort should be made to speak to the child alone, unless it is inappropriate to do so. If inappropriate the reasons for this are to be recorded.

In addition to these visits the Local Authority must arrange to visit when reasonably requested to do so by the child, the private foster carer a parent of the child or any other person with Parental Responsibility for the child. It may also be necessary to visit following notification of changes in circumstances.

In situations where the child is living with the private foster carer, the supervision of the private fostering arrangement takes place whilst the assessment of the Private Foster Carers is undertaken and awaiting presentation at panel.

2.15 Suitability Decisions

When the assessments are completed a decision is made by the Group Manager in Vulnerable Children’s Services whether or not to accept the arrangements. Once the Private Fostering arrangements have been accepted, the Group Manager notifies the Administrator with responsibility for Private Fostering Scrutiny Panel and provides reports for a Scrutiny Panel.

2.16 Private Fostering Scrutiny Panel

There is Private Fostering Scrutiny Panel which offers a further level of safeguarding. This Panel receives the assessments of private foster carers carried out under the Private Fostering Regulations and scrutinises the arrangements ensuring the welfare of privately fostered children and young people are safeguarded and promoted. 

For details of the role and function of the Panel, please see Private Fostering Panel Terms of Reference.

2.17 Supervision of the Child's Arrangement With a Private Foster Carer

Once the Panel has accepted the private fostering arrangement, responsibility for the supervision of the arrangement including support to the private foster carer is transferred to the Safeguarding and Family Support Services social worker. The family placement social worker is responsible for this transfer process.

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 Minimum Standards. Other matters may need to be recorded depending on the prevailing circumstances and the specific case. This is a matter for professional judgment.

2.18 Financial Support

The primary responsibility for the financial support of the arrangement rests with the child's parents. Financial arrangements are largely a private matter between the private foster carers and the child's parents. As mentioned elsewhere, the social worker should check at the start of the arrangement and at subsequently intervals, that proper financial arrangement are agreed and that they are operating satisfactory.

Private foster carers can receive child benefits but any maintenance payments received will be counted as full maintenance in any assessment by the Benefits Agency.

In some exceptional circumstances, the Department may exercise its discretion to provide a level of funding for a short time limited period from Section 17 funds where this is necessary to promote the child's welfare.

In the event that a level of ongoing financial support is needed the service will give consideration as to whether this is a suitable arrangement.

2.19 After Care Support

Children and young people who have been privately fostered qualify to receive advice and assistance from the After Care Service. Arrangements should be made to ensure that a plan is put in place following the young person's 15th birthday.

2.20 Review of Private Fostering Placements and the Suitability of Arrangements

Private Fostering cases, and the child's plan, should be reviewed as required, at a minimum of every six months. Every effort should be made to ensure that parents and private foster carers are fully involved in this review process and that parents are otherwise kept informed as to the services review of arrangements.

The suitability of the carers and of the arrangements should also be kept under review by the child's social worker involved in conducting supervisory visits to privately fostered children and the appropriateness of any arrangements should be considered as a matter of course in the process of reviewing privately fostered children's cases.

If a arrangement continues, the child's social worker should ensure that all Disclosure and Barring Service forms are renewed every 3 years.

2.21 Refusal to Allow Visits

It is an offence for a private foster carer to refuse to allow a child to be visited or to obstruct an authorised officer, who has reasonable cause to believe that a privately fostered child is being accommodated or is proposed to be accommodated within the authority's area, from any exercise of any duty towards the child. An officer encountering any difficulties should discuss the problem with senior staff and legal advisers. In such cases, an application for a search warrant under section 102 of the Children Act 1989 may be necessary to support the power of entry.

2.22 Child Protection Matters, Standards of Care Issues and Child Welfare Concerns

Responsibility of Parents and Social Worker

Parents have the primary responsibility for the welfare of children in private fostering arrangements. The social worker with case responsibility for the child should ensure that parents are kept fully informed of any concerns that arise.

Child Protection Matters

Where any concerns of a child protection nature arise, they should be investigated under child protection procedures.

Where concerns of a child protection nature arise and the child is unable to return to parental care, consideration should to be given safeguarding the child.

See guidance on prohibitions, disqualification and the imposition of requirements in the events of concerns being substantiated in Private Fostering Guidance.

Standards of Care Issues

Where lesser concerns arise relating to the standard of care provided, the child's social worker should consider re-referring the matter back to the family placement team for:

  • The provision of addition support services including the provision of training;
  • The family placement team to conduct a re-evaluation of the carer's suitability.

If concerns remain following re-evaluation of a carer's suitability of the arrangements, a formal meeting should be held with the private foster carers (and the parents and other interested individuals) to discuss any concerns that have arisen. This meeting should be chaired by a Team Manager.

At the conclusion of this meeting the Team Manager should consider whether it is necessary to refer the matter back to the Panel for further consideration.

Child Welfare Concerns

In some cases, the care being provided by the private foster carers maybe deemed to be satisfactory but concerns may arise that relate to the wider context, for example in relation to the quality of parental contact or lack of contact etc. In these instances, the matter should be dealt with in accordance with wider service Child in Need or Child Protection Procedures. For example if contact stops or reduces to a very low level, formal consideration should be given to whether the child has been abandoned and to what further action maybe needed to address this issue. Similar concerns could arise in relation to longer term care planning if concerns arose in relation to the quality of contact. Consideration of such matters should normally take place in a formally constituted child's plan review meeting under relevant procedures. (Please refer to the relevant procedure in Part 2 of the Manual).

2.23 Procedure for Imposing Requirement, Prohibitions and Disqualifications

Imposition of Requirements

The regulations permit the service to impose certain requirements for example limits on the number of children in arrangements or in relation to the standards the accommodation or particular arrangements in relation to the care that must be carried out.

Any decision to impose certain requirements will usually be taken by the Designated Head of Service for Private Fostering, following consideration by the Acceptance Panel.

Prohibitions

The Regulations also allow the service to prohibit individuals from acting as private foster carers, for example if they are deemed to be unsuitable the accommodation is unsuitable or arrangement is contrary to the child's welfare.

Any decision to impose a prohibition of this kind will usually be taken by the designated Head of Service with overall responsibility for private fostering following consideration by the Acceptance Panel.

In the event of serious child protection concerns the service may exercise its discretion to prohibit a private fostering arrangement with immediate effect for a temporary period in advance of the matter being considered by the Panel. In such circumstances the matter will usually be referred to the Panel for further consideration at the earliest opportunity.

Any decision to prohibit a private fostering will usually be taken by the Designated Head of Service for Private Fostering, in conjunction with the Assistant Director of Children's Services and following consultations with legal advisers.

Disqualifications

There are a number of specific circumstances where an individual may be disqualified from acting as a private foster carer for example:

Where an individual has been convicted of specified offences.*

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

Any decision to disqualify and individual will usually be taken by the Designated Head of Service for Private Fostering in conjunction with the Assistant Director for Children's Services and following consultations with legal advisers.

Local authorities can in certain circumstances give their consent to a person acting as a private foster carer who would otherwise be disqualified, but only if they are satisfied that the child's welfare would not be prejudged by the proposed, or actual private foster carer or by a member of their household.

In such circumstances the private foster carer should be provided with written consent to privately foster the specific child in question.

Section 68 of the Children Act 1989 deals with disqualifications from being a private foster carer. The regulations made under section 68 are the Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2004.

See Private Fostering Guidance.

2.24 Representations

Private foster carers may appeal about any decision to impose requirements or prohibitions or disqualify them by making representations in writing to the Agency Decision Maker within 28 days of receiving written notification of a decision.

In most instances the Agency Decision Maker will refer the matter to the Panel for consideration prior to making a final decision. Legal advisers should also be consulted prior to making a formal decision to disqualify an individual from privately fostering a child.

Where the local authority decides to refuse consent to allow a disqualified person to privately foster a child, an appeal may be made to the Family Proceedings Court within 14 days of notification of that decision.

See Private Fostering Guidance.

See also Schedule 8, Paragraph 8, of the Regulations which covers appeals against a local authority decision to refuse consent to allow a person who is disqualified to privately foster a child.

2.25 Private Foster Carers Already Known to the Department

Where there is intent to start private fostering after a break or where an additional child is to be placed, a reassessment must be made using the process set out above. This reassessment process should take account of any vitiation in circumstances and the specific needs of the child to be placed, amongst other factors. 

2.26 Monitoring Compliance With the Regulations and Standards

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 require Local Authorities to monitor the way in which they discharge their functions under Part 9 of the Children Act 1989, and require them to appoint an officer for that purpose. The Designated Head of Service for Private Fostering holds this responsibility within Walsall.

The quality assurance process should monitor and evaluate the following areas of practice:

  • Action taken to raise public awareness;
  • How the service responds to notifications received;
  • Whether proper checks, and visits, are carried out within required timescales;
  • How disqualifications and prohibitions are handled and the process by which the service imposes requirements and monitors adherence to these requirements;
  • What other action, if any, is taken to ensure that the welfare of the privately fostered child is being, or should be, satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted;
  • How appeals are handled;
  • How the service responds to late or failed notifications;
  • Arrangements for determining the suitability of all aspects of a private fostering arrangement - including accommodation and the wider environment in which the child is placed;
  • The extent to which the privately fostered child is visited and seen alone and the recording of such visits;
  • Arrangements for providing advice to all concerned and interested parties;
  • Extent of cooperation of other agencies.

2.27 Annual Reporting

The outcomes of the monitoring process should be reported annually to:

  • To the Director of Children's Services;
  • To the chair of the Walsall Safeguarding Children Board. This particular report should also address how the service cooperates with other agencies in relation to private fostering matters. 


Appendices

Appendix 1: Declaration for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks

Appendix 2: Private Fostering Assessment

Appendix 3: Health and Safety Checklist

Appendix 4: Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record

Appendix 5: Regulation 8 Visits/Arrangements

Appendix 6: Private Fostering Agreement

Appendix 7: Medical Consent Form

Appendix 8: Private Fostering Do's.

End