Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 (or under 18 if disabled) is living with someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. This might be a friend, a great aunt, a cousin or someone else known to the child or young person. A close relative is defined as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or step-parent by marriage. This type of arrangement is completely different to fostering arrangements where children and young people are placed with local authority approved foster carers, or via friends and family (kinship care) foster carers.
Many private fostering arrangements remain unknown to the local authority and this is a cause for concern as privately fostered children and young people are a particularly vulnerable group. The law states that anyone directly involved in arranging the placement must notify the local authority about the arrangement. It is an offence not to tell the local authority about a private fostering arrangement. Both the child’s parents and the private foster carers have a duty to notify the local authority of the intention to place the child in private foster care no less than six weeks before and no more than 13 weeks before the arrangement is intended to start, unless it is made as an emergency, in which case notification shall not be more than 48 hours after the child has been placed with carers.