People looking after a child they are not related to, or who know someone who is, are urged to contact Kent County Council (KCC). This type of arrangements is called Private Fostering and KCC are supporting Private Fostering Week (11-15 October 2021) to raise awareness of professionals and families’ responsibilities.
Private fostering arrangements are when people look after children or teenagers under 16 for 28 days or more and who are not a parent or close relative such as a stepparent, grandparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt.
Last year KCC was notified of 83 private fostering arrangements, but the true number is believed to be much higher due to carers not realising they need to inform the council of the arrangement.
Last year, the number of notifications from English language schools reduced due to the restrictions on travelling to the UK. However, Kent County Council saw an increase in the number of notifications for young people living in private fostering arrangements in Kent. This is likely due to additional strains on family relationships during lockdowns and there could still be many young people staying with friends or distant relatives that KCC are not aware of.
Across the UK it’s estimated there could be as many as 20,000 unnotified private fostering arrangements.
Examples of private fostering arrangements include:
- Children who stay with families while going to a school away from their home
- Young people who stay with friends’ families because of family tensions
- Children cared for by their parent’s partners while their parent is in hospital or prison
When KCC becomes aware of private fostering, the child is assigned a social worker who visits regularly to offer support to their carer and check on the child’s welfare.
Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services said: “Most children in private fostering arrangements receive great care from the families they are with however, some children need extra specialist support or in the worst cases could be in danger. Therefore, it is vital that trained social workers are aware of every child being privately fostered and can support not only the children but the carers also.
“It is deeply concerning that there may be many people caring for a child who is not their own without informing Children’s Services and I would encourage anyone offering this support to a child to speak to us as soon as possible.”
The duty for private foster carers to notify the local authority extends from the Children Act 1989 which sets out the duty for private foster carers, parents, the local authority, and professionals in contact with families to safeguard children in private fostering arrangements.
To notify Kent County Council of a private fostering arrangement, call 03000 41 11 11. Alternatively, visit https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/adoption-fostering-and-supported-homes/fostering/private-fostering
If a teacher or other professional believes KCC has not been told of the arrangement, they should complete a Request for Support Form. The form can be found at https://kccchildrens.kent.gov.uk/web/portal/pages/home