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Durham County Council

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Private fostering


Private fostering is the term used to describe an arrangement made privately (without our involvement) where a child under 16 (if disabled, under 18) is cared for and lives with an adult who is not a close relative.

Under the Children Act 1989, a close relative is defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or step-parent.

Have a look at the Somebody Else's Child video to get an insight into private fostering and find out more.

A child is considered to be in private foster care if he or she is in the care of someone who is not directly related, or is a legal guardian, for a total of 28 days or longer.

Private foster carers are not approved as local authority foster carers and usually have had no training to become carers. Families find private foster carers themselves, and it is their responsibility to find carers that are suitable.

This does not include children and young people who are being looked-after by us.

Responsibilities of the parent and foster carer

By law, those involved in the private fostering arrangement (both the birth parent or person with parental responsibility and the private foster carer) must notify us. We must be aware of the situation six weeks before the child is privately fostered. We must then be notified again within 48 hours of the child arriving.

We must also be notified of any changes in circumstances such as change of address. By law when a child is privately fostered, the child's parents still have full parental responsibility.

How can we help?

Under the Children Act 1989, we have a duty to make sure that the proposed arrangement will provide for the child's needs and safeguard their welfare.

We will work with the child's parents and the carer to make sure they are meeting the child's needs. We can also explain the rights and responsibilities of both the parents and the carers and help you to meet these. 

We will also:

  • Visit the parents to find out why the placement is needed and whether any services can be offered to help keep the child at home.
  • Visit the private foster carer to check that the placement is suitable for the child and that it is safe.
  • When the child is living with the private foster carer, the social worker will visit regularly to make sure everything is going well. If there are any concerns they will be reported immediately to the parents.

We have the powers to prohibit a person from privately fostering if they, or their household, are judged to be unsuitable.

Family and Friends Care Policy

The Family and Friends Care Policy (PDF, 187kb) explains how we will support family and friends carers which includes private foster carers. We have a legal responsibility, under the Children Act 1989, to provide family and friends carers with the support that they need to safeguard and promote the child or young person's welfare, regardless of whether they are classed as "looked after" by the Council.

We have also provided Family and Friends Care Policy - Practice Guidance (PDF, 226kb) for professionals working with family and friends carers.