Private fostering occurs when a parent (or someone with parental responsibility) makes an arrangement for their child or children to be cared for by someone else who is not a close family member*. The person who they arrange to look after their child or children is known as the private foster carer. Private fostering is not the same as fostering.
A private fostering arrangement occurs when:
- A child (someone younger than 16 years or 18 years in the case of a child with disabilities) is planned to be cared for, or has already been cared for, by someone else for 28 consecutive days or more.
- The person who will care for them – known as a private foster carer – is not a close family member*.
- The arrangement for care is made by the parent and the private foster carer without the involvement of the local authority and the child or children are still the responsibility of their parents.
* Close family members include parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, half-siblings, aunts, uncles (whether full or half blood by marriage), step-parent (by marriage or civil partnership) or an approved foster carer. It does not include great-aunts or uncles, great grandparents or cousins.
Examples of private fostering
Local children living apart from their families
- Children/young people whose parents work or study long and/or anti-social hours which makes it difficult to use ordinary day care or after school care.
- Children whose parents are not able to care for them due to illness, abuse, divorce, separation or imprisonment.
- Single parents who are in hospital for four weeks or more (planned or unplanned) and who arrange care for their child with people not defined as a close relative.
Children staying with friends because of family difficulties
- Children/young people living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home.
- Teenagers living with their boyfriend or girlfriend’s family.
- Teenagers ‘sofa surfing’ at a friends house because they don’t get on with their own family.
Children with parents overseas
- Children/young people sent to the UK for education or health care by birth parents from overseas.
- Children from overseas staying with a host family while attending a language school.
- Overseas children at boarding school who do not return home during the holidays and stay with a host family in the UK.
Children brought into the UK from overseas
- Children brought into the UK for adoption are classed as privately fostered until formal notice of adoption is undertaken.
- Children who arrive in the UK seeking asylum with adults who are not close relatives.
For advice and support please see the one minute guides below:
One minute guide to private fostering for families
One minute guide to private fostering for professionals
One minute guide to private fostering for carers
One minute guide to private fostering for young people
If you are caring for a child for 28 consecutive days or longer, please use the form below to register your details and one of our friendly advisors will be in touch to let you know more about the support you may be entitled to.