A day in the life of a private fostering social worker

Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, and one which lasts for 28 days. Children living in private fostering arrangements are not looked after children, as they were not placed by the local authority.

Privately fostered children are one of the most vulnerable groups of children and as such this is a safeguarding issue. The private foster carer’s are not necessarily trained and as such may not have the experience or skills to meet all of the children’s needs. Although most private foster carer’s do an excellent job we know sometimes that children have been badly abused, or even killed, by the people who are asked to care for them, with Victoria Climbie being an example.

Privately fostered children are at an increased risk of being exploited or abused and nobody really knows, because they don’t have family to turn to. Quite often children are too frightened or even ashamed to tell anyone what is happening to them, so it’s really important that we know about these children, to ensure all privately fostered children are appropriately safeguarded.

When the local authority become aware of the private fostering arrangement an assessment will be completed by a fostering social worker and a social worker will be allocated to the child. If the arrangement is suitable the social workers will visit the child and carers every 6 weeks to make sure the children’s needs are being met and the carers have enough support, if training is required then this will be arranged to support the carer in meeting the child’s developing needs.

As a private fostering social worker I also support the arrangements through liaising with the family, parents and other professionals where needed, this can include, housing, education and providing guidance with regards to things such as; managing the child’s behaviour, emotional difficulties and contact. This support is provided to try and maintain a stable home for the child.

My experiences have been that parents, carer’s and some professionals are still unsure about what private fostering is, which demonstrates that this still remains a grey area.

In Staffordshire we work closely with area children’s teams, other agencies and have information on Staffordshire’s Foster for Staffordshire website, to support in raising awareness. In addition we also have a First Response Team whereby the general public and professionals can call to clarify if the situation is actually a private fostering arrangement.

Please remember; Call First Response Team on 0800 13 13 126 for advice.