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4.1.3 Private Fostering

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative 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.

RELATED REGULATIONS, GUIDANCE AND INFORMATION

Information for Local Authorities including the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering (DfE)

The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005

Private Fostering Statement of Purpose (Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance)

Practice Guidance, Privately Fostered Children (Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance)

AMENDMENT

In March 2016, links were added to Private Fostering Statement of Purpose and Practice Guidance, Privately Fostered Children.


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Notifications to the Local Authority
  3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification
  4. Responding to Un-Notified Private Fostering Arrangements
  5. Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers
  6. Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record
  7. Support for Private Foster Carers
  8. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers
  9. Non-compliance with Requirements
  10. Limit on Number of Children
  11. Disqualification and Prohibition
  12. Visits to the Carers Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records
  13. Review of Private Foster Carers
  14. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster
  15. After the Private Fostering Arrangement Ends


1. Definition

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if Disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, step parent (including civil partnerships), sister or brother where the child is to be cared for in that person's home for 28 days or more.

s17(11) CA 1989: a child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.

A child who is a Child in Care or placed in any residential home, hospital or school is excluded from the definition. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent retains Parental Responsibility.


2. Notifications 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 6 weeks before an arrangement begins. Where no prior notification of a placement is given, private foster carers must notify the local authority of the placement immediately.

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

  1. The name, gender, date and place 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 of the person giving the notice and any previous address within the last five years;
  4. The name and addresses of the child's parents and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
  5. If different, the name and address of the person from whom the child was or is to be received;
  6. The name and address of the private foster carers and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
  7. The name and address of any other person who is involved in making the arrangement;
  8. The name and address of any siblings of the child who are under 18, and the current arrangements for their care;
  9. The purpose and likely duration of the arrangement;
  10. The intended date when the child is to be placed with the private foster carers or the date when the placement began.

In relation to notifications given by the private foster carer or proposed private foster carer, the following information should also be obtained:

  • Any offence of which he/she or any other member of the household has been convicted;
  • Any disqualification or prohibition (see Section 11, Disqualification and Prohibition) placed on him/her or any other member of the household;
  • Any actions taken or orders made in relation to the carer or any child who is or was a member of the same household.

Written notification must also be made to the local authority by the carer within 48 hours of any change in circumstances, e.g. a change of address, a change in the household, a criminal conviction/disqualification or prohibition (see Section 11, Disqualification and Prohibition) in relation to any person in the household or any intention to foster another child privately.

Where notification is that the private foster carers have moved to live in the area of another local authority, the social worker must immediately pass to the new authority the name and address of the private foster carer, the name of the child being privately fostered, the name and 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 or her relationship with the child.

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

Any agency that becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement 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

Information regarding action to be taken on notification, factors to be considered when completing an assessment of suitability, guidelines for Interviews with referees and notes on the assessment of premises can be found at “Practice Guidance, Privately Fostered Children”.


4. Responding to Un-Notified Private Fostering Arrangements

The local authority is required to deal effectively with situations where a private fostering arrangement has come to their attention but has not been notified in accordance with the regulations and to ensure that an appropriate decision is taken where it appears that an offence has been committed, bearing in mind the best interests of the child. Discussion should take place through supervision and guidance sought from Legal Services as to whether or not an offence should be prosecuted. Ultimately the decision rests with the Area Assistant Director.

A person will be committing an offence if they:

  • Foster a child when disqualified from doing so without the written consent of the local authority;
  • Foster a child in a household where a disqualified person, who does not have the local authority’s consent, lives or works, unless they can prove that they did not know and had no reasonable grounds for believing that such a person lived or worked there;
  • Accommodate a privately fostered child in any premises in contravention of a prohibition imposed by a local authority;
  • Fail without reasonable excuse to give any notice or information required by the CA 1989 or regulations within the specified time for doing so;
  • Make or cause or procure another to make any statement in the notice or information which they know to be false or misleading in a material particular;
  • Fail without reasonable cause to comply with a requirement imposed by a local authority;
  • Refuse to allow a privately fostered child to be visited by an officer of the local authority;
  • Intentionally obstruct an authorised person seeking to inspect a child or premises under the CA 1989;
  • Knowingly publish, or cause to be published, an advertisement which does not state the name and address of a person advertised as arranging or undertaking private fostering.


5. Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers

During the initial visit, the social worker should:

  1. Explain the assessment process to the private foster carers and provide written information to them;
  2. Obtain the written consent of the private foster carer and all members of the household over 16 to checks being made with the Disclosure and Barring Service and ask the private foster carer for the names of 2 personal referees;
  3. Establish the private foster carer's child care experience, access to support and views and intentions regarding behaviour management of the child;
  4. Establish the plans for contact between the child and his or her parents;
  5. Establish the private foster carer's 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;
  6. Advise the private foster carer of the need for notification to Children's Services in the event of a change in circumstances and preparation of the child before any further move, and for continuity of information being passed to the next carer.

Advise the private foster carer in relation to recording the child's development, particularly incorporating the following matters:

  • Maintaining the child's medical history;
  • Keeping a file of school reports;
  • Noting dates of contact with the parents and significant others;
  • Maintaining a financial record;
  • Noting dates of contact with Children's Services;
  • Keeping a photograph album.

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers 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.

If the initial visit takes place after the child's placement, the social worker should also:

  1. Ensure that the parents have fully informed the private foster carer of the child's medical history and any current need for ongoing professional monitoring and medication, and has handed the child's personal child health records to the private foster carer;
  2. Encourage the private foster carers to draw up a written agreement with the child's parents as to their respective expectations and responsibilities in relation to the private fostering arrangement including the contact arrangements, finances and expected duration;
  3. Ensure that the child is registered with a GP, dentist and, if necessary, optician local to the foster home;
  4. Ensure that a school place has been arranged for the child if of school age;
  5. Ensure the parent provides the private foster carer with a written general consent to cover any necessary medical treatment and that a copy of this consent is given to the GP, dentist, optician and retained on the child's file.

The information gathered during this time should be collated using the Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record on Liberi.

DBS Checks

The DBS does not support portable DBS checks (i.e.: checks completed by other organisations) so new DBS applications should always be completed when assessing prospective private foster carers. The assessing social workers should contact the DBS team by emailing employment.check@kent.gov.uk to arrange to become identification verifiers.

In line with Kent’s Fostering Policy, those carers that are often caring for children in private fostering arrangements (i.e.: host families) should have new or updating DBS checks every three years.

For further advice please contact the DBS team.


6. Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record

The social worker undertaking the assessment must arrange for checks on the private foster carer, all members of the household and frequent visitors over 16 to be made with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Children's Services records (including for the areas of any previous addresses). The social worker should also seek written references and arrange to visit the 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.

The maximum time frame for the Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 42 working days from the point of notification. If, in discussion with a child and their family and other professionals, an assessment exceeds 42 working days the social worker and professionals involved should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit.

A report on the assessment should be presented to the Area Assistant Director for a decision to be made. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed - see Section 8, Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers, Section 10, Limit on Number of Children and Section 11, Disqualification and Prohibition.

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers 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.

If any information comes to light during the course of the private foster carer assessment, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should prepare a report to the Designated Manager. Immediate consideration should also be given to the arrangements for the child and if necessary child protection procedures should be followed.

In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Board Inter Agency Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.


7. Support for Private Foster Carers

The Private Fostering Social Worker should provide information to private foster carers about the advice and support that is available from the Local Authority and from other agencies. Where appropriate, and with the carer’s agreement, referral will be made to other agencies. Where there is an identified need for support, which is not available from other agencies, consideration needs to be given as to whether this support should be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.


8. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers

The local authority has power to impose requirements on private foster carers.

Requirements may include:

  1. The number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered;
  2. The standard of accommodation and equipment to be provided for them;
  3. The arrangements to be made with respect to their health and safety;
  4. Particular arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care.

Requirements can relate to an individual child or a category of children.

A requirement may include a time-scale within which the private foster carer must take the necessary action. If the requirement has not been met within the time scale a decision must be made as to further action required, which may include a prohibition.

Any requirement must be imposed by notice in writing setting out:

  • The reason for imposing the requirement;
  • The right of appeal;
  • The time limit for an appeal.


9. Non Compliance with Requirements

Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with the nominated social worker/allocated social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Assistant Director recommending that the foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out below in Section 11, Disqualification and Prohibition must be followed.


10. Limit on Number of Children

The Children Act prescribes a 'usual fostering limit' of three children.

This limit applies to private fostering and local authority fostering. This limit does not apply if all the children are siblings.

Placements of three children should not be taken as the norm: the welfare of a child needing a placement may sometimes be best served by being the only foster child in the family.

Only in exceptional circumstances will an exemption to the usual fostering limit be considered.

Granting an exemption to usual fostering limit.

In cases where a person is privately fostering or proposes to foster privately more than three children who are not siblings at any one time, then that person needs an exemption from the local authority.

The factors the Local Authority must take into account when considering whether to grant an exemption are included in Para 4(2) of Schedule 7:

  1. Number of children to be fostered;
  2. Arrangements proposed for their care and accommodation;
  3. Intended and likely relationship between the foster parent and the children;
  4. Period time for which fostering is proposed;
  5. Whether the welfare of all the children in the accommodation will be safeguarded and promoted.

Exemptions from the usual fostering limit will be considered in relation to a particular child only. They will be time limited, with a clear plan for returning to the usual limit.

The decision to grant an exemption will be made by the Area Assistant Director.  In order to consider an exemption, a written report by the nominated social worker must be submitted to the Area Assistant Director and the outcome of the decision will be given to the carer in writing.

If a private foster carer exceeds the usual fostering limit or, where exempted, privately fosters a child not named in the exemption and in doing so, exceeds the usual fostering limit, the carer shall be treated as running a children's home. Any person who runs a children's home without being registered in respect of the home under the Care Standards Act 2000 is guilty of an offence (see section 11 of that Act). In such cases legal advice should be obtained.


11. Disqualification and Prohibition

Disqualification

Certain individuals are automatically disqualified from being private foster carers due to past activities or offences as contained in Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002.These are anyone who is/has:

  • Parent of a child who has at any time been subject to a Care Order;
  • Has had a child removed from his care under a Care Order, deemed Care Order or similar statutory order;
  • Has been convicted of a specified offence, including any offence involving bodily injury to a child;
  • Has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, for provision of nurseries or day care or child minding;
  • Has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, in respect of a children’s home or voluntary home;
  • Has been concerned financially or in the management of a children’s home or voluntary home where the registration of any person has been cancelled;
  • Has been prohibited from fostering at any time.

The Regulations require persons who are privately fostering or who notify of their intention to do so to tell the local authority about any disqualifications.

If any information comes to light during the course of the assessment as a result of which the foster carer is considered unsuitable, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should advise the parents of the reason for such a conclusion and that alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child. In order to determine the best outcome for the child, a Child and Family Assessment should be undertaken.

In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under Child Protection Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.

Where the social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a private foster carer despite the fact that he or she or a person in the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Area Assistant Director for consideration.

Where a decision is made to lift a disqualification the reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of the reasons should be included in the written notice of the decision sent to the foster carer and to the parent by the Designated Private Fostering Social Worker.

Lifting of Disqualification

The local authority has discretionary powers to lift the disqualification and thus allow the person to privately foster.

These powers should be used only in exceptional circumstances and any consideration given to lifting disqualifications will be subject to the approval of the Area Assistant Director having regard to any legal advice having been obtained. In order to make this decision, the Area Assistant Director will require the following information:

  • The date of the offence or Court Order;
  • The type of offence or Court Order;
  • The person's activity and involvement with children since the offence or Court Order;
  • The background information related to the offence or Court Order.

The Local Authority must be satisfied that the welfare of the child concerned would not be prejudiced by the lifting of the disqualification.

The information required for the decision to be made should be obtained by the allocated social worker and a report covering the above details should be submitted to the Area Assistant Director.

If the Area Assistant Director refuses to lift the disqualification, the person should be informed in writing of the reasons and they should be informed of their right to appeal and the time limits.

Prohibition

A prohibition can be imposed on persons who propose to foster privately, as well as to persons who are actually fostering a child privately. A person can be prohibited from privately fostering a child if a decision is made that that person is not suitable to privately foster a child; his/her premises are not suitable for private fostering; or it would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child for him/her to be, or continue to be, accommodated by that person in those premises.

A person may be prohibited from fostering any children anywhere in the LA’s area, or in specific premises, or a particular child in particular premises.

All decisions to issue a Prohibition should be taken by the Area Assistant Director in consultation with Legal Services.

Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed are disqualified from private fostering and from running or being employed in a children's home, voluntary home, day care or childminding.

Action to be Taken in the Event of a Prohibition being Issued

Where a decision is made to prohibit a foster carer from fostering, the foster carer and the parent must be advised immediately of the decision and the reasons. The social worker must advise the parent to make alternative arrangements for the child. The parent must be offered advice and information on what alternative arrangements can be made for their child and if applicable what support under section 17 of the Children Act can be offered to safeguard the child's welfare. In order to determine the best outcome for the child, a Child and Family Assessment should be undertaken, in accordance with the procedures contained elsewhere in this Manual.

In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required to secure the child's safety under Child Protection Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.

A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specify reasons, and contain information about the right of the person to appeal and the time in which he/she may do so.

Where a decision is made to prohibit a foster carer from caring for a child reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of this decision together with reasons must be sent by hand or recorded delivery post to the foster carer and to the parent by the nominated Social Worker.

Cancellation of Prohibition

A prohibition may be cancelled if it is considered that the prohibition is no longer justified.  The decision to cancel must be taken by the Area Assistant Director in consultation with Legal Services.

In order to make this decision the Area Assistant Director will require the following information:

  • The date of the prohibition;
  • The reason for prohibition;
  • The background information related to the prohibition being imposed;
  • The reasons for considerations being given to the prohibition being cancelled.

Representations Procedure

Representations can be made by carers in relation to requirements, prohibitions, refusal to make an exemption, a condition imposed in an exemption or a variation or cancellation of an exemption. Any challenges will be subject to the same challenge process and timescales.

When a decision is made to impose a requirement, prohibit a foster carer from caring for a child, refusal of exemption, imposing conditions or variation/cancellation of exemption, written notice of the decision must be sent by the social worker, to the applicant within 7 working days of the decision being made.

The applicant will be advised in the written notice that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, representations should be submitted to the Assistant Director for Safeguarding in writing via the nominated social worker. The nominated social worker must receive written notification of the carers wish to challenge within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the decision.

If written representations are made within the period, the matter must be referred to the Assistant Director for Safeguarding for further consideration. The nominated social worker will advise the private foster carer within 7 days of the date of this consideration either confirming or amending their previous views.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the foster carer within 7 working days of the consideration.

Once notice has been given of a final decision to impose a requirement on a foster carer or to prohibit a foster carer from fostering, the person concerned has 14 days in which to appeal to the Magistrates Court. During this period, the requirement or the prohibition has no effect. The parent must be kept fully informed of this process. This does not apply to a prohibition.

As soon as the social worker receives information that an appeal against a decision is to be made, Legal Services should be notified.


12. Visits to the Carers Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records

12.1 Frequency

Visits by a social worker must be made to the child and the private foster carer at the home within 7 working days of the placement, or the date when notification was received if later, and then visits will be made every six weeks in the first year by a social worker.

In subsequent years, visits must be at least 12 weekly.

The need to visit more frequently will be decided by the social worker and his or her manager 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 also 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 young age of the child or if the child does not wish to see the social worker alone. The child's bedroom should be seen on some visits.

An initial visit to the child must be completed and recorded within 7 days of notification (referral).

12.2 Purpose

The purpose of and matters to be discussed at the first visit after the child's placement are set out in Section 5, Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers.

The overall purpose of all visits is to encourage the maintenance and improvement of child care standards and check that the child's needs are met within the placement and in particular:

  1. To observe the overall standard of care including visiting the child's bedroom;
  2. To ensure that the child is developing satisfactorily and that his or her needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
  3. To speak to and ascertain the wishes of the child;
  4. To review the purpose and likely duration of the placement and ensure that arrangements with the parents are working;
  5. To check that any requirements imposed are being met and check whether they need to be changed or cancelled;
  6. To ensure that the arrangements for the child's education are satisfactory;
  7. To advise or arrange advice for the private foster carer as necessary, for example in relation to the maintaining of the child's links with his or her cultural heritage or in relation to appropriate travel arrangements for the child visiting family abroad;
  8. To check that the financial arrangements for the care of the child are working;
  9. To ensure that the child remains registered with a GP and dentist and that any necessary health care has been provided to take account of any special health needs;
  10. To ensure that the child has access to services as required as a result of any disabilities;
  11. To enquire as to the contact arrangements for the child with the parents and siblings;
  12. To encourage the private foster carer to keep a record of the child's development, including accidents, illnesses, immunisations, school reports, achievements and any contact with parents or significant others.

12.3 Reports on Visits

A report on every visit must be made by the social worker and recorded on Liberi. The report must state whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone. If the child was not seen, the reasons must be recorded. The record must comment on the child's welfare and how the placement is progressing including any views expressed by the private foster carer and the child. It must also contain a recommendation about the continued suitability of the private fostering arrangement and whether any action should be taken and/or requirements on the private foster carer.

The report must be reviewed by the manager.

12.4 Unsatisfactory Care

Where there are concerns about the child's care, the parents should be advised and consideration should be given to invoking the Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Board Inter Agency Procedures.


13. Review of Private Foster Carers

The suitability of the private foster carer should be reviewed annually by the social worker using the  Annual Review of Private Fostering Arrangement Form and inputted on Liberi and reported to the Area Assistant Director.


14. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster

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

In these circumstances, a supervising social worker will normally carry out the assessment.

The foster carers should be advised of the differences between their two roles.

Consideration will need to be given to the implications for any Child in Care already placed with the foster carer and contact should be made by the supervising social worker involved with the social workers for such children.

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


15. After the Private Fostering Arrangement Ends

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

Unless a young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Services will review the young person's circumstances and future plans as they approach 16. Where a young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but requires continuing support, he or she should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them up as he or she will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance. It will be provided at the request of the young person on the basis of assessment of need and can continue up to the age of 21 or beyond if the young person is in higher education, up to the end of the course.

After Care

Section 24(1B) CA 1989: a person qualifies for advice and assistance if they are under 21 and, at any time after reaching the age of 16 but while still a child was, but is no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered.  s24(2)(e) - “fostered” includes privately fostered.

The local authority may advise, assist and befriend such a young person if he or she asks for help and his/her previous private foster carers do not have the necessary facilities to advise or befriend him or her. Assistance may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash which may also be conditional on repayment, except where a person is in receipt of certain benefits.

End