Leeds ,

Private fostering is not a private matter

People who know about a situation where a child is being looked after by someone who is not a close relative are being urged to let Leeds City Council know about the arrangement to ensure the safety of the child, and that their carers are getting the help they need.

When a child or young person is being looked after by someone who is not a close relative it is called ‘private fostering’. People in Leeds who are aware of such an arrangement are being reminded this week to let Leeds City Council know, to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. By informing the council, the private foster carer will also be able to access advice from the council’s private fostering experts.

Private fostering describes an arrangement when someone, who is not a close relative, cares for another person’s child, who is under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability), for 28 days or more. Although private fostering is arranged between the parent and the private foster carer - and not through the local authority or a fostering agency - it is important that both parties inform the council so the appropriate safeguarding checks can be carried out.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive member responsible for children and families, 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.

“We understand that some people feel as though they may be breaking a confidence or interfering in to other people’s business but our priority is always the safety and wellbeing of the child, so would urge anyone who knows or such an arrangement to let us know.”

It’s thought there are hundreds of cases of private fostering in Leeds which are not registered with the council. Many of these will be because people just don’t realise that they’re in a private fostering situation.

Private fostering arrangements can occur for different reasons including:

  • A child/young person’s parents are illness prevents them from caring for their child
  • The child/young person’s parents are in prison or may have alcohol or substance dependency issues which affect the quality of their parenting.
  • Children / young people sent to the UK for education or health care by birth parents from overseas.
  • Children / young people living with a friend's family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home.
  • Teenagers living with their partner's family.

Sometimes parents don’t realise that the arrangements they have made for their child or children are private fostering arrangements. It is important to think about this and let the local authority know. The law says that in these arrangements the local authority has a duty to ensure the child is safe and well cared for. There may also be some additional support the caring family is entitled to and the local authority may be able to assist with this.

It’s important that those regularly working with children such as teachers, health care professionals, social care staff and immigration officers understand what private fostering is and what to do about it if they think a child is in a private fostering arrangement.

In order to safeguard the child, the Private Foster Carer Assessment also ensures that Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation issues are considered and addressed.

More information on private fostering can be found on Leeds City Council’s website www.leeds.gov.uk/foster4leeds/Pages/privatefostering.aspx or by contacting Leeds City Council’s Duty and Advice Team on 0113 2224403 or privatefostering@leeds.gov.uk.

Here are some videos telling Carol and Mykey’s story of private fostering: