SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter addresses procedures for working with Private Fostering arrangements - that is where children live (by private arrangement) with carers who are not close relatives for more than 28 days.
This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures regarding Private Fostering and Replacement Children Act 1989 Guidance on Private Fostering and Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
Particular care should be made that all communications are in the appropriate language or format.
Private Fostering contains HCC leaflets.
AMENDMENTSection 2, Legal Definition was revised in September 2017 to clarify the private fostering status of children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school.
Under the Children Act 1989, private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency.
Teachers, health and other professionals must notify Children's Safeguarding and Specialist Services if a private fostering arrangement comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been or will be notified.
Following notification of a private fostering arrangement, it is the duty of the local authority to assess whether the welfare of the child/ren, who are privately fostered within their area, is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This includes an initial visit to the child and private foster carers within seven working days of receiving notification of the placement. PNC checks will be completed by the Assessment Team. The private foster carers will be separately assessed by the Family and Friends Fostering team under Schedule 2 (Reg 4) of the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulation 2005 and this will include enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check. It is also the duty to supervise the private fostering arrangement. PNC checks will be completed by the Assessment Team in the first seven working days of receiving notification that the placement has started. The enhanced DBS check will commence in the Assessment Team.
When there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child who is privately fostered the local authority and all the other agencies have the same duties to make enquiries as they do to any other child. The concerns must be reported to the local authority where the private foster placement is located. The Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Procedures, Referrals Procedure will be applied.
2. Legal Definition
Under s66 (1) of the Children Act 1989, a child is considered to be privately fostered when:
- S/he is under the age of 16, or s/he is under the age of 18 if s/he is disabled; and
- Is provided with accommodation by someone other than her/his parent(s), a person who has parental responsibility or her/his close relative; and
- It is intended that the placement will last continuously for 28 days or longer.
A child who is Looked After or placed in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full-time education) is excluded from the definition. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent retains Parental Responsibility.
However, 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).
Close relative is defined as grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, step-parent (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership). Cousins, unmarried step-parents and other extended members of the family are therefore not deemed to be close relatives.
Additionally the child is not privately fostered when s/he is being looked after by a local authority or s/he is living for the time being:
- In a residential home;
- In accommodation provided by a voluntary organisation;
- In a school providing full time education;
- In a hospital;
- In a nursing home;
- In a psychiatric unit.
- S/he is being detained or subject to a Guardianship Order under the Mental Health Act 1983;
- S/he is living with someone who proposes to adopt her/him.
3. Parental Consent
Parental consent is not required for a placement to fall within the scope of s66. Whether or not the child had been placed by or with the agreement of someone with parental responsibility, it will still be a private fostering arrangement if the criteria referred to at Section 2, Legal Definition are satisfied. If the child has made the decision to stay in the private fostering arrangement and the parent does not agree, it is for the parents to exercise parental responsibility for the child and arrange for the child to return to his or her care, or seek legal advice. Children Services will take appropriate steps if it is considered that the child needs safeguarding.
4. Written Notifications to Local Authority Required of Prospective and Actual Private Foster Carers, and parents/those with parental responsibility and others (schools, health)
4.1 All: That a Private Fostering Arrangement has/will start
Written notification is required not less than 6 and not more than 13 weeks before receiving a child or, in an emergency, or if a child becomes a private foster child whilst already in the arrangement, within 48 hours by the person with parental responsibility, or the proposed private foster carer, or any other person who is aware of the proposed arrangement.
The details to be provided are:
- Name, sex, date and place of birth, religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background of child (with regard to children who are not UK citizens, evidence must be provided that clearly demonstrates they have the appropriate permissions / documentation to remain in the United Kingdom). It is helpful if ID documents i.e. passport number and country of issue and photocopy of page and birth certificate (if available) are provided;
- Name and address of the person giving the notice and any previous address within the last 5 years and it is helpful if contact details i.e. telephone numbers ( home and mobile) and email are provided;
- Purpose and intended duration of the fostering arrangement;
- Name and address of any parent of the child, anyone else with parental responsibility and anyone else from whom the child is to be or was received, whether or not they are resident within the United Kingdom;
- The name and address of any brothers and sisters (where known);
- Name and address of any other person who is involved directly or indirectly in making the fostering arrangements;
- Date on which fostering is intended to begin (or actually began);
- Any offences of which the foster carer has been convicted;
- Any disqualification or prohibition imposed on the foster carer under s68 or s69 of the Children Act 1989 and any such conviction, disqualification or prohibition imposed on any other person living in, or employed at, the same household;
- Whether the child is disabled, and any communication needs.
4.2 Private Foster Carers: That there are Changes to a Private Fostering Arrangement
Once a private foster arrangement is agreed by HCC, private foster carer/s must notify Children Services, preferably in advance but in any case no more than 48 hours after the event of:
- A change in her/his address (if foster carer moves to another local authority, Hertfordshire must notify the other authority);
- Any person who begins or ceases to be part of the household;
- Any further conviction, disqualification or prohibition of which the carer or other person who is part of, or employed in, the household is convicted, as cited above;
- Within 48 hours of the child's departure unless s/he intends to resume fostering her/him within 27 days. Notification must include the name and address of the person into whose care the child has been received.
In the event that a privately fostered child dies, immediate notification is required to the local authority and to the person from whom the child had been received. See Death or Serious Injury to a Child Procedure.
All changes or notice to end the arrangement must be recorded on the carers and child's file by the relevant social worker.
4.3 Parents and Others, including Schools and Health: That there are Changes to a Private Fostering Arrangement
Parents and others must notify the local authority when the fostering arrangement ends and any change in their address.
5. Duties of Local Authority
5.1 On Receipt of Notification
Within 7 working days a social worker from the Assessment Team will commence C&F Assessment to ascertain and assess as follows:
- Visit the premises where it is proposed the child will live and be cared for;
- Visit and speak to proposed private foster carers and all members of the household;
- Visit and speak to the child alone;
- Speak to, and if practicable, visit the parent/person with parental responsibility;
- Assess the appropriateness of the arrangements to meet the child's needs, including his/her wishes and feelings, contact arrangements, financial arrangements, provision of health (that the child is registered with a GP), education and any other required services and day to day decision making, agreements in place;
- Establish the intended duration of the proposed private fostering arrangement;
- Obtain consents and commence PNC checks.
5.2 To Supervise the Private Fostering Arrangements
The local authority must also arrange to visit privately fostered children at regular intervals - at a minimum:
- Every six weeks in the first year;
- Every twelve weeks in the second or subsequent years; and
- Additionally, if reasonably requested to do so by the child, private foster carer or parent;
- Children will be given the contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.
5.3 To Provide Advice and Support to Private Foster carers, the Parents and the Child
The Family & Friends Team Private Fostering Social Worker must consider whether the private foster carer, the parents of the child, any other person with parental responsibility for the child, or any other person concerned with the child are being given such advice as required.
The Social Worker must ensure that all are aware of the range of support and services available to them from:
- The voluntary sector and community groups;
- Universal services such as health and education;
- Hertfordshire's own resources.
6. The Powers of the Local Authority
6.1 To inspect the Premises and Child
Where Social Workers have reasonable cause to believe that a privately fostered child is being, or it is proposed will be, accommodated within premises in Hertfordshire, s/he may at any reasonable time inspect these premises and any child there (s67 Children Act 1989).
If a local authority is not satisfied that the welfare of the child is being adequately safeguarded or promoted, it must (unless this would not be in the child's interest) request for care to be resumed by a parent or person with parental responsibility or advise a parent to make alternative arrangements for their child. Failing this other responses might also need to be considered. If the local authority has concerns the child may not be achieving a satisfactory level of health and development without the provision of services, an assessment shall be undertaken under the Children Act 1989, in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.
6.2. To Impose Requirements
The Local Authority may issue Requirements on any person using any premises for fostering which may address issues such as:
- Number, age and sex of foster children,(there must be no more than three privately fostered children in the home);
- Accommodation and equipment to be provided for the child(ren);
- The arrangements to be made with respect to their health and safety;
- Particular arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care for them.
A requirement may be limited to a particular child or class of child, and must be put in writing, explaining the reasons for its imposition and informing the private foster carer of her/his right to appeal to a Court within 14 days of receipt of the Requirement notification.
6.3 To Prohibit Private Fostering
If Children Services assess the foster carer is not a suitable person or that the premises are not suitable or the placement would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child, the local authority may prohibit the carer from fostering privately:
- Any child in any premises within Hertfordshire;
- Any child in specified premises;
- A particular child in specified premises.
Decisions on whether a prohibition should be imposed must be made by a Service Manager in consultation with local authority legal services.
In the event that a decision to prohibit private fostering is imposed, the private foster carer will be informed in writing within 7 days of the decision being made and informed of their rights to appeal to a Court within 14 days of notification of the Prohibition.
The local authority will consider if the child needs to be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, in order to safeguard and promote the child's health and development.
Unless s/he has disclosed such information to the local authority and obtained its consent, no one is allowed to care for a foster child if s/he or anyone else who lives or works on the premises:
- Has had a child removed from her/his care under specified legislation;
- Has been convicted of any offence involving injury or threat of injury to a child;
- Been prohibited from privately fostering.
8. Procedure for Responding to Notification of Private Fostering Arrangements
8.1 The Children's Services Team responsible for Undertaking Assessments, Support and Central Records
Notifications of private fostering are received by Customer Service Centre, who will clarify whether the arrangement is Private Fostering and refer to the Assessment Team for a safeguarding assessment to be completed in respect of the child and their circumstances and subsequently passed to the Family and Friends Team for the carer and the arrangement to be assessed. If the child is already known and an open case to a Children's Services social care Team, then the notification/referral will be passed directly to that Team and The Friends and Family are sent the referral when it is confirmed this is a Private Fostering placement and has lasted beyond 28 days.
The Assessment Team (or open case to Children's Services social care Team) will undertake a C&F Assessment to clarify if the child is a Child in Need. The address of the child for the previous 5 years will be included in the C&F Assessment.
The Family and Friends Team, will undertake a private fostering carers' assessment, and if a child is privately fostered but not a Child in Need carry out all on going statutory visits. If the child is assessed to be a Child in Need or is subject to a CP plan, the child's social worker will hold responsibility for undertaking the on going Private Fostering statutory visits until closure of the relevant plans whereupon this responsibility would revert to the Family and Friends Team.
Those involved in the process need to ensure they are familiar with the Step Up/Step Down Process and Transfer Protocol - Practitioner Guidance.
The Family and Friends Team will keep a central record of all private fostering arrangements.
8.2 Initial Checks re: Carers on Receipt of Notification
The Assessment Team will immediately obtain PNC checks and may commence the DBS process.
The Family and Friends Team Social Worker will:
- Provide the prospective / actual private foster carer/s with the Declaration Regarding Suitability to Foster Children Privately form (CSF4580). In all cases, prospective and actual private foster carers must be in receipt of these forms within seven working days, regardless if an initial visit has taken place or not. An enhanced DBS Check will be undertaken in respect of the carers and any household members over the age of 16 years (see Section 13, DBS Trace Process - Progressing to a Risk Assessment);
- Where additional enquiries need to be made of other relevant agencies, obtain a signed copy of The Private Fostering Consent Form (link to follow) and initiate confidential written enquiries, in relation to all those aged 16 or over in the household. If consents are refused the social worker will inform the Service Manager, who will cease the progress of the private fostering arrangements;
- Undertake a search of LCS to ensure that the prospective/actual carer or members of their household to ascertain if they are known to Children's Services, are in receipt of a service or are disqualified from caring, as set out above (see Section 7, Disqualification). When this occurs the Team Manager should be informed.
8.3 Assessment of the Child
An assessment to ascertain that the welfare of a child who is being fostered privately is/will be met, must adhere to Schedule 2 (regulation 4) of The Children (private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
The C&F Assessment must ensure:
- That the intended duration of the arrangement is understood and agreed between;
- The parents of the child or any other person with parental responsibility; and
- The proposed/actual private foster carer;
- The wishes and feelings of the child about the arrangement have been sought in light of his/her age and understanding and s/he should be seen alone;
- That the child's physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development is appropriate and satisfactory;
- That the child's needs arising from her/his religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
- That the financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child are agreed working;
- That the arrangements for care of the child's health are in place and, in particular, that the child is included on the list of a GP and dentist;
- The arrangements for the child's education;
- Whether the contact between the child and her/his parents, or any other person with whom contact has been arranged, is satisfactory for the child;
- How decisions about the care of the child are being taken.
The assessment, plans and reviews should be shared with the child, those with parental responsibility and the private foster carer.
8.4 Assessment of the Carer and the Household
The Assessment of the Carer, will be carried out by the Friends and Family Team and will comply with The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 - Schedules 1, 2, 3 & 4). In particular it must ascertain:
- The capacity of the private foster carer to look after the child;
- The suitability of the accommodation;
- The standard of care which the child is being given;
- The suitability of members of the private foster carer's household;
- How decisions about the child's care are being taken;
- The placement will not have a detrimental impact upon the other children living in the placement, including the carers own children;
- Whether the private foster carer, the parents of the child, any other person with parental responsibility for the child, or any other person concerned with the child are being given such advice as seems to the authority to be needed;
- The carer or other adult persons living in the household are related to the child (whether of full blood or by affinity i.e. generally marriage). Claims of a relationship must be supported by written evidence. Failure to provide written evidence will lead to an assumption that a relationship by blood or by affinity does not exist. The burden of proof must remain with the carer not the local authority, unless the court directs otherwise;
- Basic health information on the private foster carer.
The written private fostering assessment covering the above issues should be undertaken by the Family & Friends social worker and passed to the Team Manager for agreement and counter-signature covering any:
- Requirements that need to be imposed;
- Proposal to exceed the 'usual fostering limit';
- Grounds for prohibition of placement (must be approved by a Service Manager);
- Suggestion that a 'disqualified person' (Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002 should be allowed to privately foster;
- Arrangements for private fostering support or services to be offered to the carers by the Department and the arrangements for the ongoing monitoring of the child following placement.
The relevant Team Manager must approve the above report to confirm the Social Worker's recommendations, unless s/he has suggested that a disqualified person should be allowed to foster when the matter must be referred immediately to the Head of Service for a decision.
The relevant Manager must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the assessment and accompanying reports meet the requirements The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, before approving.
Under no circumstances should a report be approved, if (for any reason) the necessary DBS checks and Declaration Regarding Suitability to Foster Children Privately form (CSF4580) have not been approved or completed. However if the DBS checks are delayed, the receipt of acceptable DBS checks may be a condition of the arrangement being agreed.
According to the outcome of the above process, formal notifications must be sent to relevant private foster carers (via CLU in the case of prohibition or imposition of conditions) who will either:
- Confirm unconditional acceptance of the proposed arrangement;
- Prohibit the arrangement; or
- Impose certain conditions.
If at any time during the assessment there is concern that the child is in need of services in their own right or if they may be in need of protection then the child(ren) must be assessed following the usual procedures for assessing children in need) or children at risk relevant the completion of a C&F Assessment and/or initiating a s47 enquiry. Legal advice should be sought if necessary.
Any services for the child which are needed will be coordinated via a Child in Need Planning Meeting. This package of support for the child will be provided alongside the private foster parents support to the carers.
If there is concern that the child's right to remain in the UK is not clear, the social worker should bring the matter to their manager's attention and obtain advice from the CLU.
Children living in these private arrangements are not deemed as being in the care of the Local Authority and therefore HCC will not make payments to private foster carers or relatives. Financial responsibility for the child remains with the parents.
Where a Private Fostering Carer proceeds to secure the permanence of the child they are privately fostering by applying for a Special Guardianship Order, please refer to Special Guardianship Orders Policy and Procedure.
9. Supervision of Private Fostering Arrangements
The local authority must safeguard and promote the welfare of privately fostered children. The Social Worker will undertake visits as follows:
- In the first year of the arrangement within 1 week of the start and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks;
- In any second or subsequent year at intervals of not more than 12 weeks;
- From time to time and when reasonably requested so to do by the child, a parent of the child or any other person with parental responsibility, or foster carer.
For the purpose of this section the arrangement for private fostering is deemed to have begun from the time the local authority were made aware of the arrangement.
The Social Worker will in the course of her/his visits see the child alone.
The Social Worker will:
- Encourage private foster carers to record and keep essential information about the child (e.g. medical information, school reports), including a photograph album;
- Ensure that the child and his/her parents has the Social Worker's contact number and details of how to contact the team's duty social worker in their absence;
- Encourage parents to maintain regular contact with the child and foster carer as agreed;
- Inform the parent of any difficulties in the private fostering arrangement so that s/he may take remedial action;
- Ensure that the child understands his status, and his/her rights and the private foster carer understands our duty to ensure that this is so;
- Provide the child with information on advocacy services available within Hertfordshire if the child is a Child In Need NYAS Advocacy Service is available. There is no cost to the child or young person. NYAS can be contacted via the free phone number 0300 3303131 or alternatively can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Confirm the financial and contact arrangements that have been agreed between the private foster carer and those with parental responsibility are working;
- Provide, in an appropriate format; to every disabled privately fostered child nearing the age of 18 details of Hertfordshire's procedure for assessing eligibility for Health and Community Services and support the transition process, ensuring assessments take place in a timely way;
- Provide information in appropriate formats about Hertfordshire's arrangements for providing advice and assistance to privately fostered children who would be "Qualifying" children as defined by s24(2)(e) of the Children Act 1989.
Where the Social Worker and/or Team Manager are not satisfied that the child's developmental needs are being met, the Social Worker must complete a C&F Assessment in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (if the case is being held in the Family & Friends Team the case must be transferred to the relevant Assessment Team for this).
The child(ren)'s identified needs will be met via a Child in Need Planning Meeting and where social work services are needed, the responsibility for providing this and the ongoing review of the Child's Plan will be transferred to the relevant team.
10. Reviews of Private Fostering Arrangements
After one year a review should take place and consider if any additional support is required and if there have been any changes to the placement. The Review will be chaired by the Private Fostering social worker, and minutes approved by the Team Manager.
DBS checks to be repeated every 3 years.
11. Significant Changes / Refusal of Access
If there are any significant changes which might require action to prohibit, disqualify or impose or vary requirements, the Family and Friends Social Worker will inform the Family and Friends Service Manager immediately and ensure that the child either has an allocated social worker within the Targeted Youth Service or FST who is aware, or make a referral the Assessment Team.
In the event that access is refused, the Social Worker will discuss the case with his/her Team Manager and consider:
- Consultation with Child Care Litigation Team;
- An Emergency Protection Order (if child is at risk of immediate significant harm);
- A warrant under s102(1) Children Act 1989 authorising a constable to use reasonable force to gain access;
- Prosecution of the carer.
Advice and support for making alternative arrangements when a private fostering arrangement has been prohibited should be provided.
12. National Minimum Standards
The National Minimum Standards for private fostering are issued by the Secretary of State under s7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.
These standards apply to local authorities. They are minimum standards, rather than `best possible' practice. Many local authorities will more than meet the National Minimum Standards and the Local Authority will aspire to exceed them in many ways.
These standards do not mean standardisation of provision. However, it is hoped that they will focus local authorities' attention on private fostering and lead to consistency in the way in which they carry out their duties and functions in relation to private fostering.
National Minimum Standard 1 requires local authorities to produce a written statement setting out its duties and functions in relation to private fostering and the ways in which they will be carried out.
13. DBS Trace Process - Progressing to a Risk Assessment
When a new Private Foster carer has a DBS that comes back with a trace, a risk assessment is commenced as follows:
The Herts HR: Safe Staffing Team will inform the Team Manager, that there is a trace, but not of the content. The carers will have received a copy of the certificate.
The Family and Friends Team Manager will arrange for the carers to share the DBS Certificate, and a risk assessment interview is completed: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Risk Assessment Form CS021F17. The Team Manager signs the completed assessment and sends it to the Herts HR: Safe Staffing Team.
The Herts HR: Safe Staffing Team raises this with the Operational Director, and informs the Family and Friends Team Manager of the decision, as to whether it is appropriate to proceed, by email.
This information is strictly private and confidential. It is a criminal offence to disclose this information and it could also jeopardise a police investigation.
14. When a Child in a Private Foster Placement moves Across Local Authority Boundaries
If a child moves to another private fostering placement in another local authority area, or with the private foster carers to another local authority area, the Family and Friends Social Worker will inform the other Local Authority of the private fostering arrangements that occurred in Hertfordshire
Appendix 1: Examples of Private Fostering Notifications and their Management
That team will consider which of the following three scenarios (below) might apply:
- A referral of notification of private fostering is received by Customer Services and referred to the Assessment Team where a Child and Family (C&F) Assessment will be undertaken. Where as a result of the C&F Assessment the notification of private fostering is the only issue (i.e. the child is not a child in need) then the case will be transferred directly to the Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Team who completes of an assessment of the child and carer and household. This assessment will be signed off by the Team Manager, Family & Friends Team. The case will remain with the Family & Friends Team for ongoing statutory visits to the child and household;
- A referral of notification of private fostering is received by Customer Services and referred to the Assessment Team where a C&F Assessment identifies that the child is a Child in Need as well as being a private fostering notification. The Assessment Team will complete the assessment of the child and pass to the relevant FST and also pass the referral to the Family & Friends Team for the assessment of the carer and household. The completed assessment of the private fostering arrangement will be signed off by Family and Friends team Manager. The on going Private Fostering Statutory visits will then by undertaken by the child's social worker whilst they remain subject of a plan;
- A referral of notification of private fostering in a case which is already open to a Safeguarding and Specialist Team, or Early Intervention Team, (i.e. Assessment, FST or Targeted Youth Service). The C&F assessment of the child will be undertaken by the team holding the case and a referral will be made to the Family & Friends Team to undertake an assessment of the carer and household. The private fostering arrangement will be signed off by the Team Manager. If the child is assessed to be a Child in Need, the child's social worker will undertake the statutory visits to the child in the arrangement. If the child is not assessed to be a Child in Need, the private fostering social worker will undertake the on going statutory visits to the child and carer following completion of the Private Fostering assessment.