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Derby City Children's Social Care Procedures

5.1 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 28 days or more and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority.

See also Appendix 7: Practice Guidance.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was refreshed in August 2022.

Derby City Council uses a Strengths Based Approach for all work with children and families.

Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Notifications to the Local Authority
  3. Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification, Including Initial Visit 
  4. Assessment of Private Foster Carers
  5. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers (including Limit on Number of Children, Prohibition and Disqualification)
  6. Financial Support for Private Foster Carers
  7. Reviews (Child in Need)
  8. Visits to the Private Foster Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records
  9. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster
  10. After the Private Foster Arrangement Ends
  11. Appendix 1: Is this a Privately Fostered Child or Young Person? (Practice Guidance)
  12. Appendix 2: Private Fostering - Written Agreement
  13. Appendix 3: Details about Privately Fostered Children (Form PF1)
  14. Appendix 4: Private Fostering a Guide for Children and Young People
  15. Appendix 5: Private Fostering a Guide for Parents
  16. Appendix 6: Private Fostering a Guide for Private Foster Carers
  17. Appendix 7: Practice Guidance

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 "Close Relative", and the child is to be cared for in that person's home for 28 days or more. The period for which the child is cared for should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break.

A “Close Relative” is a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister or brother (whether by full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step parent. Great grandparents are not classed as "Close Relatives" and the partner of a birth parent must have been married to the parent to be classed as a "Close Relative".

A child is privately fostered if they live with the following relatives:

  • Cousins;
  • Great grandparents;
  • Step parents (if not/have not been married to birth parent, as recognised under UK Law);
  • Step grandparents/great grandparents;
  • Family friends.

Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.

(Note: the local authority may exempt any person from giving written notice either for a specified period or indefinitely. This exemption may be revoked in writing at any time).

Within this local authority we consider children in private fostering arrangements to be children in need. We consider that without the provision of services, this group of children may have a higher likelihood of not achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development.

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 local authority has legal duties towards privately fostered children/young people and must satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are, or will be, privately fostered within their area are satisfactorily safeguarded.

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 5 years;
  4. The name and addresses of the child's parents and any other person who has parental responsibility for the child (if different); and 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 they or any other member of the household has been convicted;
  • Any disqualification or prohibition placed on them or any other member of the household which prevents them from caring for a child;
  • Any actions taken or orders made in relation to the private foster 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 private foster 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 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 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 their 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, Including Initial Visit

When notification or information is received from any source that a child is privately fostered, this information must be passed to Children's Social Care for the area where the privately fostered child resides.

See also Appendix 7: Practice Guidance.

When the Notification is received by Initial Response Team or via VCM, they should contact the appropriate Locality Team and the Family and Friends Team, and the case should transfer on the first working day.

Within 7 days the following initial tasks should take place, supported by a joint visit between the Allocated Social Worker (Locality Team) and the Family and Friends Worker.

Jointly (Locality and Family and Friends):

  1. Visit the foster carers in the home where the child is to live and speak to them and all members of the household. It is essential the worker sees where the child is sleeping and confirms the child has their own bed;
  2. Ensure that the purpose and likely duration of the private fostering arrangement is understood by and agreed between the parents and the private foster carers;
  3. Explain the assessment process to the private foster carers and provide written information to them including Appendix 5: Private Fostering a Guide for Parents;
  4. Advise the private foster carer of the need for notification to Children's Social Care 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.
  5. Ensure the provision of information, advice and guidance in relation capturing and recording information which relates to the child's development and life story, including medical history, educational information and finances. Family albums and records of contact with parents and other significant information should be encouraged in all cases.
  6. Provide Parents with written information, see: Appendix 5: Private Fostering a Guide for Parents.

Locality team:

  1. Complete agency checks with social care records, health and education;
  2. Visit and speak to the child alone, unless the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so in which case the reason should be recorded and brought to the attention of the team manager;
  3. Speak to and if possible visit the parents;
  4. Ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child about the private fostering arrangement and provide written information via Appendix 4: Private Fostering a Guide for Children and Young People, if age and developmental stage appropriate;
  5. Encourage the parents to contribute to completing a written agreement (it may be helpful to use Appendix 2: Private Fostering - Written Agreement) with the private foster carers as to their respective expectations and responsibilities in relation to the fostering arrangement including care arrangements, medical consent, financial arrangements and the child's contact with their parents and other significant family members;
  6. Where the child has already been placed, check that the financial matters are in order and the contact arrangements are working;
  7. Notify the relevant health and education agencies of the child's placement or proposed placement including the health visiting service where appropriate;
  8. Ensure that any necessary links are or will be established with other agencies for example because of the child's special educational needs or disabilities;
  9. Enter the child and the carer's details onto the electronic database;
  10. Establish the plans for contact between the child and their parents;
  11. Where there is cause for concern with regards to the immigration status of the child, the worker should attempt to view and check the passport and any other relevant documents;
  12. In addition, single assessments (to be completed within 45 working days) should ensure that the child's development in all aspects is satisfactory, that the standard of care being given to the child is appropriate and that the child's needs arising from their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met.

Family and Friends Team

  1. Ensure that the purpose and likely duration of the private fostering arrangement is understood by and agreed between the parents and the private foster carers;
  2. Check the suitability of the accommodation;
  3. Ensure the capacity of the private foster carer to look after the child, Check the suitability of other members of the private foster carer's household;
  4. Where considered appropriate, a risk assessment of a dog may be completed. Workers are not expected to carry out in-depth assessments of dogs, but it will be useful for them to obtain information on certain key areas. Appendix B: BAAF Pet Assessment Form can be used for this purpose. A child must never be placed in a household with a dog listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (amended in 1997), but in the case of other breeds the approach should be to assess the individual animal's temperament and characteristics, taking into account a variety of issues;
  5. Obtain the written consent of the private foster carer and all members of the household aged 16 and over to checks being made with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). A Police National Computer (PNC) check should be completed in the interim (and international police checks where appropriate) for all household members aged 16 and over;
  6. Ask the private foster carer for the names of 2 personal referees who would be willing to provide a written reference for them and be visited by the social worker. The outcome of the PNC, DBS checks and references should be recorded on the private foster carers file only;
  7. Establish the private foster carer's child care experience, access to support and views and intentions regarding their care and behaviour management of the child;
  8. 8. 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.

Important to Note

In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the 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 continue to comply with all expectations above.

After the visit, the social worker should complete a written report of the meeting and ensure their line manager has seen this. This should always be stored on the child's file.

4. Assessment of Private Foster Carers

A Private Fostering Assessment should be completed within 42 working days of the Notification date. The assessment needs to take account of the outcome of the PNC and DBS checks and References before it can be completed and therefore the social worker undertaking the assessment must arrange for checks on the private foster carer, all members of the household and frequent visitors aged 16 and over to be made with the Disclosure and Barring Service and Children's Services records (including for the areas of any previous addresses) to be completed as soon as possible after the Notification Date. In the interim and before the DBS is completed, PNC checks should be completed to ensure that there are no immediate safeguarding concerns in respect of the private foster carers. The social worker should also seek written references and arrange to visit the personal referees. The outcome of the PNC check, DBS and References should be recorded on the carer's file only.

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 presented to your line manager for a decision to be made. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed.

A Single Assessment should be completed by a social worker alongside the Private Fostering Assessment and the child will need a Child In Need Plan. The Single Assessment must be updated every 12 months. Where the case has transferred to Level 2 Services, it is expected that Level 3 Social Work Team and Level 2 Services will work together to enable the completion of this assessment.

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 PNC or Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should discuss the circumstances with their team manager and complete the assessment with the information collated to date. The manager must consider whether the child can remain with the private foster carer and what if any safeguarding arrangements for the child needs to be put in place.

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 Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.

If changes occur to the Private Foster's Carers family or family circumstances, a new Private Fostering Assessment should be completed to assess the carers ability to continue to meet the care and welfare of the Child/Young Person. In this event and if the case has transferred to Level 2 Services, it is expected that Level 3 Social Work Team and Level 2 Services will work together to enable the completion of this assessment.

5. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers (Including Limit on Number of Children, Prohibition and Disqualification)

Where appropriate, reports to the Designated Manager can include recommendations for requirements to be imposed on the foster carers, for example 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 time-scale within which the foster carer must take the necessary action.

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

Any requirements imposed must be specified in writing, together with reasons. Written notice of any requirements imposed, together with the reasons, will be sent to the foster carer and to the parent by the social worker responsible for the assessment. The foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the requirement to the Magistrates' Court.

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

Any application for exemption from this limit must be made to the Designated Manager. The application must contain the following information:

  1. The number, names and ages of the children;
  2. The proposed arrangements 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 an exemption is granted this will be confirmed in writing to the private foster carers.

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

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 Foster Carer is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) is a good reason upon which to seek a prohibition.

Where the social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a foster carer despite the fact that they or a person in the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Designated Manager for consideration.

Where 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 the reasons, must be sent by hand or recorded delivery post to the private foster carer and to the parent by the social worker responsible for the assessment. The private foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the decision to the Magistrates' Court.

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

6. Financial Support for Private Foster Carers

Derby City Council is not financially responsible for Privately Fostered Children. It is an expectation that financial support is agreed between the Parents and the private foster carer this would include the private foster carer claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits if appropriate.

In exceptional circumstances, financial support by the local authority to sustain an otherwise satisfactory placement may be considered and where appropriate, the social worker should seek the approval of the relevant manager for such assistance to be given. The relevant manager will confirm the amount of the financial support in writing. Any agreed ongoing financial support will be recorded as part of a Child in Need Plan.

 

7. Reviews (Child in Need)

The first Child in Need Review must take place within 28 days from the date of notification of the private fostering arrangement and be chaired by a CIN Reviewing Officer. Subsequent Reviews will be independently chaired by a CIN Reviewing Officer with the second review taking place within 3 months of the initial review and then every 6 months for the first year. For long term stable placements consideration should be given as to whether these arrangements can be managed by Early Help; as agreed at VCM. Where cases are held by Early Help, the child will continue to have a CiN plan and the CiNRO should continue to chair reviews. These reviews will also consider the ongoing suitability of the private foster carers to look after these child(ren).

Network Meetings

Network Meetings should take place 6 weekly with the date for the next set at each one. The network should review and update the CIN Plan with parents/carers and the professional network. If for any reason the worker is unexpectedly unable to attend on the day, the Network Meeting could proceed with the rest of the group.

See Requirements for Reviews and Requests for CIN Review by CIN Reviewing Officer in the Child in Need Plans, Work and Reviews Procedures.

8. Visits to the Private Foster Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records

Visits by a social worker must be made to the child and the foster carer at the foster home within 7 working days of the placement, or the date when notification was received if later, and then visits will be made every 6 weeks in the first year by a social worker. It is important that the first visit is recorded on LCS by ticking the 'First visit to privately fostered child' box.

In subsequent years, visits must be at least 3 monthly.

The need to visit more frequently will be decided by the social worker and their 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 be arranged at the request of the child or the private foster carer.

Private foster carers should be offered training applicable for their role. Details are provided in Appendix 6: Private Fostering a Guide for Private Foster Carers.

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 should be offered the services of an Advocate if age appropriate and a referral made to the identified Advocacy agency. See: Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure.

The purpose of and matters to be discussed at the first visit after the child's placement are set out in Section 3, Action to be Taken on Receipt of Notification, Including Initial Visit.

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 foster 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 their 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.

    The parent and the private foster carer should be encouraged to plan the ending of the placement and prepare the child for the change;
  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 their 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.

9. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster

Where local authority foster carers notify their intention to privately foster a child, they will be advised of the differences between their two roles and the supervising social worker will normally carry out the assessment and update Fostering Panel. The fostering procedures will be followed accordingly.

10. After the Private Foster Arrangement Ends

Parents 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 young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Social Care 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, they should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them up as they will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. (Note that the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers acknowledges that some 'Qualifying children' will be as vulnerable and have similar support needs as those who are Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant).

Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance where the young person has no other means. 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 25 or beyond if the young person is in higher education, up to the end of the course. Note that in these circumstances, it is possible also for the local authority to also provide vacation holiday accommodation.

Any request by the young person should be made to the local authority in which they are resident or where the education and training is being provided.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Is this a Privately Fostered Child or Young Person? (Practice Guidance)

Appendix 2: Private Fostering - Written Agreement

Appendix 3: Details about Privately Fostered Children (Form PF1)

Appendix 4: Private Fostering a Guide for Children and Young People

Appendix 5: Private Fostering a Guide for Parents

Appendix 6: Private Fostering a Guide for Private Foster Carers

Appendix 7: Practice Guidance