SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Children's Social Care Services must satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are privately fostered in Calderdale is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This is a statutory duty in relation to The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
Please see the Local Resources for the Private Fostering Assessment Proforma and letter templates.
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERIn January 2020, a new Section 11, After the Private Fostering Arrangement Ends was added.
The definition of a privately fostered child is a child:
- Who is under the age of 16;
- Who, if disabled, is under the age of 18;
- Who is cared for by someone other than:
- A parent;
- Someone with Parental Responsibility;
- A close relative, who is defined by the Children Act 1989 as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent."
- Who has been or is intended to be cared for by the person for more than 28 days.
A child who is Looked After or placed in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full time education) is excluded from the definition. In a private fostering arrangement the parent retains Parental Responsibility.
However, Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.
(Note: the local authority may exempt any person from giving written notice either for a specified period or indefinitely. This exemption may be revoked in writing at any time).
The emphasis of these procedures is on satisfaction about the child's welfare. Children's Social Care only has the power to act in circumstances where something is wrong. The steps that we are required to take are explained in these procedures.
2. Notification to Children's Social Care
There is a requirement on parents and proposed private foster carers to notify the local authority of proposed or existing arrangements.
The prospective or existing private foster carer should be advised of the need to inform the local authority and that this notification must be made in writing and reflect the following timescales and information.
Regulation 3 (1) of the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 state that the person proposing to privately foster a child should notify the local authority:
- At least 6 weeks before the private fostering arrangement is to begin; or
- Where the private fostering arrangement takes place at short notice i.e. less then 6 weeks then the notification should be made immediately.
A person who has given advance notice of a date upon which a private fostering arrangement is to start must, within 48 hours of the start of the arrangement, notify the local authority of its commencement.
There are several sets of circumstances in which staff may become aware of existing and prospective private fostering arrangements. These are:
- Written formal notification by parents/person with Parental Responsibility of private fostering arrangements;
- Written formal notification by private foster carers of private fostering arrangements;
- Enquiry made to Multi-Agency Screening Team (MAST);
- Written and verbal Information from another agency or local authority;
- Through discussion with a known family, i.e. where children are open to a member of staff in Children's Social Care;
- In pursuing their enquiries or investigations about a child.
3. Action Required on Receipt of Notification
When an enquiry or notification is received on a child not known or closed to Children's Social Care, a contact / referral should be created with the names and details of all parties and recorded on the Child's Electronic Record.
The date the private fostering arrangement commenced should be entered on the Private Fostering Assessment document on CASS. Private foster carer details should be entered on to the electronic record so that their names are linked with the child.
Within 7 days of notification
When notification of a private fostering arrangement has been received, Children's Social Care should satisfy itself that the welfare of the child or children is being safeguarded.
A statutory visit must be completed within 7 working days and a Child and Family Single Assessment undertaken to ensure that the child's welfare is safeguarded. The assessment will consider the suitability of the proposed arrangement by:
- Visiting the private foster carers and speak to them and all member of the household;
- Visit and speak to the child alone and ascertain their wishes and feelings;
- Speak and if possible visit the person(s) with Parental Responsibility;
- Determine the purpose and likely duration of the arrangement.
Written consent should be obtained from all members of the household over 16 to carry out Disclosure and Barring Service Checks. In order to avoid any delay in the assessment process, the DBS forms should be taken on the initial visit for the appropriate members of the household to complete. The completed forms are to be sent immediately for the checks to be undertaken. The Child and Family Single Assessment is to be completed within 15 working days of notification.
If there are concerns about the immediate safety and well-being of the child the Team Manager will, in consultation with the relevant Service Manager and the Legal Department, take whatever action is necessary in order to safeguard the child and follow the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures.
4. Financial Support
Financial responsibility for the care of the child remains with the parent or person(s) with Parental Responsibility. They are expected to negotiate with the private foster carer regular payments to cover the cost of the child's care. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Private Foster Carer may be able to make an application to the Child Maintenance Service, but will in the first instance need to seek guidance from Child Maintenance Options (telephone number 0800 171 2345), who will give free, impartial and confidential information specific to their circumstances, as well as support in setting up the best child maintenance arrangement for them.
The private foster carer should seek to claim child benefit and any tax credits available. Impartial guidance, support and advice can be provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau.
It is not usually appropriate to make payments to private foster carers under Section 17 Children Act 1989. However, consideration may be given offering short term payments in cases where essential items are required before other benefits are processed. If regular financial assistance under Section 17 Procedures is required, this should be considered within the assessment process and approval must be sought from the relevant Service Manager.All financial arrangements and advice given is to be recorded on the Private Fostering Assessment document.
5. Private Fostering Assessment
All children who meet the definition of a private fostering arrangement (who are new or closed cases) should be the subject of a Child and Family Single Assessment and a Private Fostering Assessment; these assessments can be undertaken at the same time. If the case is open, and a recent assessment or multi-agency meeting has taken place which addresses a potential family breakdown then a Private Fostering Assessment should commence. The Assessment must provide information in regard to parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility as well as carers. There are specific legal requirements under The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 Schedule 2 which must be considered during the assessment of any private fostering situation. The overall objective of the assessment is to establish if the private fostering arrangement is likely to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child by:
- The intended duration of the arrangement is understood by and agreed between:
- The parents of the child or any other person with parental responsibility for the child; and
- The proposed private foster carer.
- The wishes and feelings of the child about the proposed arrangement (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
- The suitability of the proposed accommodation;
- The capacity of the proposed private foster carer to look after the child;
- The suitability of other members of the proposed private foster carer's household;
- That arrangements for contact between the child and their parents, any other person with parental responsibility for them, and other persons who are significant to them, have been agreed and understood and that those arrangements will be satisfactory for the child;
- That the parents of the child or any other person with parental responsibility for them and the proposed private foster carer have agreed financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child;
- That consideration has been given to, and necessary steps taken to make arrangements for care of the child's health;
- That consideration has been given to, and necessary steps taken to make arrangements for the child's education;
- How decisions about the care of the child will be taken;
- Whether the proposed private foster carer, the parents of the child, any other person with parental responsibility for the child, or any other person concerned with the child are to be provided with any advice/additional support services identified by the local authority.
Information should be collated by the Social Worker by:
- Meeting with the child on their own to seek their wishes and feelings;
- Checking existing records e.g. electronic and paper records;
- Meeting with parents. If this is not possible this should be clearly documented on file and all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that the parents are as fully involved as possible;
- Meeting with private foster carers;
- Meeting with household;
- Making checks with relevant agencies - The minimum will be GP, Health Visitor/School Nurse, School, Police (Domestic Violence Unit & DBS check), National Probation Service. Ensure this includes all members of the household.
Following the completion of a Child and Family Single Assessment if applicable the Private Fostering Assessment is to be completed within 45 working days and should only exceed this timescale if the DBS has not been received by the local authority.
6. Recommendation and Decision
On completion of the Private Fostering Assessment by the allocated worker the Practice Manager will review and quality assure the assessment, but will not sign off the document. The Team Manager will review the assessment and record a recommendation regarding approval giving due regard to the following:
- Do the private fostering arrangements safeguard the welfare of the child(ren)?
- Are there any reasons to prohibit private fostering?
- Are the outcomes of the agency checks satisfactory?
- Should any requirements be imposed on the private fostering arrangement by Children's Social Care?
Within the Team Manager's recording they will document any actions to be taken or requirements, which may include but not limited to; visiting patterns, identifying alternative placement, instigating a Section 47 enquiry. The Team Manager will submit for sign off to the appropriate Service Manager to approve/not approve the arrangement. An e-mail is also to be sent to the Service Manager and their Personal Assistant (PA) with the private fostering document attached to request sign off of the assessment on the electronic system. The decision by the Service Manager will be made within 5 working days of the request being sent.
If the recommendation is not to approve the Private Fostering arrangement, the Team Manager will record the reason(s) why and send a request to the appropriate Service Manager to ratify the proposal.
Following the decision by the Service Manager to approve or not approve the private fostering arrangements, the Team Manager will notify the private foster carer, the person(s) with parental responsibility and the young person in writing of the decision and stating:
- The requirements, including specific requirements relating to a particular child;
- The reasons for the requirements;
- The local authority's right to vary the requirements;
- The private foster carer's duty to comply with the requirements;
- The right of the private foster carer to appeal against the requirements to the Magistrate's Court in writing within 14 days of the notification.
The appropriate pro forma letter should be used and a copy of the letter should to be put on the child's electronic file by the Social Worker. See the Local Resources for the letter template.
If the Private Fostering assessment does not proceed after being opened, the Team Manager will record an explanation why it has not been completed within the document and close the assessment. Service Manager approval is not required in these circumstances.
7. Prohibiting Private Fostering Arrangements
Children's Social Care has the power to prohibit private fostering if:
- The private foster carer is not a suitable person to foster a child;
- The number, age and gender of children within the household including the proposed privately fostered child(ren) would have a negative impact on the child(ren);
- The premises in which the child(ren) would be accommodated are not suitable;
- The arrangements would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child(ren).
Where the information gained during the assessment indicates that the child's welfare may not be adequately safeguarded via the Private Fostering Arrangements, legal advice should be sought by the Team Manager before seeking approval from the Service Manager to prohibit the arrangements.
Any decision to prohibit a private fostering arrangement should be made by a Service Manager of the service which undertook the assessment.
Following the decision by the Service Manager to not approve the private fostering arrangements, the carers and parents must be notified in writing by the Team Manager stating:
- Reason for prohibition (private foster carer only);
- The right of the private foster carer to appeal against the prohibition in writing to the Magistrate's Court within 14 days of notification.
Legal advice should be sought prior to the letter being sent.
The pro forma letter should be used and a copy of the letter to be put on the child's electronic file by the Social Worker, and the Team manager record the decision within 48 hours (see Local Resources for the proforma letter).
Further action regarding the placement of this child should take place within 48 hours in consultation with the parent regarding the making of alternative arrangements for the child.
8. Statutory Visits
Children's Social Care is required to make visits to each child who is privately fostered. The initial visit must be made by the social worker within 7 days of notification of a Private Fostering arrangement.
Following approval of the Private Fostering arrangement, further visits at a minimum of once every 6 weeks in the first year are to be undertaken or more frequently if required.
In the second and subsequent years visits should occur at a minimum of once every 12 weeks.
After each visit a Child in Need visit document should be completed by the Social Worker. Additionally, the local authority must arrange for every child who is fostered privately to be visited by a social worker when reasonably requested to do so by:
- The child;
- The private foster carer;
- A parent of the child or any other person with Parental Responsibility for the child;
- Any professional raising concerns.
Private Fostering Review Meetings using the Child In Need Review document should be held 4 weeks after approval and thereafter every 6 months. Review meetings can be held more frequently if required.
Good practice would suggest that the Child and Family Single Assessment should be updated within 6 months and as a minimum 12 monthly thereafter.
If there is any new information received e.g. domestic abuse notification or a significant change for the child, the Child and Family Single Assessment should be updated and the arrangements re-assessed.
The DBS check should be renewed every 3 years, as a minimum.
10. Changes of Circumstances
A private foster carer must notify Children's Social Care of:
- Any change of address. See all provisions of Section 9 of the Regulations 2005;
- If the child is no longer in their care.
If the private foster carer has moved to another local authority then the new local authority must then be notified in writing by the Social Worker of:
- The name and address of the private foster carer;
- The child(s) name(s), gender, date of birth and other information;
- The name and address of the child's parents or any other person with parental responsibility for him.
The Social Worker should include any assessments that have been completed.
Request a form transfer of the case (see Section 12, Cross Boundary Issues).
Changes should be entered on the electronic recording system by the Social Worker.
If information notified by the private foster carer AND/OR information identified during statutory visits shows that:
- The child's welfare is no longer satisfactorily safeguarded;
- The person is no longer suitable as a private foster carer;
- The premises are no longer suitable; or
- Other concerns are identified.
Consideration must be given by the Team Manager to prohibiting the private fostering arrangements or imposing requirements. Prior to any decision to prohibit a private fostering arrangement, regard should be given to reviewing the Child and Family Single Assessment in order to inform decision making. This will be at the discretion of the Service Manager and without compromising the welfare of the child. Further action maybe required under Child Protection Procedures in order to safeguard the child. A discussion should also take place with the parent regarding the making of alternative arrangements for the child.
If the child returns to the care of their parent or the person with parental responsibility an updated Child and Family Single Assessment should be undertaken in order to ensure there are no outstanding safeguarding issues, unmet needs or additional support services require.
In the event the child moves to a different Private Fostering placement, an up dated Child and Family Single Assessment will need to be undertaken and a new Private Fostering Assessment completed, in order to approve or not approve the new arrangement.
11. After the Private Fostering Arrangement Ends
Parents have a duty to notify the local authority of the ending of the placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.
Unless a young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Services will review the young person's circumstances and future plans as they approach 16. Where a young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but requires continuing support, they should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them up as they will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. (Note that the DfE Volume 3: planning transition to adulthood for care leavers acknowledges that some ‘Qualifying children’ will be as vulnerable and have similar support needs as those who are Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant).
Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance where the young person has no other means. It will be provided at the request of the young person on the basis of assessment of need and can continue up to the age of 25 or beyond if the young person is in higher education, up to the end of the course. Note that in these circumstances, it is possible also for the local authority to also provide vacation holiday accommodation.
Any request by the young person should be made to the local authority in which they are resident or where the education and training is being provided.See Leaving Care Procedure.
12. Cross Boundary Issues
Under The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 (2), it is the responsibility of the local authority where the private foster carers reside to assess and approve the arrangement. The child's "home" local authority should be notified and their views sought regarding the arrangement.
Where the child has ongoing social work involvement discussions should be held between the allocated Social Worker and the local authority undertaking the private fostering assessment, as to how best to proceed with the assessment.
If the private fostering arrangement is approved and the child moves or has moved to that placement then formal transfer of the case should take place with the other local authority.If a child returns to the care of their parents or person with parental responsibility the local authority where they resides should be notified so that a further assessment can be undertaken.
13. Death of a Privately Fostered Child
In a situation where a privately fostered child has died, the local authority needs to follow the relevant procedures operated by the Calderdale Safeguarding Children Partnership in relation to child deaths (see West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Children Procedures - Section 4, Child Deaths).