Some children in our community may be being cared for outside of their immediate family, by friends or wider family members, because of parental illness or other emergency situations. If this is for a period of 28 days or more, it may be what is known as ‘private fostering’ and you could get help.
Ealing Council estimates there could be around 100 cases of private fostering in the borough – with most not realising they are in a private fostering arrangement.
If you are supporting a child or children in this way you are eligible for help and support from the council.
What is private fostering?
Private fostering is the term used for private care arrangements made between a parent and an adult who is not a close relative, to care for a child aged under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability) for 28 days or more.
Private foster carers may be distant relatives, friends of the family – including adult partners where the parent is absent – or an adult previously unknown to the child.
Private fostering arrangements are different tofostering placements arranged through the local authority for children who have come into care.
How the council can help
It is important to let the council know about any private fostering arrangement planned or already set up. The council has a duty to make sure the arrangement is safe and suitable for the child or children and to provide support.
Carol Yates, from the council’s safeguarding and support team, explained a scenario of what help and support could look like in an instance of private fostering.
She said: “Once informed, the council will get in touch with the carers and parents and visit the child. A range of advice and help is provided, including regular visits to the child and carers; helping carers access relevant childcare training courses; support groups to meet up with other private foster carers.”
“For example, a child’s mother was living abroad and the father in the UK was unable to continue caring for his son. The child’s mother made a private arrangement with a family friend in the UK for her son to be cared for and notified the council. The mother kept in regular contact with her son and the private fostering team. The child saw his father regularly and the carer did a fantastic job caring for the child. The carer received ongoing support from the private fostering team.”
‘We don’t want to interfere’
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for schools and children, said: “There are all sorts of reasons why children don’t live with their immediate family and there may be more private fostering arrangements due to COVID-19. Whatever the reason, in most cases, the arrangement will meet the child’s needs, however it is still very important that people tell us if someone else is looking after their child. We don’t want to interfere in what is working well but we have a legal responsibility to carry out some checks to ensure the child is safe and well and living in a suitable arrangement.”
How to ask for help
If you are supporting a child or children in this way you are eligible for help and support. You can let the Children and Families team know about private fostering arrangements by contacting Ealing Children’s Integrated Response Service (ECIRS) on 020 8825 8000.
Find out more on private fostering.
Find out more on fostering in Ealing.