View Cambridgeshire LSCB Manual View Cambridgeshire LSCB Manual

3.4.2 Private Fostering

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2017.


Contents

  1. Introduction and Definition
  2. Notification to the Local Authority
  3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification
  4. Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers and Child
  5. Assessment of Private Foster Carers
  6. Financial Support for Private Foster Carers
  7. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers
  8. Limit on the Number of Children
  9. Prohibitions and Disqualification
  10. Non-Compliance with Requirements
  11. Visits to the Private Foster Carer’s Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records
  12. Review of Private Foster Carers
  13. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster
  14. After the Private Fostering Arrangements Ends
  15. Language School Students
  16. Foreign Students in Mainstream School


1. Introduction and Definition

Private Fostering is a private arrangement made between the child’s parents and the private foster carers (intended to be bold type).

This procedure applies to children and young people under the age of 16 (18 if disabled) who are cared for by people other than their parents or close relatives for more than 27 days and who are NOT subject to any Order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the Local Authority. These arrangements are referred to as ‘Mainstream’ private fostering placements for children and young people who reside in the UK and are currently living in Cambridgeshire.

This procedure also applies to students attending language schools in Cambridgeshire who are under the age of sixteen (18 if they have a disability) and are staying with host families for longer than 27 days. These placements are referred to as ‘Language Students’ to differentiate them from ‘Mainstream’ placements.

A privately fostered child is a child who is under the age of 16 (18 if they have a disability) living within the Cambridgeshire County Council boundaries (regardless of where they have come from) and who is being cared for by an adult who is not their parent, someone who has parental responsibility (PR) or a close* relative.

A child who is Looked After or living in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full-time education) is excluded from the definition.

Children who are attending Language schools (or similar) who are under 16 (18 if they have a disability) and living with a Host family are considered to be privately fostered if the placement lasts 27 days or more.

Note: Where the local authority has been involved in determining that a child’s home environment is unsuitable due to safeguarding concerns, private fostering would not normally be an appropriate solution. It may be necessary to seek agreement to the child becoming looked after, either through accommodation or care proceedings. The identified carers might still be able to look after the child, but they would be assessed as Connected Persons rather than private foster carers.

* Close relatives are defined as: step parents, grandparents, brother or sister, aunt or uncle (whether full blood, half blood or marriage/civil partnership.


2. Notification to the Local Authority

Where a child is to be placed with private foster carers, the Local Authority must be notified in writing at least six weeks before the arrangements begins. Where no prior notification is given, private foster carers must notify the Local Authority of the placement immediately.

Referrals should be made to Cambridgeshire County Council Contact Centre on 034 045 5203.

The person making the notification should be asked to provide the following:-

  1. Name, gender, date of birth and address of the child;
  2. The racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and religion of the child;
  3. The names and address and contact details of the person making the notification;
  4. The name and address and contact details of the private foster carer if the notification is not made by them directly;
  5. The name(s) and address(es) of the child’s parents;
  6. If different, the name and address where the child was previously living;
  7. The name and address of any other person involved in making the arrangement;
  8. The purpose and likely duration of the placement;
  9. The intended date when the child is to be placed with the private foster carer or if the child is already in placement, when this commenced.

Written notification must also be made to the Local Authority by the private foster carer within forty eight hours of any change of circumstances e.g. change of address, change in the household, a criminal conviction/disqualification or prohibition in relation to any person in the household, or of any intention to privately foster another child. (See Section 9, Prohibitions and Disqualification).

Where notification is that the private foster carer is/has moved to another local authority area with the privately fostered child, the social worker must immediately pass to the new local authority the name and address of the private foster carer, the name of the child being privately fostered and the address of the child’s parents.

Where notification is that the placement has ended, the social worker should ascertain the name and address of the person now caring for the child and his/her relationship with the child.

Parents also have a duty to notify the local authority in writing of the ending of a private fostering placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.

Any agency or professional who becomes aware of a private fostering arrangements must immediately notify the Local Authority in writing of the arrangement and must inform the parent and private foster carer of their intention to do so.


3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification

Notifications will be received through the Cambridgeshire County Council Contact Centre from any source that a child is to be/or being privately fostered.  The Contact Centre will pass the information through to the MASH who will undertake basic safeguarding checks through interrogation of the data bases. If there are no identified safeguarding issues, then the child will become a ‘Child in Need’ (S17) and referred through to the appropriate Social Care Unit. The information will also be passed to the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit and the Lead Officer for Private Fostering so that assessment of the carers can commence.

The Social Care Unit will be responsible for the wellbeing of the child and the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit will be responsible for assessing the suitability of the proposed private foster carer and their home environment.

Within seven working days of notification there must be a visit to the private foster carer’s home and all members of the household spoken to. If the privately fostered child is already living there they will need to be spoken to on their own unless the social worker considers it is inappropriate to do so. If this is the case then this must be recorded and the social worker’s manager informed.

It would be good practice for this initial visit to meet the private fostering family and the child to be done jointly by social workers from the Social Care Unit and the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit.

Within the initial seven days of notification contact should be made with the child’s parents and agreement sought from them in relation to the placement.


4. Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers and Child

During the initial and subsequent visits to the carers, the Kinship Support & Private Fostering social worker needs to:-

  1. Explain the assessment process to the private foster carers; their responsibilities as a private foster carer and provide written information for them;
  2. Clarify the purpose and expected duration of the private fostering arrangement;
  3. Ensure that the arrangement is understood and agreed between the private foster carers and parents;
  4. Check the suitability of the accommodation;
  5. Check the capacity of the private foster carer to care for the child and the suitability of other members of the household;
  6. Gain consent from all members of the household over the age of sixteen for checks to be undertaken;
  7. Check what financial arrangements are in place to meet the costs of caring for the child;
  8. Establish the private foster carer’s child care experience; access to support; intentions regarding behaviour management i.e. expectations, boundaries and sanctions;
  9. Discuss the private foster carer’s role in promoting/maintaining contact between the child and their parents;
  10. Establish the private foster carers understanding of the child’s culture and give advice in relation to resources and facilities which could assist in meeting the child’s racial, cultural, religious and linguistic needs, including the use of an interpreter if necessary;
  11. Advise the private foster carer in relation to recording the child’s development, particularly incorporating:-
    • Maintaining medical history;
    • Keeping a file of school reports;
    • Noting dates of contacts and with whom;
    • Maintaining a financial record;
    • Noting dates of contact with Children’s Services;
    • Keeping a photograph album.

It is imperative at the initial visit that signed consent is obtained from all members of the household over the age of 16 for checks to be undertaken. (SOC461)

In the event of a refusal of any person to co-operate with the making of the necessary checks, the assessing social worker should advise the private foster carer that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child.

Any action required by the local authority to secure the child’s safety should be considered and legal advice sought as necessary.

During the initial visit to see the child the social care social worker must:-

  1. See the child on their own;
  2. Ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child about the private fostering arrangement;
  3. Ensure that the parents are involved in the planning for the child and explore whether the child’s needs may be more appropriately met by providing services to the child and parents at home;
  4. Where the child is already in placement, ensure that the child’s development in all aspects is satisfactory; that the standards of care given to the child is appropriate and that the child’s needs arising from their religion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background are met;
  5. Ascertain the arrangements for contact between the child and their parents.

If the placement has already commenced at the point of the initial visit then the assessing social worker/ child’s social worker should also:-

  1. Ensure that the parents of the child have provided the private foster carer with details of the child’s medical history and any current ongoing need for professional monitoring and medication and have handed the child’s personal child health records to the private foster carer;
  2. Ensure that the child is registered with a GP, dentist and if necessary an optician local to the private foster carer;
  3. Ensure that a school place has been arranged for the child if the child is of school age;
  4. Ensure that the parents provides the private foster carer with written general consent to cover any necessary medical treatment.


5. Assessment of Private Foster Carers

The Kinship Support & Private Fostering social worker undertaking the assessment of the private foster carers must arrange for Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks on the private foster carers and all members of the household and frequent visitors over the age of sixteen. Written references should be sought form CAFCASS; Employers; GP; NSPCC; OFSTED; Health Visitor (if appropriate); Schools (if appropriate); other Local Authority and two personal referees.

The assessment will consider the following:

  • The suitability of the private foster carer and all members of the household;
  • The suitability of the accommodation.

A report on the assessment should be prepared and presented to the Lead Officer for Private Fostering for a decision to be made. Written notice of the decision must be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibition imposed – (See Section 7, Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers; Section 8, Limit on the number of children and Section 9, Prohibition and Disqualification).

Once the assessment of the private foster carers is completed and signed off by the Lead Office for Private Fostering, the case is no longer active to the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit. The placement then becomes the responsibility of the relevant social care unit who, under S17 protocols, will monitor the wellbeing of the young person and the suitability of the placement. The social care unit will notify the Lead Officer when the placement ends.


6. Financial Support for Private Foster Carers

It remains the responsibility of the child’s parents to provide financial support to meet the needs of their child.

Financial support by the Local Authority to sustain an otherwise satisfactory placement may be considered and where appropriate can be provided under S17 providing approval is given by the relevant manager.

The private foster carer can claim child benefit and any other benefit they are entitled to in relation to them caring for the child/young person.


7. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers

Where appropriate, reports to the Lead Office for Private Fostering can include recommendations for requirements to be imposed on the private foster carers, e.g. to restrict the approval to an individual child or to limit the number, age or gender of children who may be cared for privately. Requirements may also relate to the standard of accommodation, health and safety matters and/or practical matters such as equipment. A requirement may include a timescale within which private foster carers must take necessary action.

A requirement may be varied, removed or added at any time during the arrangement.

Any requirements imposed must be specified in writing, together with reasons. Written notice of any requirement imposed, together with reasons, will be sent to the private foster carer and to the parents by the Kinship Support and Private Fostering social worker responsible for the assessment.


8. Limit on the Number of Children

The maximum number of children privately fostered in any one household must not exceed 3 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Any application for exemption from this limit must be made to the Lead Officer for Private Fostering. The application should contain the following information:-

  1. The number, names and ages of the children;
  2. The proposed arrangement for the care and accommodation of the children;
  3. The intended and likely relationship between the children and the private foster carers;
  4. The proposed length of the placement;
  5. Whether the welfare of the children in the placement will be safeguarded and promoted.

Exemptions will only be granted in relation to named children and will cease when the named children leave the placement.

Where the exemption is granted this will be confirmed in writing to the private foster carers.


9. Prohibitions and Disqualification

A decision can be made to prohibit the proposed private foster carer from fostering on the basis that they are not suitable and/or the premises are unsuitable.

The fact that a private foster carer is a disqualified private foster carer is a good reason upon which to seek a prohibition.

Where the assessing social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a private foster carer despite the fact that he/she or a person within the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Lead Office for consideration.

When a decision is made to prohibit a private foster carer from caring for a child, reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of the decision, together with reasons, must be sent by hand or recorded delivery post to the private foster carer and to the parents by the assessing social worker.

Discussion should also take place with the parent as to the making of alternative arrangements for the child.


10. Non-Compliance with Requirements

Where requirements have been imposed which are not complied with, the assessing social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Lead Officer recommending that private foster carer be prohibited from caring for a child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out above must be followed.


11. Visits to the Private Foster Carer’s Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records

Frequency

A visit by social workers, (the assessing and the child’s) must be made within seven working days of notification of the placement into the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit, to meet with the child on their own and all members of the household.

For the purpose of completing the assessment there will be subsequent visits in order to obtain all the information required to complete the assessment.

Thereafter for the first year of the placement the child must be seen on their own every six weeks by a social care social worker. After the first year this will be every three months until the end of the placement or the child reaches the age of 16 (18 if they have a disability).

The need for more frequent visits will be decided by the social workers and their managers depending on the circumstances and the need to visit unannounced and /or to choose times when all members of the household are likely to be present should also be considered.

Additional visits should be arranged at the request of the child or the private foster carer.

The child must be seen alone by the social worker on each visit unless this is not appropriate having regard to the age of the child or if the child does not want to see the social worker alone.

Purpose

In relation to the initial visit, the purpose is laid out in Section 4, Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers and Child when the assessment is commenced.

Subsequent visits are likely to be needed in order to complete the assessment.

The overall purpose of the visit is to encourage the maintenance and improvement of child care standards and check that the child’s needs are met within the placement.

As the child is regarded as a Child in Need (S17) the social care social worker will need to visit the child and the placement to ensure that the overall standard of care is meeting the needs of the child. The S17 protocols will need to be undertaken. Areas to be explored:-

  1. The wishes and feelings of the child are to be ascertained;
  2. The placement arrangements need to be reviewed;
  3. Child’s bedroom to be seen;
  4. Check that any requirements imposed are being met or whether they need to be changed;
  5. To ensure that the arrangements for the child’s education are satisfactory;
  6. To ensure that the private foster carer is meeting the child’s culture, religious needs and is maintaining links with their birth family, including siblings;
  7. Check about the financial arrangements;
  8. To ensure that the child has access to a GP, dentist and optician and that any special requirements are met;
  9. That the child has access to services as required if they have a disability;
  10. To encourage the private foster carers to keep records of the child’s development, including any accidents, immunisations, school reports, achievements and any contact with parents or significant others.

Reports on visits

All recording for private fostering is done on ICS.

All six weekly/three monthly visits to see the child should be recorded as Regulation 8 visits on ICS on the child’s records.

The assessment report of the foster carer will be initially done on the child’s file and the report then transferred to the carers when completed for sign off.

All Regulation 8 visits must record whether the child was seen alone and if not, why not. There needs to be comment on the child’s welfare and how the placement is progressing from the child’s perspective and the carers.

It must contain a recommendation as to the continued suitability of the private fostering arrangement and whether any action needs be taken and/or requirements on the private foster carer.

Unsatisfactory Care

Where there are concerns about the child’s care, the parents should be advised and consideration should be given to invoking safeguarding procedures.


12. Review of Private Foster Carers

The suitability of the private foster carer should be reviewed annually by the social worker and reported to the Lead Officer for Private Fostering.


13. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster

Where local authority foster carers notify their intention to privately foster a child, the above procedures should be followed.

In these circumstances the fostering supervising social worker would normally carry out the assessment.

The foster carers should be advised of the differences and responsibilities they have between the two different roles.

Consideration will need to be given to the implications for any Looked after Child already placed with the foster carer and contact should be made by the fostering supervising social worker with the social worker for the privately fostered child.

Consideration should also be given to the future placement of any Looked after Children particularly having regard to the usual fostering limit of three children.


14. After the Private Fostering Placement Ends

Parents and carers have a duty to notify the local authority of the ending of the placement, including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.

Unless a person has a disability, private fostering ends when the young person reaches the age of 16. Social Care will review the young person’s circumstances and future plans as they approach the age of 16. Where the young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but continues to require support, they should be assisted as a Child in Need (S17). When the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided on the basis of need.

The Lead Officer should be notified when a placement ends.


15. Foreign Students and Host Families

Any foreign student under the age of 16 (18 if they have a disability) who will be staying with a host family for longer than 27 days will be regarded as being privately fostered and as such, the above processes in the main still apply.

Notification is provided by the Language school to the local authority of students and their expected arrival date and the host family they are likely to be staying with. These notifications need to be registered with the Contact Centre and the MASH, but will need to be processed by the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit and not referred be to the Social Care Units.

Currently language school, privately fostered students, do not become Child in Need and therefore are not subject to social care procedures under S17. This is because of the short length of the placement (usually between 4 and 6 weeks).

Some host families are repeat carers of students and as such they will have already undertaken an assessment to their suitability to be a private foster carer. In these cases their assessment must be updated to include their ability to meet the needs of the new student that is going to be staying with them and to take account of any changes in their circumstances or household composition. Disclosure and Barring checks will need to be renewed at two year intervals for all household members including any additional members over the age of 16.

Host families who are not known to the local authority will need to undergo a full assessment as to their suitability as detailed in Section 4, Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers and Child & Section 5, Assessment of Private Foster Carers.

As with ‘mainstream’ private fostering, the student must be seen within 7 working days of arrival at the placement and should be seen alone.

These interviews should be conducted with an independent interpreter and in the child’s first language. The child’s chaperone is not considered to be sufficiently independent.

The language schools have responsibility for the students and they will have contact details of the children’s parents. The assessing social worker will make contact with the child’s parents explaining that the local authority are speaking to their child and provide information that their child is in a private fostering arrangement and what this means.

It is often the case that the students have returned home to their own country before the assessment of the carers has been completed. This assessment should still be completed as they may be used again in the future and there may be issues which may require prohibition or disqualification.

The Local Authority should receive written confirmation from the Language School when the Students have left the placement and returned home.


16. Language Students who Attend Mainstream School

Some mainstream schools offer placements for foreign language students and provide accommodation for the young people with host families. Referrals will probably come from School Admissions. These places tend to be for a full academic year or longer. In such cases these children will be considered to be Child in Need and subject to S17 procedures. The assessment of the carers will still be the responsibility of the Kinship Support & Private Fostering Unit and the Child will be the responsibility of the relevant social care Unit. All other procedure remain the same.


17. References

The Children Act 1989

The Children Act 2004

Children Act 1989 – Guidance on Private Fostering (2005)

National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering (2005)

End