Private Fostering

AMENDMENT

This chapter was fully reviewed in September 2019 and should therefore be read in full.

1. Definition

1.1 Definition of a Private Foster Placement

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 them, 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 they do not have Parental Responsibility, the child's paternal grandparents, uncles and aunts will come within the Children Act definition of 'relatives'.

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

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.

1.2 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 their 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 their 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. 

1.3 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 they are a parent of a child who has been made subject of a Care Order, etc., or if they 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 them, 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 Safeguarding Partnership 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 than 6 weeks and not more than 13 weeks before they receive child unless they are to receive them 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 than 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 than 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 they 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)).

2.2 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.

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. This includes ensuring that the child's legal status is clearly recorded.

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.

3. Initial Viability Assessments

The child's social worker should undertake the initial viability assessment of the proposed placement and complete the relevant record.

During the initial visit, the social worker should:

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

The social worker should also advise the private foster carer of the importance of ensuring they keep a record of:

  • The child's medical history;
  • The child's school reports;
  • Information about the child's contacts with parents any other significant others.

If the private foster carer refuses to co-operate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child.

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

If the initial visit takes place after the child's placement, the social worker should also:

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

After the visit, the social worker should complete the relevant record.

The full assessment of a potential private foster carer will be undertaken by the Fostering Recruitment Service and Team Managers are responsible for ensuring that carers are transferred from IRS or SFS to the Fostering Service.

4. Visits to Children

The Child's Social worker is responsible for ensuring that the Regulation 8 visit is completed.

4.1 Frequency

Visits by a social worker must be made to the child and the private foster carer at the foster home within one week of the placement, or the date when notification was received if later, and then once a week for the first month.

Visits will be made every six weeks in the first year by a social worker.

These visits must be recorded on the relevant Mosaic form and must take place as a separate activity to any other visits, including Child in Need Visits. Any Child in Need visits, including the review of a Child in Need plan must be separately recorded on the relevant file.

In subsequent years, visits must be at least three monthly.

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

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

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

4.2 Purpose

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

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

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

4.3 Unsatisfactory Care

Where there are concerns about the child's care, the social worker should ensure that the private foster carer is aware of these concerns and ensure that the birth parents in made aware of these.

If the quality of care provided to the child does not improve and the parent does not make appropriate alternative arrangements then the social worker and their manager must ensure that the needs of the child are considered via Section 20 or Legal Gateway Panel. See Section 15, Child Protection Matters, Standard of Care Issues and Child Welfare Concerns.

5. Assessment of Private Foster Carers

The social worker undertaking the assessment must arrange for checks on the private foster carer, all members of the household and frequent visitors over 16 to be made with the Disclosure and Barring Service and Children's Services records (including for the areas of any previous addresses). The social worker should also seek written references and arrange to visit the personal referees.

The assessment will consider 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;
  • 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 (if appropriate);
  • 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 their 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 their 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 accommodation 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.

A report on the assessment, including a recommendation, should be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision to be made. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed - see Section 6, Imposing Requirements on Private Foster CarersSection 7, Limit on Number of Children and Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification.

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

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

If, at any stage of the assessment of the private foster carers, information is obtained which suggests that a child already placed with the private foster carer may be a Child in Need, the manager may authorise services under a Child in Need Plan and/or an Assessment to be carried out alongside the assessment of the private foster carer.

6. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers

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

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

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

7. Limit on Number of Children

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

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

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

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

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

8. Prohibition and Disqualification

A decision can be made to prohibit the proposed private foster carer from fostering on the basis that they are not suitable and/or the premises are unsuitable.

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

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

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

Representations and Appeals

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.

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

9. Non-compliance with Requirements

Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with, the social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Designated Manager (Private Fostering) recommending that the private foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out above must be followed.

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

Once the Panel has accepted the private fostering arrangement has been assessed and agreed, the 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 their 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 they have been / remains registered with a GP;
  • Comment on the child's educational progress and the arrangements that are in place for their 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

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

14. 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.

15. 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.

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 may be 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).

16. 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 Partnership. This particular report should also address how the service cooperates with other agencies in relation to private fostering matters. 

Appendix 1: Private Fostering Do's

Click here to view Appendix 1: Private Fostering Do's