Private fostering – make contact, make a difference

Calderdale parents and carers are being urged to let the Council know if they have made private fostering arrangements for their children.

Private fostering is where a child or young person under 16, or 18 if they have a disability, is looked after by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility, for more than 28 days.

Private fostering may arise for a number of reasons, including: children and young people living apart from their family due to parental separation, divorce or ill health; children whose parents’ work or study makes it difficult to be at home; children on holiday / educational exchanges.

Calderdale Council does not place children and young people in private fostering, but if a parent or carer is planning to make such an arrangement, they have a legal duty to tell the Council at least six weeks before it is due to start. This is so the Council can ensure that children and young people across the borough are safe and get the support they need.

Nationally, low numbers of private fostering cases are reported to councils. This is also true in Calderdale, so the Council has kick-started a campaign to:

  • raise awareness of private fostering
  • make sure people are clued up on the rules, which are there to protect the young people involved
  • urge parents and carers to inform the Council that they have made a private fostering arrangement
  • encourage other people to let the Council know about a child who is living with someone who is not their birth parent or a close relative

As part of its campaign, the Council is providing information in doctors’ surgeries, schools and key Council buildings including children’s centres, libraries, sports services and Customer First offices, and on the Council’s website and through social media.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, Cllr Megan Swift, says:

“Private fostering can be a positive experience, but the Council needs to be aware of the arrangements to make sure this is the case. We urge people to let us know straight away. It’s our priority to ensure that children and young people are safe and well. We have a legal duty to visit the place where the child is living, check that the arrangements are suitable and consider whether we need to give any extra support to the child and the private foster carer.”

A typical story

14-year-old Lee* had been arguing with his mum for several months, and it was getting worse. Lee started to stay out a few nights a week at various friends’ houses, which was affecting his attendance at school and general appearance. Lee’s mum told him he either came home every night or he shouldnt bother coming home at all. Lees best friend spoke to his mum and she agreed Lee could come and live with them long-term.

Lee has been staying there for the last few weeks and has told his teacher at school he is a lot happier now that he has somewhere more permanent to stay. Lee’s attendance and appearance at school have improved. Lee’s mum is also in agreement with Lee staying with his best friend and has dropped all his clothes off at the address.

In this example, Lee was being looked after by someone who is not a close relative, which is known as a private fostering arrangement. Lee’s friends mum reported this arrangement to the Council. By doing this, the Council was able to work with Lee, his friend’s family and his mother to assess the situation, making sure Lee was safe and well, and offering advice and support to his friends family.

Many young people in Calderdale are in similar situations but very few cases are reported. If you find out a child is living with someone who is not their birth parent or a close relative, please contact the Council on 01422 393336.

For more information about private fostering, please visit Calderdale Councils website: Private fostering.

* Name has been changed

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