Private Fostering

There is a legal requirement for local authorities to be notified of any private fostering arrangements. Children’s Social Care has a duty to undertake assessments and checks, and to provide support and advice to the child and to the private foster carer.



A private fostering arrangement is one made without the involvement of Children's Social Care for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if special needs have been identified) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts - whether of full blood, half blood or by marriage. 

If you have been looking after someone else's child for 28 days or more, the law requires you to notify your local authority.

Someone you know may have someone else’s child living with them. There are different reasons as to why they may have been asked to look after the child.

Do you know a child being privately fostered? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Whether you’re a neighbour, teacher, nurse or anyone else who has contact with children there are some signs to look out for:  


Signs to be aware of

  • A child not previously known suddenly appears to live in a neighbourhood, attend a facility or join a community group without explanation
  • A child suddenly disappears without warning or explanation
  • A child says that they are staying with someone other than a parent
  • A number of children are staying in a household seemingly not related
  • Requests for services to different children referred to as ‘nieces’ or ‘nephews’.


Typical examples of Private Fostering

  • Children sent to this country (e.g. for education or health care) by parents who live overseas
  • A teenager living with a friend’s family because they don’t get on with their own family
  • Children living with a friend’s family because their parents’ study or work involves unsociable hours or travel, making it difficult to use ordinary day care or after-school care
  • Children staying with another family because their parents have separated or divorced
  • A child from overseas staying with a host family while attending a language school, or overseas students at boarding school who stay with a host during the holidays
  • Asylum seeking or refugee children


Legislation and duties

Under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 private foster carers and anyone with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or have a child privately fostered.

The Children Act (1989 and 2004) Section 70 created a number of offences in connection with private fostering, including failure to notify an arrangement or to comply with any requirements or prohibition imposed by the local authority.

Teachers, health and other professionals must notify Children's Social Care of any private fostering arrangements that come to their attention.


When a practitioner becomes aware of the possibility of private fostering:

  • If possible talk to the adult(s) - unless you think it might expose the child to risk of harm
  • Provide them with the leaflet ‘Private Fostering Information for Parents’ from the RBWM or LSCB Website
  • If they are not willing to make the notification themselves, tell them that you have a duty to do so
  • If in doubt about the wellbeing of the child(ren) make a referral to the RBWM Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)  


The practitioner has a duty to:

  • Check with the local authority that a notification has been made
  • Contribute to the assessment of the suitability of the arrangements
  • Monitor the child’s welfare and progress and stay involved in the ongoing liaison with the local authority


Privately fostered children may be particularly vulnerable.


Contact Details

For advice or further information on child protection please contact :


RBWM Fostering, Adoption and Respite Service

Town Hall

St Ives Road





Telephone: 01628 683201


RBWM Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

Telephone: 01628 683150


Useful links:  






2017 Private Fostering Info For Children[...]
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2017 Private Fostering Information for P[...]
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2017 Private Fostering Leaflet for Profe[...]
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