Private Fostering Policy
AMENDMENTIn November 2019, links were added to the Private Fostering webpages for Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire SCB and Luton Council.
|1.1||The Government introduced new legislation on private fostering in Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 and The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 which came into force on 18th July 2007. These measures, together with the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering and the role of Local Safeguarding Children Boards in private fostering are designed to focus Local Authorities' attention on private fostering, in light of the Victoria Climbié inquiry.|
|1.2||Legislation requires Local Authorities to promote awareness in their area of notification requirements and to ensure that advice is given to those concerned with children who are or proposed to be privately fostered. This includes prospective/actual private foster carers, parents of privately fostered children and the children themselves.|
|1.3||The legislation places a duty on Local Authorities to promote awareness of the notification requirements amongst professionals and the wider community.|
|1.4||This Policy is designed to be read in conjunction with Private Fostering which specifies Children's Social Care practice with regard to its duties and functions with regard to private fostering. Each Council have their own Private Fostering Procedures please see Note above.|
2. Policy Statement
|2.1||Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Council accepts their responsibility to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of each privately fostered child in order to secure positive outcomes for these children and young people and reduce any risks to their welfare and safety. In Luton the responsibility is handled by two teams: Rapid Intervention and Assessment Team (soon to be known as Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub from January 2017) and the Fostering team. In Central Bedfordshire the statutory duties for privately fostered children are fulfilled by the Family Support Service. In Bedford Borough Council the responsibility is handled by the Fostering Team|
|2.2||Local Authority Children's Social Care will safeguard and promote the welfare of privately fostered children by effectively assessing and determining the suitability of all aspects of the private fostering arrangement in accordance with regulations. This will include assessing the capacity of the private foster carers to look after the child and to respond appropriately to the child's developmental needs. This will also include visiting and speaking to the child alone to establish the child's wishes and views about the arrangement.|
|2.3||Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire County Council and Luton Council will promote awareness of the notification requirements amongst professionals who may come into contact with privately fostered children and within the wider community. Targeted and current information and advice will be made available to all those professionals who may come into contact with privately fostered children, e.g. teachers, health visitors, youth workers, voluntary sector workers, GPs, etc via the Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton SCB's. This information will reinforce roles and responsibilities in relation to notification.|
|2.4||The Local Authority is required to satisfy itself of the proposed arrangement before it commences (where advance notice is given). The Local Authority is also required to monitor compliance with all its duties and functions in relation to private fostering and to appoint an officer of the authority for this purpose. Local Authority Children's Social Care aims to improve notification rates and compliance with the legislative framework for private fostering and to increase the number of arrangements checked out before a child is privately fostered.|
|2.5||Local Authority Children's Social Care will respond to notifications including changes in circumstances and deal with those arrangements that have not been notified.|
|2.6||Local Authorities have the power to impose requirements on private foster carers as to the number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered. Requirements must be notified in writing and if the private foster carer does not comply with these, Children's Services should consider whether it would be appropriate to impose a prohibition on the carer.|
|2.7||Local Authority Children's Social Care may impose a prohibition on a person who proposes to or is privately fostering a child if they are of the opinion that the person is not suitable to privately foster a child. This person would be disqualified from being a private foster carer.|
Advice and support will be provided as required to:
|3.1||Privately fostered children are a particularly vulnerable group of children whose welfare needs need to be satisfactorily safeguarded and protected. They are a diverse and particularly vulnerable group with many not having a parent figure in a position to safeguard their welfare.|
|3.2||The private foster carer becomes responsible for the day to day care of the child while overarching responsibility remains with the child's parents or other persons with Parental Responsibility.|
|3.3||It is an offence to fail to give the required notification of a private fostering arrangement.|
|3.4||Local Authority Children's Social Care will aim to ensure that there are satisfactory arrangements in place to meet the child's racial, cultural, linguistic and religious needs in order to ensure that the child develops a positive self-image and sense of identity.|
4. Outcomes of This Policy
|4.1||The key outcome of this policy will be that privately fostered children in Bedfordshire are kept safe and protected.|
|4.2||In addition, through regular visits to monitor the placement, the Local Authority Children's Social Care will ensure that positive outcomes in relation to health, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic wellbeing are secured for privately fostered children.|
|4.3||Staff in the Local Authority Children's Social Care and other key agencies will be aware of their duties and functions in relation to private fostering and in ensuring the safety and welfare of privately fostered children.|
|4.4||The wider community will be aware of the notification requirements.|
5. How This Policy will be put Into Practice
|5.1||Local Authority Children's Social Care will ensure that its staff are aware of their duties and functions in relation to private fostering.|
|5.2||Local Authority Children's Social Care managers will be responsible for ensuring their teams are aware of this policy and the associated procedure through regular briefing and training sessions.|
|5.3||Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Safeguarding Children Boards will ensure that training on the duties and powers in relation to private fostering is developed for partner agencies.|
|5.4||The Private Fostering Coordinator or the Fostering Team Manager (Luton) will be responsible for promoting awareness of private fostering within the wider community.|
Local Authority Children's Social Care will monitor the way in which it discharges its duties and functions in relation to private fostering. This will be done through the appointment of an officer to monitor the way in which the LA discharges its duties and functions in relation to private fostering.Note: in Luton this will be done through quality assurance and audit activities.
|5.6||Having in place an effective recording system which monitors the way in which the Council discharges its duties and functions in relation to private fostering and improving practice as necessary where indicated by this system (In Luton the quality assurance and audit system).|
|5.7||Local Authority Children's Social Care will record information on the numbers of privately fostered children in their area including the number of new notifications, and record the number and nature of enquiries received in relation to private fostering, the responses given and any action taken.|
|5.8||Local Authority Children's Social Care will ensure that accurate and comprehensive records are kept for each privately fostered child and private foster carer.|
|5.9||An annual written report will be prepared by the Local Authority Children Services for the Directors of Children's Social Care which includes an evaluation of its work in relation to private fostering in Bedfordshire. The same applies for Luton.|
|5.10||An annual report will also be presented by the Local Authority Children Services to the respective Chairs of the Local Safeguarding Children Board within their locality, looking at how it satisfies itself that the welfare of privately fostered children in the Bedfordshire area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, including how they cooperate with other agencies in this respect.|
|5.11||The Regulatory Authority will also inspect Children's Social Care performance against the Regulations and National Minimum Standards in the area of private fostering.|
6. Legislation and Guidance
Section 44, Children Act 2004.This replaces the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 1991 and Chapter 1 of Volume 8 (Private Fostering and Miscellaneous) of the Children Act 1989 guidance:
Appendix 1: Definition of Private Fostering
A private fostering arrangement is one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of the LA) for the care of a child:
- Under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled);
- By someone other than a close relative;
- With the intention that it should last for 28 days or more;
- Private foster carers may be from the extended family such as a cousin or great aunt.
However a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full or half blood or by marriage or by civil partnership) or a step parent will not be a private foster carer.
A private foster carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child or someone previously unknown to the child's family who is willing to privately foster a child.
The period for which the child is cared for and accommodated by the foster carer should be continuous - but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break. A break in the period e.g. for a child to visit his/her parents at the weekend would not affect the nature of the placement as a private foster placement. For a break to restart in calculating the period it must result from the ending of one arrangement prior to the start of a new arrangement.
Where a child is under 16 years old and is a pupil at an independent school and lives at the school during the school holidays for a period of more than 2 weeks, he/she will be subject to private fostering regulations unless one of the exemptions below applies.
Where a child under 16 is studying at a language school for more than 28 days and stays with a host family he/she will be subject to private fostering regulations.
These are covered in Schedule 8 of the Children Act 1989 but the main exemptions are covered below.
Children will not be privately fostered:
- Where the arrangements last for less than 28 days and are not intended to extend beyond that period;
- Where the child is looked after by a LA;
- Where the child is living in a children's home or accommodation provided by/on behalf of a voluntary organisation;
- A school in which he/she is receiving full time education (either during term time or residing there less than 2 weeks of any school holiday);
- Where the child is placed by an adoption agency in the care of a person who proposes to adopt him or he is a protected child under the Adoption Act 1976 (Section 32).
Appendix 2: Key Timescales
The Regulations require that a person who proposes to foster a child privately must notify the LA in writing at least 6 weeks before the arrangement is due to begin or immediately if it is due to begin within 6 weeks. When the child moves to the private foster placement the LA must be notified within 48 hours of the move.
When the private fostering arrangement has not been notified to the LA in advance and the child is already in the private fostering placement, the private foster carer must notify the LA immediately.
When the LA has received notification about a proposed or actual private foster placement the LA must arrange for an officer of the authority to visit within 7 working days in order to assess the suitability of the placement. This includes visiting the premises and visiting and speaking to the private foster carers and all members of the household. The child must also be visited and spoken to alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate to do. Visits must also be made to parents and those with parental responsibility if it is practicable.
LAs must make a decision about the suitability of all aspects of a private fostering arrangement within 42 working days from notification or as soon as the outcome of the DBS checks is known, whichever is the sooner.
Subsequently visits must be made to every child who is being privately fostered:
- In the first year of the private fostering arrangement at intervals of not more than 6 weeks;
- In any second or subsequent year at intervals of not more than 12 weeks.
The LA must be notified of any change in address or circumstance in advance if possible or within 48 hours of the change in circumstance.
The LA must be notified within 48 hours where a private fostering placement has come to an end.