Looking after someone else’s child or know someone who is? Let the council know

People who are looking after a child who is not a direct relative are being urged to let Leeds City Council know about the arrangement.

When someone looks after a child or young person who is not a direct relative it is called private fostering. It is important Leeds City Council is aware of these arrangements to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, and that their carers are getting the support they need.

Private fostering describes an arrangement when someone, who is not a close relative, cares for another person’s child for 28 days or more. Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is being properly looked after.

Nobody knows exactly how many children are privately fostered but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that some of these ’invisible’ children could be at risk of abuse, or victims of trafficking.

Leeds City Council is also asking people who work with children and the general public in Leeds to be aware of private fostering and notify them if they are aware of or suspect such an arrangement.

While most privately fostered young people will be well cared for, some may not. In some extreme cases they may be subjected to abuse and exploitation.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services said:

“Everybody has a role in keeping our children safe – whether you are a teacher, youth worker, neighbour or you just chat to other parents at the school gate. If you hear about a child who you think may be privately fostered please let us know so we can ensure the child is being kept safe and is getting the support they need.

“Private foster carers may also be eligible for free advice and support, so it is in their best interests to let us know about any arrangements they have.”

It is an offence not to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement, people who do so, could risk a fine. It is also important that the local authority is informed of any significant changes in circumstances of private fostering arrangement, such as a house move or if another adult moves in, to live in the same house as the child.

More information on private fostering can be found on Leeds City Council’s website leeds.gov.uk/fostering or by contacting Leeds City Council’s private fostering service on (0113) 2474654

Case study:

Mykey is fifteen years old. He is a privately fostered young person who lives with his Private Foster Carer Carol. When he was 9 years old, Mykey became unable to continue living with his birth family and he was too young to care for himself. As Mykey’s neighbour Carol became concerned that he was underweight, had dull, thin hair and was poorly clothed.

Carol understood that Mykey deserved to feel safe and well cared for. She and her daughter Charlotte wanted to offer love and care to Mykey so Carol made an agreement with Mykey’s family that she should care for him under a Private Fostering Arrangement. Carol notified Leeds Children’s Social Work Service about the arrangement.

Within six months of living with Carol, Mykey’s appearance improved. He enjoyed good home cooking and gained weight and developed into a very healthy boy.

Mykey is an important member of Carol’s family and his relationship with Carol and Charlotte is that of a loving son and brother. Carol states “They are my kids – both”.

There were challenges Carol encountered as a Private Foster Carer, including financial difficulty in affording to care for Mykey and the need to move to a bigger house. As a Privately Fostered young person Mykey receives regular support visits from Social Work Assistant Ruth. Carol and Mykey describe Ruth as “very good and supportive”. Ruth is very proud of Mykey’s achievements and describes him as a successful young man who she is confident will achieve well throughout his life. Indeed Mykey is now a very confident and outgoing young man. He recently sat 15 GCSE’s and is currently awaiting his exam results. He has plans to attend College to study a two year extended diploma in Performing Arts and has further career aspirations to attend university to study teaching at degree level.

Carol proudly states “Mykey is self- sufficient – he’s brilliant. I’ve never had a bad report about him from anyone”. She has brought Mykey up to be loving and considerate of other people and strongly believes that all young people should contribute to a family home. Mykey is glad to give Carol a hand whenever one is needed and indeed, last year when Carol encountered a serious illness, Mykey and Charlotte were the ones who supported Carol.

Carol also believes in the importance of all young people learning to contribute to the wider society and she has taught Mykey a range of independence and life skills which will stand him in good stead at university and throughout his adult life.

Mykey’s advice to any young person who may encounter similar difficulties to those he encountered as a young child? “Talk about your problems to someone who will listen to you. Otherwise you might continue feeling secluded and lonely. When you finally settle with a family you get out of that unhappy situation. You feel a difference, a relief at the loss of the difficulties.” Mykey considers that thanks to Carol, he has developed the right morals to become a good parent and to contribute to the wider society. He is so happy he trusted Carol to care for him.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk