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3.2 Recognising and Assessing Private Fostering Arrangements


Contents

  1. General Principles
  2. Definition
  3. Legislative Framework
  4. Local Authority Duties and Functions
  5. Private Fostering Specific Circumstances
  6. Children in Specific Circumstances
  7. Notifications of Private Fostering Arrangements
  8. Assessment of Private Fostering Arrangements
  9. Supervision, Monitoring and Review of Private Fostering Arrangements
  10. Support and Guidance for Private Foster Carers
  11. Cross Boundary Issue
  12. Notification of Changes in Circumstances

    Appendix 1: Standard Letters / Proformas, Review Documents and Flowchart

    Appendix 2: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications

    Appendix 3: National Minimum Standards

    Appendix 4: Offences Associated With Private Fostering


1. General Principles

In the exercise of its legal duties in respect of Private Fostering arrangements it is the policy of Bolton Children Services to:

  • Strike an appropriate balance between the rights of parents, the rights of the child and the legal duties and responsibilities of the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  • Be child focussed, ensuring the child's welfare, safety and needs are at the centre of the process and that arrangements for the care of Privately Fostered children are based on a holistic and lifelong view of the child's needs in order to maximise their life chances;
  • Consider the wishes and feelings of children at all times and ensure assessments of prospective carers focus on their ability to meet the needs of the child concerned;
  • Protect Privately Fostered children from Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse and Emotional Abuse, Neglect and exposure to domestic abuse;
  • Prevent unsuitable persons from engaging in the Private Fostering of children;
  • Work in partnership with parents, children, Private Foster Carers and their families, other professionals and agencies to ensure that services are provided to meet assessed needs;
  • Ensure there is a widespread awareness of Private Fostering notification requirements throughout the Borough;
  • Provide advice and guidance, where required, to those involved with private fostering;
  • Adhere to all legislative requirements and National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering;
  • Quality assure compliance and effectiveness of these procedures.


2. Definition

The Children Act 1989 Section 66 defines a Privately Fostered child as a child who is under 16 years, or 18 if disabled, who is cared for and provided with accommodation by someone who is not:

  • His or her parent;
  • Another person who is not his or her parent but who has Parental Responsibility for him or her;
  • A child's relative - defined by the Children Act 1989 Section 105 (1) as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full or half blood or by affinity i.e. marriage or civil partnership), or step-parent.

And the child has been or is intended to be cared for and accommodated by that person for 28 days or more;

A child is not Privately Fostered if they are cared for in any of the following:

  • Children's residential home / unit;
  • School in which the child is receiving full-time education - residential or boarding school;
  • NHS hospital where the child is a patient for 28 days or more;
  • Residential care home, nursing home or psychiatric nursing home or in a home / institution provided, equipped or maintained by the secretary of state.

Nor is a child Privately Fostered if:

  • The child is Looked After by the local authority;
  • Placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt the child under arrangements made by an adoption agency in line with adoption legislation.

If a period of care lasts for 27 days or less but if it is intended that further periods are planned which total 28 days or more then Private Fostering procedures apply.

A break for a short period e.g. a weekend would not affect the total calculation of the number of days of placement. Such a break does not constitute the end of a Private Fostering arrangement.

Children under the age of 8 years cared for continuously for a period up to 27 days, which includes overnight stays, are subject of child minding regulations. If this timescale is exceeded then this becomes a Private Fostering arrangement. The calculation of whether this period exceeds 27 days includes weekend and short stays that together total 28 days or more over a 12 month period.

A person who from the outset intends to foster a child for 28 days or more becomes a Private Foster Carer on the day on which the child is first cared for.

There are several circumstances and reasons why parents decide for their children to be cared for by someone else. Many such arrangements constitute private fostering and as such require additional monitoring and support. In many instances arrangements can be positive for the child and family, allowing them to remain in their own community and looked after by familiar adults in their life. However, some children may be vulnerable and come from diverse groups in our society.

The responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child living in such arrangements remains with the parent or person with parental responsibility however, local authorities must be able to satisfy themselves that children in their area who are privately fostered are safe and their welfare is being promoted.


3. Legislative Framework

The Local Authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need and, so far as is consistent with this duty, to promote the upbringing of children within their families. The legislation on Private Fostering is set out in Part 9 of and Schedule 8, the Children Act 1989. The government introduced new legislation on Private Fostering in Section 44 Children Act 2004 and The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 which came into force on 18th July 2007.

The legislative framework applicable to private fostering arrangements:

  • The Children Acts 1989 and 2004;
  • The Children and Young Person’s Act 2008;
  • Disqualification from Caring for Children Regulations 2004;
  • The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) regulations 2005;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance on Private Fostering (2005);
  • National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering (2005);
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children.

Bolton Council is committed to ensuring its duties and functions are carried out in accordance with the requirements of legislation and guidance.


4. Local Authority Duties and Functions

Bolton Children Services works in accordance with the legislative and regulatory framework.

In relation to Private Fostering arrangements this includes:

  • Receiving notifications from parents, carers and others about Private Fostering arrangements;
  • Assessing and making decisions as to the suitability of the proposed arrangements, the Private Foster Carers and their families;
  • Assessing the child's needs and having a Private Fostering plan in place;
  • Supporting carers in meeting a child's needs;
  • Taking into account the need for any 'requirements', 'prohibitions' or 'exemptions';
  • Assessing applications for exemptions and implementing those where required;
  • Visiting and seeing the child alone in line with statutory requirements;
  • Reviewing and updating the Private Fostering plan;
  • Undertaking an annual review of the Private Fostering arrangement;
  • Providing advice and support to parents, carers and children involved in Private Fostering arrangements.


5. Private Fostering Specific Circumstances

5.1 Independent Schools / Sports Academies

Where a child under 16 years is a pupil at an independent school or sports academy and lives at the school during school holidays for a period of more than 2 weeks, s/he should be regarded as a Privately Fostered child.

The person who proposes to care for one or more children at the school will be treated as a Private Foster Carer. They must give written notice to Bolton Council giving the estimated number of children concerned and not less than 2 weeks before the arrangement commences.

Bolton Council may exempt any person from giving notice - for a specific period or indefinitely. Exemption may be revoked at any time by notice in writing.

Where a child ceases to be Privately Fostered the school shall give written notice to Bolton Council.

Where a Privately Fostered child dies the school must notify the parent, person with Parental Responsibility and Bolton Council immediately.

On other occasions a parent may make arrangements for children from abroad who are being educated in this country, to be cared for by friends or family or 'host' families during weekends and school holidays. These arrangements may constitute Private Fostering if they are to be for more than 27 days during a year and are not with relatives as defined by the Children Act 1989.

Guardianship organisations who arrange placements with host families have a duty to notify the Children's Services in the area in which the host family lives if the placement is intended to last for more than 28 days. Bolton Council key relationship is with the Private Foster Carer in these circumstances and not the organisation.

5.2 Summer Schools

When an organisation arranges a summer school where children are to stay either at the school or with host families for 28 days or more this constitutes a Private Fostering arrangement and Bolton Council should be notified.

5.3 Language Schools

Children attending language schools, that are cared for by 'host families' for a period of 28 days or more, should be regarded as a Privately Fostered and Bolton Council should be notified.

5.4 Cultural Exchange Visits

Children often come to this country on cultural exchanges arranged by their schools. In these circumstances children often stay with 'host' families and these arrangements may come under the remit of Private Fostering.

The schools arranging these visits should formally notify the Children's Services in whose area the host family resides prior to the arrangement starting.

5.5 Children Accessing Medical Treatment

Children sometimes come to this country to access medical treatment and are sometimes unaccompanied. Parents or other organisations may have made arrangements for the child's care which constitutes Private Fostering. The parent and organisation have a duty to inform Bolton Council, but it is expected that health professionals will alert Bolton Council in these circumstances.

As a general rule where a notification is received in relation to any of the above circumstances, procedures should be followed as for any other Privately Fostered child.

5.6 Insurance

A Private Foster Carer is liable for their own insurance and should be advised during the assessment period to inform in writing their 'home contents' insurers of the Private Fostering arrangement. The Privately Fostered child should be included under the public liability insurance clause.

5.7 Advertising

Advertising by and for Private Foster Carers is permitted provided the advertisement indicates that the arrangements proposed constitute Private Fostering and state the name and address of any person proposing to arrange or undertake the Private Fostering arrangement.


6. Children in Specific Circumstances

6.1 Children with Disabilities

This guidance should be applied to all children with a defined disability up to the age of 18. Private Fostering arrangements for children with a disability should be assessed using the same processes. Where a child is in receipt of services from the children with disabilities team the assessment should be carried out by workers from that team. Where there is no involvement from Bolton Council, the Private Fostering Arrangement will initially be assessed by the Assessment Team. Depending on the severity of the child's disability it may be that the case is transferred either to the Looked After Children’s team or the Children With Disabilities Team.

A disabled child who has been Privately Fostered after the age of 16 years qualifies (even if he is no longer Privately Fostered) for advice and guidance until the age of 21 years in the area in which he is resident. Children's Services may advise, assist and befriend the young person if they request such support. Assistance may be in exceptional circumstances include financial support. This support will be provided by the Leaving Care Team.

6.2 Orphaned Children

There may be occasions when children become Privately Fostered because a parent has died and the other partner has no legal responsibility for the child or is not a relative as defined by Section 105 (1) Children Act 1989. In these circumstances if the intention of the surviving partner is to continue to provide care for the child, they should be advised to seek legal advice in relation to either a Child Arrangement Order or a Special Guardianship Order.

Bolton Council should make every effort to identify and contact the parent, a close relative as defined by the Children Act 1989 or someone with Parental Responsibility. Bolton Council should consider and assess this as a Private Fostering Arrangement until the conclusion of legal proceedings.

If the surviving partner does not wish to provide care and there are no relatives who can assume the parenting role, then it is likely that Care Proceedings would need to be issued.

In all circumstances, these cases should be discussed in full with the Team Manager, District Manager and where agreed, Legal Services.

See Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.

6.3 Unaccompanied Children

Where an unaccompanied child is identified as living in, or about to enter, a Private Fostering arrangement a notification should be made to Bolton Council.

Bolton Council should make every effort to identify and contact the parent, a close relative as defined by the Children Act 1989 or someone with Parental Responsibility. Where a suitable person cannot be identified it is likely that Care Proceedings will need to be initiated.

Cases such as these, should be discussed in full with the Team Manager, District Manager and where agreed, Legal Services.

See Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Trafficking and Modern Slavery Procedure.


7. Notifications of private Fostering Arrangements

7.1 Making a Notification

Private Arrangements for Fostering Regulations (2005) Regulation 3 require that:

  • Any person who proposes to privately foster a child must notify Bolton Council of the proposal at least 6 weeks before the date on which the Private Fostering arrangement is to begin or immediately if the arrangement is to start inside 6 weeks or has already started;
  • Any person, parent or person with Parental Responsibility who is involved in arranging for a child to be Privately Fostered must notify Bolton Council at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start or as soon as possible after the arrangement is made if this arrangement is to start within six weeks or has already started;
  • A parent or person with Parental Responsibility for a child who is not involved in arranging for the child to be Privately Fostered but who knows that it is proposed must notify Bolton Council as soon as possible after they become aware of the arrangement.

Notifications of proposed, perceived or existing Private Fostering arrangements may arrive in writing or a telephone call from a parent, prospective or existing private foster carer or from a worker. The notification must include as much of the following information as possible:

  • Name, sex, date and place of birth, religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background of the child;
  • Details of the child's school, GP, dentist, health visitor where applicable and any other service provided to the child;
  • Details of the child's health needs or any prescribed medication the child requires;
  • Name and current address of the child's siblings and details of arrangements for the siblings care;
  • Name and current address of any other individual who is currently caring for the child, and addresses over the previous 5 years;
  • Name and current address of the proposed or current Private Foster Carer and addresses over the previous 5 years;
  • Name and current address of parent(s) of the child and addresses over the previous 5 years;
  • Name and current address of any other person with Parental Responsibility for the child and addresses over the previous 5 years;
  • Date on which it is intended the Private Fostering arrangement will start or on which date it started if it has already commenced;
  • Intended duration of the Private Fostering arrangement;
  • Name, address and contact details of the referrer if the notification is made by a worker and the reason for them making the referral at this time;
  • Whether any criminal offences committed by the Private Foster Carer or others living in the household;
  • Whether the Private Foster Carer has previously had children removed from their care or has been unregistered as a child minder or as a manager of a residential children's home;
  • Information about other children Private Foster Carer provides care for (including their own) with particular reference to any child protection involvement.

Notifications that are received from professionals relating to Private Fostering arrangement, the consent of parents or those with Parental Responsibility in respect of making enquiries can be waived. Workers making notifications should be followed up in writing using the Bolton Integrated Front Door referral form. Good practice would be to encourage the worker making the notification to inform the known parties that they have made the notification and the reasons for this.

7.2 Immediate Response to a Notification

All notifications of actual or proposed private fostering arrangements meet the threshold for social work intervention. A privately fostered child is a ‘Child in Need’ (s17 C.A. 1989).

At this point electronic records for the child and the private foster carer or carers will be created if this does not already exist.

All children proposed to become or is currently subject of a private fostering arrangement previously unknown to Bolton Children Services, a child and family assessment must be completed.

For a child not already in receipt of services from a Bolton social work team, the notification will be taken by the Integrated Front Door team and the assessment will be completed by a Social Worker in the Assessment Team.

A child already in receipt of services from a social work team the notification will be taken and assessed by the team providing services, this includes those children open to the Children with Disabilities Team.

A child who has a disability but is not in receipt of services from Children with Disabilities Team, the notification will be taken and assessed by the Integrated Front Door Team initially - it may be that the assessment will be completed jointly between the Integrated Front Door Team and the Children with Disabilities Team.

The Local Authority must assure itself that people proposing to or already acting as private foster carers are suitable people to do so. In order to do this the Local Authority will make a number of enquiries and have discussions with a range of agencies.

In accordance with The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 on receiving a notification of an actual or potential Private Fostering arrangement a Social Worker must complete the following actions within 7 calendar days:

  • Review ICS to establish if any of those identified have been previously known to Bolton Council;
  • Undertake an initial visit to the premises where it is intended the child will be Privately Fostered or where the child is already being fostered. This should be recorded as an Initial Visit (Private Fostering) and recorded under the Private fostering tab on the child’s ICS file;
  • Speak with the Private Foster Carer and all members of the household making sure to confirm and record details of all members of the household, including children already living at the home;
  • Speak with the child whom it is proposed will be Privately Fostered, alone unless the Social Worker considers this inappropriate (an interpreter should always be used where the child's preferred language is not English);
  • Speak to and, where possible and practical, visit the parents or person with Parental Responsibility for the child to gather their views about the private fostering arrangement;
  • Discuss the need to contact other practitioners or organisations for information to inform the assessment;
  • Contact the home authority if the child has moved from another Local Authority area and seek historical information from services in that area.

To assist the Social Worker to complete the necessary information gathering and statutory checks to assess the private fostering arrangement the following documents are to be shared and completed within 7 calendar days of the notification being received.

The following are to the shared and completed with the parent or person with parental responsibility:

The following are to be shared and completed with the prospective private foster carers:

There is a leaflet to be shared with the child or young person during the initial private fostering visit (see Appendix 1.13: Young Person’s Guide).

The Initial Visit to See the Child

On receipt of a notification of an existing private fostering arrangement, the social worker must complete an initial visit to see the child within 7 calendar days. From the enquiries made and the initial visit the social worker is required to establish the following:

  • Wishes and feelings of the child, including their understanding of the arrangement, the reasons for it, how long it will last and how they feel about it;
  • Intended duration of the arrangement and that the timescales are understood by all parties including the child;
  • Immediate ability of the proposed Private Foster Carer to look after and meet the needs of the child;
  • Immediate suitability of other members of the proposed Private Foster Carers household;
  • Arrangements for family time (contact) between the Privately Fostered child and their parents, siblings or anyone else significant in their life and these are understood by all parties;
  • Suitability of the proposed accommodation including the sleeping arrangements for the child, and the health and safety of the property;
  • Financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child have been discussed and agreed;
  • Necessary steps have been taken to ensure the education and health of the child;
  • It is clear and agreed by all parties how decisions are made about the day to day care of the child, including where there may be a need to make emergency or urgent decisions;
  • Need for additional advice, support or services by the child, Private Foster Carer, parent or person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Review any written agreements between the Private Foster Carer and the parents;
  • Confirm sight of relevant documents which prove those making the arrangements have Parental Responsibility and authority to do so, in particular the child's birth certificate and Residence Orders / Child Arrangement Order or equivalent;
  • Confirm sight of documents that confirm the child's details, particularly where the child is from abroad, in particular seeing the child's passport, travel documents and/or identify papers;
  • Any issues in relation to the fostering limit.

Where Private Fostering arrangements have been made and are in place without the prior notification to Bolton Council consideration should be given as to whether the parent or person with Parental Responsibility should resume care whilst further assessment is undertaken.

Clearly this decision will be influenced by a number of factors including how long the child has been living with the Private Foster Carer, the relationship and attachment between the Private Foster Carer and the child, and the child's wishes and feelings.

Whatever decision is taken it should be clearly recorded on the child and Private Foster carers records along with the reasons for reaching the decision. This decision should be endorsed by a Team Manager. If a decision is made for a child to remain with Private Foster Carers during the assessment process, the child's social worker must ensure the child is visited on a weekly basis pending the outcome of the Assessment.

If the initial information indicates that the current Private Fostering arrangement is not safe or the child may be suffering, or at risk of suffering, Significant Harm then child protection processes should be initiated and the immediate safety of the child addressed. If there is a concern that a person with parental responsibility is utilising a private fostering arrangement in response to the local authority’s concerns of the welfare of their child in their care, legal advice must be sought.

Where the initial information gathering and visits identify the proposed arrangement may be unsuitable, consideration should be given as to whether any requirements, prohibitions or disqualification should be urgently implemented without any further assessment being completed. For further information on using these processes refer to Appendix 2: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications.


8. Assessment of Private Fostering Arrangements

If initial enquiries have determined that the arrangement is clearly a private fostering arrangement, then a child and family assessment will be completed in conjunction with the Private Fostering Assessment. This assessment is to be completed within 20 working days, this can be extended to 45 working days with a manager’s approval if it is deemed a further period of time is required to complete the assessment.

If from initial enquires further information is needed to determine if the arrangement is a private fostering arrangement then a child and family assessment will be completed within 20 working days, this can be extended to 45 working days with a manager’s approval if it is deemed a further period of time is required. If it is determined the arrangement is a private fostering arrangement then a private fostering assessment will be triggered as an outcome from the child and family assessment and this will need to be completed within 5 working days. 

The Assessment will identify those areas of work required to ensure the arrangement meets the National Minimum Standards - (See Appendix 3: National Minimum Standards).

At the outset, it is important that the Single Assessment (Child and Family Assessment) in respect of a notification about a Private Fostering arrangement determines:

  • The needs of the child whom it is proposed to be Privately Fostered or the needs of a child who is already Privately Fostered in order to determine whether they should remain in placement pending the outcome of a Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment or should be returned to the care of their parent or person with Parental Responsibility or alternative arrangements made;
  • Whether the child is normally resident within this authority area and where this is not the case establishes and makes contact with the home area;
  • The potential of supporting or rehabilitating the child within their own family;
  • Complete a planning visit with the carer as part of the assessment to ensure the immediate needs of the child are met.

The planning session with the carer ensures a written agreement between the Private Foster Carers and the parent or person with Parental Responsibility regarding the day to day care of the child, financial maintenance, pattern of family time (contact) and expected duration of the placement pending the outcome of the assessment.

It is also a requirement for the social worker completing the assessment to complete a further visit to see the child during the assessment period, if a higher frequency if visits is needed to the child or carer during the assessment period this can be discussed and agreed with the allocated team manager.

Through the private fostering assessment, the local authority must assure itself that the people proposing to or already acting as private foster carers are suitable people to do so. The assessments aim is to establish:

  1. The suitability of the person and their household;
  2. The suitability of the accommodation in which the private fostering is to take place;
  3. The arrangements will meet the child’s need’s.

All parties should receive a copy of the Child and Family Assessment and the Private Fostering Assessment.

8.1 Outcomes of the Private Fostering Assessment

Once the child and family assessment and the private fostering assessment have been completed by the social worker, the social worker will make a recommendation about the suitability of the placement and about the need for imposing requirements on a placement or for prohibition of an unsuitable person.

The local authority does not have the power to approve private fostering placements but does have the power to prohibit a person from privately fostering or to impose requirements on the private fostering arrangements. Please refer to Appendix 2: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications for the circumstance where a private fostering arrangement can be prohibited, or requirements can be imposed on the placement. Legal advice should be sought by a social worker and team manager if this is required.

On completion of the assessment, it will be the responsibility of the relevant Team Manager to consider the assessment of the Private Foster Carer or carers and the proposed Private Fostering arrangements. It will be their responsibility to authorise the assessment decision. Where they may have concerns about the suitability of an arrangement, particularly where there may be existing requirements, they should discuss the matter with their Head of Service. In these cases they should jointly reach a decision about the suitability of the arrangement.

Within 2 days of the assessment authorisation by the Team Manager, the assessment requires ratification by the Head of Service. Within 2 working days of the HOS ratification of the assessment, the Looked After Children Team will be alerted to the case transferring. Within 7 working days of the ratification by the Head of Service the child’s case will transfer to the Looked After Childrens Team for the monitoring of the private fostering arrangement going forward.

If the assessment indicates that the proposed arrangements made for the care and accommodation of a child will be not suitable (or that the arrangement for a child who is already Privately Fostered is not suitable) requirements will be imposed on the Private Foster Carer. If appropriate, steps can be taken to prohibit the arrangement. In both cases the Private Foster Carer, the parents or those with Parental Responsibility for the child should be informed in writing.

If at any point during the assessment or approval stages it becomes evident that an offence has been committed in relation to Private Fostering the police should be notified and a Strategy Meeting convened as soon as possible. Appendix 4: Offences Associated With Private Fostering provides further information about offences related to Private Fostering.

The Private Foster Carer and the parents, or those with Parental Responsibility for the child, should be informed of the outcome of the approval in writing within 5 working days, where necessary advised of their right to appeal and how to do this.

8.2 Appeals

Where a Private Foster Carer does not agree with the outcome of the assessment, the requirement or prohibition they have a right to appeal.

Where a Private Foster Carer may dispute the contents, accuracy or outcome of an assessment they also have a right to make a complaint. This should be made using existing complaints procedures for Bolton Council.

Where there is an appeal about a requirement or prohibition, this should be made by the Private Foster Carers, to the family proceedings court within 14 working days of being advised.


9. Supervision, Monitoring and Review of Private Fostering Arrangements

Following the ratification of the Private Fostering Assessment the responsibility for monitoring the private fostering arrangement will transfer to the Looked After Children Service.

The frequency of social work visits should be determined by the circumstances of the case and should take place whenever reasonably requested by the child, Private Foster Carer or parent / person with Parental Responsibility, however visits should be carried out as a minimum:

  • Within 7 days of placement (or of notification of placement);
  • One further visit during the Private Fostering Assessment;
  • Not less than every 6 weeks during the first year of placement;
  • Not less than every 12 weeks after the first year of placement.

Every visit should be recorded on ICS and clearly identified as a visit carried out under Regulation 8 of the Private Fostering Regulations and recorded under the private fostering tab on the child's file. Visits should be a combination of announced and unannounced visits. The worker should ensure that the purpose of the visit is explained to the private foster carer and the child. For each visit an interpreter, independent of the child's parents and private foster carer, should be used where the child's preferred language is not English.

The purpose of the visit is:

  • To safeguard and promote the child's welfare - the child's bedroom should be seen on some visits and some visits should occur when all members of the household can be seen;
  • To ensure that arrangements continue to meet the child's needs as outlined in the Private Fostering plan;
  • To ensure the child's wishes and feelings are being heard, the child should be seen alone on every visit unless it is deemed inappropriate; where the child is not seen alone this should be recorded and the reasons for this;
  • Ensuring any requirements or prohibitions imposed are being met and whether they need to be changed or cancelled;
  • To see on every visit the carer's file in respect of the child;
  • To ensure that parents are fulfilling their parental responsibilities for the child, that adequate financial maintenance is being provided and that contact arrangements are satisfactory;
  • To ensure that carers and parents or those with Parental Responsibility are in receipt of appropriate advice and support from relevant professionals e.g. health and education professionals.

It is an offence for a Private Foster Carer to refuse to allow a child to be visited by a social worker.

In Bolton the child’s Private Fostering Plan is monitored and reviewed by the child’s social worker. Additional monitoring of the suitability and the quality of the arrangement is given by an Independent Reviewing Officer.

Monitoring and review of the child’s Private Fostering plan will take place as follows from the date the private fostering arrangement has been agreed:

  • The child’s social worker to update the child’s private fostering plan within 2 months;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer to review the private fostering arrangement within 3 months and check progress at 9 months in the first year;
  • The child’s social worker to update the child’s private fostering plan within 6 months;
  • The child’s social worker to update the child’s private fostering plan within 10 months then every 6 months thereafter;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer to complete an annual review of the private fostering arrangement within 12 months and then annually thereafter;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer will complete a midpoint check 6 months following the first annual review and between reviews thereafter.

Please refer to Appendix 1.16: Private Fostering Flowchart.

The child’s social worker will update the child’s plan by holding a child action meeting with the attendance of the private foster carer, parent or person with parental responsibility, the child (where age appropriate and they want to) and any agency or worker directly providing services to the child. If any person is unable to attend the meeting their views must be sought and considered in the development of the child’s plan.

The private fostering arrangement will be reviewed by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO); the first review completed by the Independent Reviewing Officer will take place within 3 months of the private fostering arrangement being approved. The IRO will review that the private fostering arrangement has been assessed and is being monitored in accordance with private fostering policy and in line with legislation and private fostering regulations. The IRO will complete a visit to the child and their carer and hold a meeting with the allocated social worker.

The annual review of the Private Fostering placement will take place within 12 months of the placement being agreed. This will be chaired by the IRO. Prior to the annual review taking place the allocated social worker will complete an annual review report and will submit this to the IRO 7 days prior to the annual review taking place. The annual review will have the attendance of the private foster carer, parent or person with parental responsibility, the child (where age appropriate and they want to) and any agency or worker directly providing services to the child.

See:

The child’s allocated social worker or Team Manager can make the decision to initiate a child and family assessment if there has been a significant change to the circumstance of the child or information shared that identifies the child is at risk of suffering or likelihood of suffering Significant Harm (Section 47).


10. Support and Guidance for Private Foster Carers

Private foster carers should receive information about the support available from other agencies such as health, housing, schools and parenting support services that are accessible in their area. They will need advice about issues arising from a child's religion, racial, cultural, and linguistic background as well as any issues affecting the child. This advice may come from individual professionals, self-help groups, drop-in centres, toy libraries and training courses.

The social worker should give specific advice about recording the child's development and progress. This advice should cover recording the child's medical and educational progress, contact with parents, recreational activities, and photograph albums. A record of financial transactions should be kept, especially relating to monies received for the child's upkeep.


11. Cross Boundary Issue

Should the child normally be resident in another area, but the Private Fostering arrangement is made in Bolton, it is Bolton's responsibility to assess and approve the arrangement. However, it will be important for the home Children's Services to be notified of the arrangement and their views sought as to the suitability. The relevant team manager must discuss the case with the relevant manager in the home authority in order that clear roles and responsibilities can be defined.

Where a child has ongoing social work involvement with the home authority, the team manager from Bolton should discuss this with their equivalent in the home area as to how best to proceed with the assessment.


12. Notification of Changes in Circumstances

12.1 Changes to Care Arrangements

Private Foster Carers must notify the local authority of certain changes of circumstance. Preferably this should be done in advance or within 2 working days of the change happening. These notifications should be made in writing and can either be via email or letter. Text is not acceptable. The information should be recorded on ICS accordingly in the child's and the Private Foster Carer's electronic record.

The following notifications are required:

  • Any change of the Private Foster Care address;
  • Any person who begins or ceases being a member of the household;
  • Any new conviction, disqualification or prohibition of any person living in the household or employed in the household;
  • If the Private Fostering arrangement ends, stating the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved;
  • Death of the Privately Fostered child. In this case the carer must also notify the parent or person with Parental Responsibility.

In the event that the Private Foster Carer has moved with the Privately Fostered child to another area, or a Local Authority area in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the social worker must notify the receiving authority in writing and the following information provided:

  • The name and new address of the Private Foster Carer;
  • The name of the child who is being Privately Fostered;
  • The name and address of the child's parents or person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Any particular health or education needs of the child; it may be relevant to share information in relation to the Assessment and any review.

The social worker should ensure that all relevant agencies, including the home authority (where relevant) and individuals are made aware of any changes in circumstances for the child.

Where a Privately Fostered child is identified as being missing with their Private Foster Carer the usual process for alerting agencies locally and nationally of a missing child should be initiated and the District Manager notified.

12.2 Ending Private Fostering Arrangements

The parents or person with Parental Responsibility of Privately Fostered children are required to notify the Local Authority if they intend to end of the Private Fostering arrangement. The notification to end the arrangement should include the name and address of the persons into whose care the child has moved and their relationship to the child. These notifications should be made in writing and can either be via email or letter. Text is not acceptable.

The information should be recorded on ICS in the child's and the Private Foster Carer's electronic record and clearly show the ending of the arrangement.

Social workers should advise and assist parents / person with Parental Responsibility in planning the child's return home or to alternative carers. Wherever possible such moves should be planned and the child prepared for the move.

The social worker must inform other statutory agencies including the home Children's Services (where relevant) of the ending of a Private Fostering arrangement, the new address, carer details and their relationship with the child.

12.3 Death of a Privately Fostered Child

If a child dies, the Private Foster Carer must immediately notify the parent and social worker of the death. If this is a sudden death the police will be involved and Sudden Unexpected Death Of Child (SUDC) procedures will be initiated.

The social worker should inform their manager and District Manager of the child's death. Contact should be made with the carer and parents to offer support and advice.

Local Safeguarding Children's Partnership Procedures should be consulted in respect of the required response to unexpected child deaths:

  • LSCP 16 Serious Case Reviews;
  • LSCP 36 Sudden Unexpected Death of a Child.


Appendix 1: Standard Letters / Proformas, Review Documents and Flowchart

Appendix 1.1: Confirmation Letter to Parents

Appendix 1.2: Confirmation Letter to Private Foster Carers

Appendix 1.3: Medical Consent Form – Private Foster Carers

Appendix 1.4: Parents and Carers Information About Private Fostering

Appendix 1.5: Consent Form to Seek Information from Relevant Agencies

Appendix 1.6: DBS Application Form

Appendix 1.7: Letter to GP

Appendix 1.8: Private Fostering Applicants – Medical Reference

Appendix 1.9: Letter to Other Local Authority

Appendix 1.10: Letter to Health Authority

Appendix 1.11: Letter to Probation

Appendix 1.12: Private Foster Carer Checklist

Appendix 1.13: Young Person’s Guide

Appendix 1.14: First (Three Month) Review of a Private Foster Care Arrangement (IRO)

Appendix 1.15: Annual Review of a Private Foster Care Arrangement

Appendix 1.16: Private Fostering Flowchart


Appendix 2: Requirements, Prohibitions and Disqualifications

Requirements

The Local Authority has the power to impose requirements on private foster carers as to the:

  • Number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered. Part 6 of Schedule 8 Children Act 1989 prescribes the usual fostering limit to not more than three children. This applies to private fostering arrangements; this limit does not apply if all the children are siblings;
  • Standard of accommodation and equipment to be provided for them;
  • Arrangements to be made with respect to health and safety;
  • Particular arrangements which must be made for a particular child.

The Local Authority must inform private foster carers of the imposition of a requirement in writing with reasons, informing them of their right to appeal and the time limit for doing so. It is advisable to inform the private foster carer of the intention to implement a requirement advance to allow time for informal negotiation and compromise. Legal advice should be sought when seeking to impose a requirement on a private foster carer.

Requirements do not have effect while an appeal is pending. If a private foster carer does not comply with a requirement the local authority should consider whether it is appropriate to impose a prohibition.

Examples of requirements:

  • You must ensure opportunities for the child to have play and other experiences which reflect his/her own race and culture;
  • A file should be maintained with all records pertaining to child / family.

Additional safety requirements are...

Prohibition

The local authority has the power to prohibit individuals from privately fostering children if they are of the opinion that:

  • The person is not suitable to privately foster a child;
  • Their premises are not suitable for private fostering;
  • It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child for them to be accommodated by that person in those premises.

Local Authorities are encouraged to use the power of prohibition where it is necessary to enforce requirements. Legal advice should always be sought when considering imposing a prohibition.

A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specifying reasons and providing information about the right to appeal and the time limit for the appeal.

The child's parents should be fully informed and advised to remove the child from the private fostering arrangement. In some circumstances the authority may need to consider taking action to safeguard the child's welfare e.g. if the parents are not in the country or are in custody.

Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed are disqualified from private fostering, from carrying on or being employed in a children's home, voluntary home, day care or child minding. Where it is known a prohibited person is working in one of these settings all reasonable steps should be taken to notify the setting. This may include seeking advice from the Local Authority Designated Officer.

Local authorities may cancel a prohibition if they are satisfied that the prohibition is no longer justified.

Disqualification

A person is disqualified from private fostering under Section 68 of the Children Act 1989 if they have been:

  • Convicted at any time of 'specified' offences which include; abduction of children, offences relating to child minding and day care, relating to previous private fostering, relating to voluntary homes and children's homes, offences relating to importing of indecent images of children and an offence by virtue of Sex Offenders Act 1997;
  • Convicted of an offence against a child;
  • Subject of an order with respect to a child so as to remove the child from his/her care or prevent the child from living with them i.e. Care Orders or equivalent, Supervision order with a residence requirement etc.;
  • Refused registration in relation to a voluntary home or a children's home or was concerned with the management of or had a financial interest in a voluntary or children's home the registration of which was cancelled;
  • Subject of a prohibition;
  • Refused registration in respect of the provision of nurseries or day care or for child minding or had any such registration cancelled.

A disqualified person can only foster a child privately with the written consent of the Local Authority. This consent would be obtained from the Assistant Director Bolton Council and will only be given where they are satisfied that the welfare of a child will not be prejudiced by the private foster carer or by a member of their household.


Appendix 3: National Minimum Standards

Click here to view Appendix 3: National Minimum Standards.


Appendix 4: Offences Associated with Private Fostering

Offences and penalties in relation to private fostering are covered by S70 Children Act 1989. It is an offence to:

  • Fail to give the notice required under the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 without reasonable excuse, within the time specified; or to provide any information required without reasonable excuse, within reasonable time;
  • Make, or cause to be made any statement in the notification which is known to be false or misleading in a material particular;
  • Fail without reasonable excuse to comply with any requirement imposed by the local authority;
  • Care for a child whilst disqualified or prohibited from private fostering without the consent of the local authority, whilst living in the same household as someone who is disqualified or prohibited from private fostering or at which a person who is employed is disqualified or prohibited from private fostering;
  • Refuse to allow a privately fostered child to be visited by an authorised officer of the local authority; or to obstruct such an officer in inspecting premises in which a child is privately fostered or in which it is proposed to privately foster a child and from seeing the child there;
  • Publish as advertisement offering to undertake or arrange for a child to be privately fostered unless it states the persons name and address.

A person found guilty of these offences is liable to a fine except in the situation where a person is found guilty of privately fostering whilst disqualified or prohibited. In this case they would be liable to a term of imprisonment of not more than 51 weeks or a fine or both.

End