This week (8-13 July) is private fostering week, a national campaign that promotes awareness of children who are in private fostering arrangements.
Warwickshire County Council is using the week to help people understand what private fostering is and responsibilities to report these arrangements to ensure children and teenagers being looked after in this way are safe.
Private fostering is when children aged under 16 (18 with disabilities) are cared for by someone who is not a close relative for more than 28 days.
There are many reasons for a child being privately fostered, some of these include: a parent being ill, in prison, or going abroad; the relationship between a parent and a young person breaking down; the parent studying or working long hours; the child has come from another country to study; or the child has come to this country as a refugee.
Private foster carers include extended family members, or a person known to the family who is not a blood relation. They do not assume full parental responsibility for the child and cannot make decisions on education, medical treatment and travel abroad. A social worker is also assigned to support the arrangement.
In Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council has the legal responsibility to assess and monitor and support private fostering arrangements. The law is clear on private fostering: parents and private foster carers must notify children’s services about a private fostering arrangement that is going to be made. Carers often fail to do this because they do not know they are legally required to do so.
The Warwickshire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) should be informed about new private fostering arrangements six weeks prior to commencing. If the private foster carer is needed more urgently due to unforeseen circumstances, then the MASH must be informed as soon as possible.
Most private fostering arrangements work really well and benefit all those involved. Unfortunately, there have been instances in the past of problems occurring from private fostering arrangements, which have not been made known to the local authority.
If you in a private fostering relationship and haven’t reported it or if you know of a child that is being privately fostered please get in touch with the Warwickshire MASH on 01926 414144. If you would like further information on private fostering arrangements please visit: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/privatefostering.