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Somebody else's child? Let the council know!

If you're looking after a child who isn't part of your own family, don't forget you need to let the council know.

Looking after someone else's child is known as private fostering. Private fostering can be a really positive experience for children and young people, but can put others at risk. That's why it is essential the council knows about it.

Private fostering is when a child under 16 (or under 18 with disabilities) is cared for by someone other than a close family member (parent, step-parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle) for more than 28 days.

There are many reasons for children and young people being privately fostered:

  • Young people estranged from their parents
  • Children living with a parent's ex-partner
  • Young people living with a friend's parent
  • Young people living with a family friend
  • Children privately fostered when a parent goes to prison
  • Children privately fostered due to a parent's ill health
  • Children privately fostered when a parent is deported
  • Young people alleged to have been adopted abroad, but with no evidence other than the carer's word
  • Young people from overseas attending language schools or an independent school and staying with a host family or family friends.

Between April and December 2013, Gloucestershire County Council was notified of 59 referrals for privately fostered children. In line with national figures, many of these are teenagers who move in with friends' families or 'sofa surf' from one home to another, following a breakdown in relationships at home.

Many of the referrals (33) were for young people staying with educational host families. Gloucestershire has a number of private schools and private education agencies, so has always had higher numbers of foreign students than most neighbouring counties.

Last year there was a higher number of 15 year olds in private fostering arrangements in Gloucestershire, who have managed to complete their GCSEs and make arrangements for post-16 education due to the kindness and commitment of their carers.

Delia Amos, service manager for fostering and adoption said: "It is essential that the council is made aware of private fostering arrangements for the safety of children. We would ask that anyone who knows about a private fostering arrangement gets in touch with us."

The council's private fostering social worker is raising awareness by working in the community and attending meetings with other professionals.

If you are aware of a private fostering arrangement in Gloucestershire, please contact the Children & Families Helpdesk on 01452 426565.

Notes to Editors

Private fostering is not the same as fostering through private fostering agencies, which are responsible organisations and are used by the county council to look after some children in care. 

Councils are required to visit children who are privately fostered, carry out safeguarding checks on the carers, and check out things like the suitability of the premises and the well being of the young person. Unless local councils are aware of private fostering arrangements and able to check them out, children could be put at risk. 

Nationally, there were 1,760 children known to be privately fostered in the 150 local authorities in England on 31st March 2013. This compares to 1,649 children reported on 31st March 2012, showing an 8% increase.