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Private fostering arrangements

Find out what your responsibilities are if your child is being cared for by another adult, or if you are caring for someone else’s child.

What private fostering is

A private fostering arrangement is when a child or young person under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled) is being cared for and living with an adult who is not a close relative for more than 28 days.

What counts as private fostering

The fostering arrangement is made privately between the parent and the person looking after the child. Lots of different situations count as private fostering, including children or young people:

  • who are sent from overseas to the UK for education or health care by their birth parents
  • whose parents work or study long or antisocial hours
  • who are living with a friend’s family because of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
  • who are living with their partner’s family.

Close relatives include:

  • aunts and uncles
  • step parents
  • grandparents
  • siblings.

Family friends, cousins, great aunts and uncles do not count as close relatives.

Your rights and responsibilities as a parent

You are responsible for making sure your child is in a suitable and safe private fostering arrangement that provides for their:

  • cultural
  • religious
  • linguistic
  • and other needs.

A private fostering arrangement does not mean that you are giving up your rights to your child. This is a temporary arrangement and you still have parental responsibility and will continue to be involved in all decisions about your child’s life. It is very important that you stay in contact with your child as much as possible. That way you will know of any changes in the circumstances of the carer (for example if they go on holiday or move house).

What information you need to give to the carer

You should come to a formal agreement with the private foster carer so that all parties are clear on expectations about their roles and responsibilities.

You should give important information about your child and provide as much detail as possible. This should include:

  • what they like to eat
  • what they like to do in their spare time
  • information about their school
  • their medical history
  • their religious and cultural background.

Who needs to tell us about a private fostering arrangement

If a child is being privately fostered in the Lewisham borough, you need to tell us if you are:

  • their parent
  • their private foster carer
  • anyone else involved in making the private fostering arrangement.

When to tell us if your child is being privately fostered

If you think your child will be in this placement for 28 days or longer, you have a legal duty to tell us at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start.

If the arrangement is due to start within six weeks, or has already started, you must tell us immediately.

Tell us you are privately fostering a child

If you are involved in private fostering, or are likely to be, you should contact us through the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). You should also contact us if you’re not sure if you’re in a private fostering arrangement.

What to do if you already privately foster and you didn’t know you had to tell us

You should contact us and explain the situation. We will:

  • take your details
  • explain the first stage of the assessment process.

It is illegal not to tell us you are involved in a private fostering arrangement. If you don’t tell us you could get a fine.

Why we need to be involved

We have a legal duty to make sure that:

  • your child and their is being looked after safely
  • the arrangement is suitable for your child.

We will visit to your child and their private foster carer regularly, and we can give help and advice.

You should contact us as soon as possible if:

  • the private foster carer is not giving you enough information
  • you are unhappy about the standard of care your child is getting.

Together we will do our best to make sure that your child is safe and well looked after.


Lewisham Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) Team

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