18th October 2021

Shining a light on Private Fostering

Some people in Somerset may be looking after someone else’s child and not realise they are actually a private foster carer – that’s the message being shared by Somerset County Council as part of Private Fostering Awareness Week. 

This week Somerset County Council is highlighting the support and advice available for private foster carers, and to remind them it is a legal requirement to inform the Local Authority if a child is being privately fostered.  
 
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (or 18 if they have a disability) lives with and is cared for by an adult other than their parent or legal guardian for a period of more than 28 days.  

There are a variety of reasons why children and young people may become privately fostered, such as if their parents live overseas and they come to the UK to attend school, if their parents are ill and cannot look after them, or they are teenagers who have become estranged from their families or have simply chosen to live someone else with their parents’ agreement. 

Sometimes when these situations arise people do not realise there is a legal obligation to let the local council know about the arrangement. 
 
Claire, a private foster carer in Somerset said: “I probably started private fostering at the beginning of the first lockdown, but I didn’t realise until September when we enrolled our privately fostered young person into a local school. It was the school that reached out to me and explained that he couldn’t just stay with me, and that they needed to inform social services’. 
 
‘’I’ve always found the team at Somerset County Council to be really helpful, particularly around rights and legalities. I feel like they are there if we need them, and it always feels very personal. 

‘’It’s important for people to know what private fostering is, and that there is a duty to tell the local authority if you have, or become aware of someone who has, this arrangement. But it’s also important to understand that private fostering doesn’t mean the child’s parents can’t or don’t want to care for them. It’s easy to make assumptions when you hear the word fostering. The child we privately care for already spent summers with us, and chose to live with us on a more permanent basis for several reasons, including education and other opportunities.’’ 
 
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council Lead Member for Children’s Services said: “We offer support and advice to people who are privately fostering, and to parents whose children are living with someone else.If you think you might be privately fostering or you know someone who is, please let us know.” 
 
Once the Council is notified, their team will speak to the private foster carer, the parents, child and school to make sure the child is safe and their needs are met. Council officers can offer support and advice to everyone involved and mediate meetings with the child and parent if necessary. 

To get in touch regarding a private fostering arrangement, please email childrens@somerset.gov.uk, or call 0300 123 2224. More information about  
private fostering is available here: Private fostering (fosteringinsomerset.org.uk).