Ten top tips for language schools

Identifying and notifying private fostering arrangements

  1. Know the legal definition of 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).

    There is a duty on the part of parents and prospective carers entering into private fostering arrangements to notify their local authority. This is in order to safeguard and protect the child’s welfare as well as ensuring that the child, carer and parent are receiving appropriate support and help.

  2. Ensure that the agreements you have with local host families include consideration of private fostering

    The host family should be aware that if they accommodate a child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled) for a period of 28 days or more they are entering into a private fostering arrangement. Host families should understand that the local authority has a duty to ascertain whether the arrangement is suitable and to keep in touch with the child and themselves throughout the duration of the child’s stay. The host and any member of their household over the age of 16 will have to have enhanced CRB checks.

  3. Be aware of timescales for notifying private fostering arrangements

    You have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the children who come under your protection whilst attending your language school. If a child staying with a host family will be in a private fostering arrangement, you should notify the local authority as soon as possible after the arrangement has been made. An officer from the local authority must then visit the host within seven working days of receiving the notification, see the premises and meet with the host and other members of their household. Within 42 working days the local authority must make a decision about the suitability of the arrangement. In the event of the arrangement being deemed unsuitable, you will need to make alternative living arrangements for the child in consultation with their parents. See FAQs

  4. Understand the role of the local authority in supporting private fostering arrangements

    The local authority private fostering officer is there to support the child and the host family and to ensure that the child’s welfare is safeguarded during their stay. It is not their intention to be over-intrusive but they have a duty to ensure that the arrangement continues to meet the needs of the child. The private fostering officer will arrange to visit the host family at least once every six weeks and see the child on their own. They may be able to advise on helping the child cope with homesickness, or ways in which the family can help the child maintain contact with their culture and religion. They are also there for the child to have someone else to talk to about any worries they may have.

  5. Inform the local authority of the child’s needs.

    You may have information about a child’s special needs in relation to their physical or mental health, their emotional or behavioural functioning, or a physical or mental impairment. Seek permission of their parents to pass this information on to the private fostering officer when you notify them of the proposed accommodation with the host family. The local authority may be able to offer advice and support to the child and the host family.

  6. Know what to do if you are concerned about the wellbeing of a child accommodated with a host family

    If you are concerned about the wellbeing of a child living with a host family, discuss this with the private fostering officer who has a continuing responsibility to ensure that the child’s needs are being met whilst living with this family. The child’s distress may indicate that they are homesick or feeling lonely, but it may also indicate that they are not receiving appropriate care from their host or that there is an underlying problem that has not been identified.

  7. Understand the rules about confidentiality

    Are you worried about breaching confidentiality? Before sharing information with the local authority, you will want to consult with the parent and host. If they are unwilling for information to be shared, you need to consider your responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the child. If you believe that sharing the information will ensure the safety and welfare of the child, you are acting responsibly and within the law.If you suspect that a child is being harmed or is at risk of significant harm and urgent action is required you should follow your school’s Child Protection procedures and notify the local authority or the police immediately.

    Follow guidance about ‘What to do if you are worried a child is being abused’ published by the Department for Education

  8. Keep in touch with the local authority

    To help staff and host families learn more about private fostering, invite the local authority private fostering officer to meetings and events. Attend local authority awareness-raising events. Take up opportunities to attend training on private fostering through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB). Use your contact with the local authority to forge links with other organisations, for example faith and community groups for those children separated from their culture and religion.

  9. Include information about private fostering in your publicity materials

    Information in your publicity materials and on your website will help ensure that parents and host families are aware of the implications of children being accommodated for a period of 28 days or more, and the role of the local authority in safeguarding and supporting these arrangements.

  10. Find out more about private fostering

    • Contact the local authority private fostering officer for specialist advice on private fostering.
    • Offer to publicise information on private fostering in your school’s newsletters or intranet etc. Download the PDF poster
    • View case studies

Ten top tips for the health service

Identifying and notifying private fostering arrangements

  1. Know the legal definition of 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).

    There is a duty on the part of parents and prospective carers entering into private fostering arrangements to notify their local authority. This is in order to safeguard and protect the child’s welfare as well as ensuring that the child, carer and parent are receiving appropriate support and help.

  2. Know what to do if you suspect that a child is privately fostered

    You also have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the children that you encounter in your daily work. If you think that a child is privately fostered, you should discuss this with the child’s carer and parent (if they are in contact with your service) and encourage them to notify the local authority of the arrangement. If you suspect that neither party has been in touch with the local authority, you should request their permission to contact them yourself. If consent is not given and you still suspect that the child is privately fostered, you should notify the local authority children’s services duty team. Where the child is of an appropriate age and understanding, you should consult with them and, if possible, obtain their consent. In some cases a patient may be a known private foster carer. It is still important to ensure that they have notified the local authority of this particular arrangement.Follow guidance about ‘What to do if you are worried a child is being abused’ published by the Department for Education

  3. Understand the rules about confidentiality

    Are you worried about breaching confidentiality? If, after advising the child’s carer to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement, you believe that they have not done so, by contacting the local authority you are ensuring that the child’s welfare and safety come first. A child in a private fostering arrangement who is not brought to the attention of the local authority is a child who may be in need or at risk of harm. You will be acting appropriately by informing the local authority. Be aware that some carers or parents may be anxious about having the local authority involved in their private arrangement. Reasons for this include:

    • a fear of racism
    • concern that the local authority may consider the arrangement unsuitable
    • because they have something to hide or simply
    • because they think that it’s nobody’s business but their own.
  4. Look for signs that a child might be privately fostered

    Consider the following:

    • Is the child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled)?
    • Has the child mentioned that they are no longer living at home or living with someone else?
    • Is the child accompanied to the clinic or GP surgery by someone other than a parent/recognised carer?
    • Is the carer vague about the child’s routines/needs?
    • Has a patient turned up at the GP surgery with a new child/ series of different children? Or, when you visit the home do you meet different children?
    • Is it clear with whom the child is living, and what relation the person is to the child?
    • If the child has come from overseas, do you know the purpose of the visit and the living arrangements? Are they accompanied by their parents? Is the child here for the purposes of education?
    • Ask whether the child is an unaccompanied asylum seeker. An unaccompanied minor who is not in local authority care may be living in a private fostering arrangement.
    • Could the child be a trafficked child?
  5. Ascertain who has parental responsibility for the child

    One way of ascertaining the relationship between the child and the person who accompanies them is to the clinic/surgery/school is to ask the latter whether they have parental responsibility (PR) for the child. A private foster carer does not have parental responsibility.

    • Who is looking after the child and what is their relationship to the child?
    • Do they have parental responsibility for the child? Can they provide documentary evidence?
    • Ascertain who does have PR, their relationship to the child, their whereabouts and whether they have given their agreement to this arrangement.
    • Who is able to provide medical consent for routine health care, immunisations and emergencies? If the carer cannot provide evidence of delegation of consent, ascertain how they intend to do so.
    • Who has the Personal Child Health Record and the child’s NHS card?
    • Do not confuse a privately fostered child from a child who is ‘looked after’ and is in local authority foster care.
  6. Check health records

    Check existing records to see whether there are any discrepancies, a lack of clarity about the child’s living arrangements and who has parental responsibility. Access previous health records for the child. Check existing records of the carer to ascertain any information that might tell you whether they have looked after other children under private fostering arrangements.

  7. Be alert to signs that a child may have been trafficked

    Trafficked children are particularly vulnerable and will often be reluctant to disclose details of their living arrangements. Some of the signs to look out for include:

    • A child who appears not to have any money but has a mobile phone and/or is expensively dressed;
    • A child who exhibits self assurance, maturity and self-confidence that you would not expect from a child of that age;
    • A prepared story very similar to those that other trafficked children have given;
    • Signs of physical or sexual abuse, and/or has a sexually transmitted infection, or unwanted pregnancy;
    • A history with missing links and unexplained moves;
    • A child who goes or appears to go missing for periods that are unexplained;
    • A child who appears to be malnourished, or who has an eating disorder;
    • A child who works very long hours and appears very tired;
    • Signs that the child is misusing alcohol, drugs or other substances;
    • Signs of self-harm, including cutting and overdosing;
    • A child who lives with adults who are not their parents and with whom they do not appear to have a good relationship;
    • A child who appears to have limited freedom of movement;
    • A child who appears excessively frightened of being deported;
    • A child who dresses in a manner inappropriate for her/his age;
    • An older child/teenager accompanied by an adult of whom s/he appears frightened;
    • A child who appears to be sexually promiscuous;
    • A child who is not registered with a GP and appears not to be enrolled in a school;
    • Any signs that the child has been brought into the country illegally for the purposes of adoption.
  8. Share your concerns with others

    Discuss your concerns with other health colleagues who may have contact with the child or the carer, including the school nurse. Contact the local authority private fostering officer for further advice and information to help you identify and notify a private fostering arrangement.

  9. Know what happens after you notify the local authority

    When the local authority receives notification about a private fostering arrangement they must arrange for an officer to visit within seven working days. The officer must see the premises, interview the child, carer and all members of their household, and at least speak to the parents. The local authority must carry out an assessment to ensure that the private fostering arrangement is suitable and can meet the welfare needs of the child. If the arrangement is deemed unsuitable, the parents may have to make alternative arrangements. In some cases this can mean the child coming into care. Where the arrangement is deemed suitable, the local authority must continue to visit and monitor the arrangement for as long as it continues.

  10. Find out more about private fostering

    • Invite the local authority private fostering officer to PCT or team meetings in order to help raise awareness about private fostering and forge professional links.
    • Ensure that you and your colleagues carry the telephone numbers of the local authority private fostering officer and duty teams.
    • Attend multi-agency LSCB training.
    • Get further information about private fostering by visiting the following websites:
      www.cfab.uk.net and www.ecpat.org.uk

Ten top tips for Education Authorities

Identifying and notifying private fostering arrangements

    1. Know the legal definition of 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).

      There is a duty on the part of parents and prospective carers entering into private fostering arrangements to notify their local authority. This is in order to safeguard and protect the child’s welfare as well as ensuring that the child, carer and parent are receiving appropriate support and help.

    2. Know what to do if you suspect that a child is privately fostered

      You also have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the children in your care. If you think that a child is privately fostered, you should discuss this with the child’s carer and parent (if they are in contact with the school) and encourage them to notify the local authority of the arrangement. If you suspect that neither party has been in touch with the local authority, you should request their permission to contact them yourself. If consent is not given and you still suspect that the child is privately fostered, you should notify the local authority children’s services duty team. Where the child is of an appropriate age and understanding, you should consult with them and, if possible, obtain their consent.View the case example of Lucy

If you suspect that a child is being harmed or is at risk of significant harm (including suspecting that a child may be trafficked) and urgent action is required, follow your Child Protection procedures. Follow guidance about ‘What to do if you are worried a child is being abused’ published by the Department for Education

  1. Understand the rules about confidentiality

    Are you worried about breaching confidentiality? If, after advising the child’s carer to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement, you believe that they have not done so, by contacting the local authority you are ensuring that the child’s welfare and safety come first. A child in a private fostering arrangement who is not brought to the attention of the local authority is a child who may be in need or at risk of harm. You will be acting appropriately by informing the local authority. Be aware that some carers or parents may be anxious about having the local authority involved in their private arrangement. Reasons for this include a fear of racism, concern that the local authority may consider the arrangement unsuitable, because they have something to hide or simply because they think that it’s nobody’s business but their own.

  2. Look for signs that a child might be privately fostered

    Consider the following:

    • Is the child under the age of 16 (or 18 if disabled)?
    • Is the child new to your school?
    • Although there may be a number of reasons for a child joining the school, including being in local authority foster care or a member of a travelling community, a new child could be a privately fostered child.
    • Has the child mentioned that they are no longer living at home / living with someone else?
    • Is the child accompanied to school by someone other than a parent/recognised carer?
    • Has a child disappeared from your school without a given reason?
    • Is the child’s carer vague about the child’s education, their routines and needs?
    • If the child has come from overseas, do you know the purpose of the visit and the living arrangements? Are they accompanied by their parents? Is the child here for the purposes of education?
    • Ask whether the child is an unaccompanied asylum seeker. An unaccompanied minor who is not in local authority care may be living in a private fostering arrangement.
    • Could the child be a trafficked child?
  3. Ascertain who has parental responsibility for the child

    One way of ascertaining the relationship between the child and the person who accompanies them to school is to ask the latter whether they have parental responsibility (PR) for the child. A private foster carer does not have parental responsibility.

    • Who is looking after the child and what is their relationship to the child?
    • Do they have parental responsibility for the child? Can they provide documentary evidence?
    • Ascertain who does have PR, their relationship to the child, their whereabouts and whether they have given their agreement to this arrangement.
    • If the child has difficulty getting school permission forms signed, this may indicate that their carer does not have PR.
    • Do not confuse a privately fostered child from a child who is ‘looked after’ and is in local authority foster care.)
  4. Check systems for other clues that might point to a private fostering arrangement

    • Check school admission forms.
    • Is there anything on school documentation that is unclear about the child’s living arrangements and the people with parental responsibility?
    • Access information from previous school records.
    • Who accompanies the child to school meetings/events?
  5. Be alert to signs that a child may have been trafficked

    Trafficked children are particularly vulnerable and will often be reluctant to disclose details of their living arrangements. View some case studies.Some of the signs to look out for include:

    • A child who appears not to have any money but has a mobile phone and/or is expensively dressed;
    • A child who exhibits self assurance, maturity and self-confidence that you would not expect from a child of that age;
    • A prepared story very similar to those that other trafficked children have given;
    • Signs of physical or sexual abuse;
    • A history with missing links and unexplained moves;
    • A child who goes missing for periods that are unexplained;
    • A child who appears to be malnourished, or who has an eating disorder;
    • A child who appears not to be registered with a GP;
    • Signs that the child is misusing alcohol, drugs or other substances;
    • Signs of self-harm, including cutting and overdosing;
    • A child who lives with adults who are not their parents and with whom they do not appear to have a good relationship;
    • A child who appears to have limited freedom of movement;
    • A child who appears to work very long hours and is always tired?
    • Disengagement with school activities;
    • A child who appears excessively frightened of being deported;
    • A child who dresses in a manner inappropriate for her age;
    • An older child/teenager who is regularly picked up from school by an adult, or boyfriend much older than her;
    • A child who appears to be sexually promiscuous;
    • Any signs that the child has been brought into the country illegally for the purposes of adoption.
  6. Share your concerns with others

    Discuss your concerns with school staff, including the school nurse and designated teacher, and others in the education authority, for example the education welfare officer. Contact the local authority private fostering officer for further advice and information to help you identify and notify a private fostering arrangement.

  7. Know what happens after you notify the local authority

    When the local authority receives notification about a private fostering arrangement they must arrange for an officer to visit within seven working days. The officer must see the premises, interview the child, carer and all members of their household, and at least speak to the parents. The local authority must carry out an assessment to ensure that the private fostering arrangement is suitable and can meet the welfare needs of the child. If the arrangement is deemed unsuitable, the parents may have to make alternative arrangements. In some cases this can mean the child coming into care. Where the arrangement is deemed suitable, the local authority must continue to visit and monitor the arrangement for as long as it continues.

  8. Find out more about private fostering

    * Access training from the local authority on private fostering and forge links with private fostering officers.
    * Attend multi-agency LSCB training.
    * Offer to publicise information on private fostering in your service’s newsletters/ intranet etc.
    * Invite private fostering officers to meet with teachers and other education personnel.