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Keeping children safe

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 a period of 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative, guardian or person with parental responsibility.

Close relatives include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

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

Common situations are:

  • children and young people living apart from their families
  • children with parents overseas
  • children living with host families for a variety of reasons
  • children on holiday exchanges which last more than 27 days

If you are unsure if your situation is private fostering contact 0345 155 1071 or email to discuss it.

Notifying the local authority

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may be unable to care for their own child on a short or long-term basis and a private fostering arrangement can be a positive response from friends and the local community to a family in need of support.

However, any child separated from their parents is potentially vulnerable and the local authority has a responsibility to make sure the alternative care they receive is suitable.

By law, the local authority must be told about all private fostering situations. The child’s parents, private foster carers and anyone else involved in the arrangement are legally required to inform the council immediately. Professional’s, such as teachers, doctors or religious leaders, who are made aware of a privately fostered child, should also inform the council immediately. Many people don’t know that they must do this, which means the necessary arrangements to ensure the child or young person is safe are not being made.

People involved in private fostering must contact the local authority in the following timescales:

  • If the child is not yet living with private foster carers – six weeks beforehand
  • If the child moves in with private foster carers in less than six weeks – immediately
  • If the child is already living with private foster carers – immediately

Once informed, the council will work in partnership with the child, parents and private foster carer to make sure 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 met
  • offering advice and support to the child, their parents and private foster carer

More information

Further guidance about private fostering is available at GOV.UK – National minimum standards for private fostering.

If you think you might be involved in a private fostering arrangement in Devon, please contact 0345 155 1071 or email to discuss it.

If you think you might be involved in a private fostering arrangement in Torbay, please visit the Torbay Council website or you can call 01803 208100.

If you are concerned that a child is being abused, or to request support, you can:

Call 0345 155 1071

Complete the request for support online form

If it’s an emergency call 999