Private fostering

What is private fostering?

Private fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or 18 if they have a disability) is looked after for 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility. A relative is defined in the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, uncle or aunt (whether by full-blood, half-blood or by marriage or civil partnership), or sibling.

It is not private fostering if the arrangement was made by Children’s Services, or if the person looking after the child is an approved foster carer.

People become private foster carers for all sorts of reasons. Private foster carers can be a friend of the child’s family or be someone who is willing to care for the child of a family they do not know.

Common situations may be:

  • children, adolescents and teenagers living apart from their families
  • minority ethnic children with parents working or studying in the UK
  • children with parents overseas
  • children living with host families for a variety of reasons
  • children on holiday exchanges
  • Parent has a long-term illness or mental health problem
  • Staying with a friend or family to complete education
  • Living with a parent’s ex-partner where not married or in civil partnership
  • Parents have gone overseas or to another part of the country to work or visit extended family for more than 28 days
  • Staying with a family while attending language school or during boarding school holiday
  • Teenagers living with the family of a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Notifying children’s services - what the law says

  • But by law, we must be informed about all private fostering situations. The child's parent(s), private foster carer and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to tell us.
  • If a parent of the child allows their child to stay with someone else under this type of arrangement, they need to inform their local council
  • People involved in private fostering must inform social services within the following timescales:
Situation When you should inform us
​If the child is not yet living with private foster carers Six weeks beforehand

If the child will move in with private foster carers in less than six weeks

Within six weeks
​If the child is already living with private foster carers ​Immediately

What will Children’s Services do?

Children’s Services will work in partnership with the child, parents and private foster carer to ensure that the best possible arrangements are in place for the child. This includes:

  • visiting the child and private foster carer
  • helping to make sure that the child’s racial, cultural, linguistic and religious needs are being met
  • Provide information, training, and support to help they care for the child
  • Notification will help keep children safe and ensure their needs will be met appropriately by the foster carer by assessing their suitability to care for the child

What should professionals do?

Professionals should ensure that Children’s Services know about all private fostering arrangements.

Professionals should also encourage the child's parent or carer to notify social services.

How do I get in touch with you?

Please contact us to tell us about a private fostering arrangement of if you are not sure whether you are a private foster carer, please contact our Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).


Read the Private Fostering Annual Report 2022 to 2023

Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) contact information