Private fostering

What is private fostering?

Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, 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 marriage/affinity). The British Association of Adoption and Fostering provides more information on this.

Thousands of children across the UK are being cared for today by someone who isn’t a close relative. This includes teenagers who have had a row with parents and gone to live with a friend, and children who because of family circumstances (illness, parents working away, etc) are sent to live with friends or neighbours for a period of time. While many of these children will be fine, some could be at risk of abuse. 

Examples of private fostering situations include:

  • children and teenagers living apart from their families for a variety of reasons, eg a parent is ill, has had to temporarily move for work, or there has been an argument within the family
  • children with parents working or studying elsewhere in the UK
  • children with parents overseas
  • children on holiday exchanges
  • children living with host families while studying in the UK

Why are Children’s Services involved?

To help us keep children safe and support families who are looking after privately fostered children, all parents and private foster carers must notify the local council of a private fostering arrangement. If not, they miss out on essential welfare checks for children, plus other support and services. These include:

  • advice on claiming benefits and possible funding for essential items
  • support with finding school places and registering with a GP or medical practice
  • parenting support and advice
  • help with bringing families in crisis back together, where a child or young person is in an arrangement following relationship breakdown

You can help us keep children safe by spreading the word and telling us if you know of a child who is being privately fostered.

If you are involved in private fostering it is your legal duty to inform Children’s Services, who can offer you and your privately fostered child lots of help and support (remember, if the arrangement was made by social services it is not private fostering).

To make a referral or to find out more, contact Westminster’s Access to Children Service Team on 020 7641 4000.

Visit Somebody Else's Child for more information about private fostering.

Last updated: 3 February 2017