SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative for more than 27 days and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was amended in November 2017 to add clarity to the definition of private fostering with regards to the legislation and children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school and to ensure the chapter reflects Children's Social Care line-management structure.
A privately fostered child is defined as a child under 16 (or 18 if Disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, step parent (including civil partnerships), sister or brother where the child is to be cared for in that person's home for 28 days or more.
A child who is Looked After or placed in any residential placement, 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).
Where a child is to be placed with private foster carers, Merton Council must be notified in writing at least 6 weeks before an arrangement begins. Where no prior notification of a placement is given, private foster carers must notify Merton Council of the placement immediately.
The person making the notification should be asked to provide the following information:
In relation to notifications given by the private foster carer or proposed private foster carer, the following information should also be obtained:
Written notification must also be made to Merton Council by the private foster carer within 48 hours of any change in circumstances, e.g. a change of address, a change in the household, a criminal conviction/disqualification or prohibition (see Section 8, Prohibition and Disqualification) in relation to any person in the household or any intention to foster another child privately.
Where notification is that the private foster carers have moved to live in the area of another local authority, the allocated social worker must immediately pass on this information to the new local authority, i.e. the name and address of the private foster carer, the name of the child/ren being privately fostered, the name, address and telephone number of the child/ren parents.
Where notification is that the placement has ended, the allocated social worker should ascertain the name and address of the person now caring for the child and his or her relationship with the child.
Parents also have a duty to notify Merton Council in writing of the ending of the placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has transferred.Any agency that becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement must immediately notify their local authority in writing of the arrangement and must inform the parent and private foster carer of their intention to do so.
When notification or information is received from any source that a child is privately fostered, this information must be passed to the local authority where the privately fostered child resides. The allocated social worker has a responsibility to ensure that this information is reported to the Duty Social Worker and their Team Manager within the Private Fostering service so there is a seamless transition.
The allocated social worker will be expected to carry out the following initial tasks within one week of the notification:
All private fostering notifications are initially screened by the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). Where the arrangement meets the private fostering criteria, a referral is sent to the First Response Duty Team to undertake an initial home visit with the Private Fostering Social Worker within 7 working days.
Once the initial contact record of Private Fostering is completed on the social care information system by MASH, it should be sent to the First Response Duty Team Manager who will arrange the initial visit within 7 days of receipt in consultation with the Private Fostering Social worker and/or the Duty Social Worker.
The Private Fostering Social Worker/Duty Social Worker completes the Private Fostering Referral which is authorised by the First Response Duty Team Manager/and or the Vulnerable Children Team Manager.Following the initial visit, once it is confirmed as a private fostering arrangement, the First Response Duty Team Manager transfers the case to the Vulnerable Children Team Manager for allocation on the social care information system.
During the initial visit, the social worker should:
Advise the private foster carer in relation to recording the child's development, particularly incorporating the following matters:
In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary screening checks, the allocated social worker should advise the private foster carers that they cannot be recommended as they would be seen as unsuitable. The child's parents would need to be advised of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child.
Any immediate action required by the local authority to secure the child's safety will be considered in consultation with a Team Manager and legal advice sought, as necessary.
If the initial visit takes place after the child's placement, the allocated social worker should also:
The allocated social worker undertaking the assessment must arrange for background checks on the private foster carer, all members of the household and frequent visitors over 16 to be made with the Disclosure and Barring Service providing all previous addresses within the last 5 years. The allocated social worker should also request written references and arrange to visit any personal referees to validate any information collated.
The assessment will consider the following:
A written report on the assessment should be presented to the Team Manager of the Vulnerable Children's Team for a decision to be made and it should have a clear analysis and recommendations. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed - see Section 7, Imposing Requirements on Foster Carers, Section 8, Limit on Number of Children and Section 9, Prohibition and Disqualification.
If any information comes to light during the course of the assessment, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should prepare a report to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning). Immediate consideration should also be given to the arrangements for the child and, if necessary, child protection procedures should be initiated.
In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the allocated social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under the Merton Safeguarding Children Partnership Inter Agency Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.
Where the local authority receives a notification that a child is privately fostered the private fostering team will undertake a single assessment to ascertain the needs of the child in the placement. See Single Assessment Guidance. On completion of the assessment, a child in need plan will be developed to ensure that services are identified to ensure that the child's needs are met. See Children in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.
Where appropriate, reports to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning) can include recommendations for requirements to be imposed on the private foster carers, for example to restrict the approval to an individual child or to limit the number, age or gender of children who may be cared for privately. Requirements may also relate to the standard of accommodation, health and safety matters and/or practical matters such as equipment. A requirement may include a time-scale within which the private foster carer must take the necessary action.
A requirement may be varied, removed or added at any time.Any requirements imposed must be specified in writing, together with any reasons. Written notice of any requirements imposed, together with the reasons, will be sent to the private foster carer and to the parent by the social worker responsible for the assessment. The private foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the requirement to the Magistrates' Court.
The maximum number of children privately fostered in any one household must not exceed 3 unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a large sibling group and the household accommodation meet their needs.
Any application for exemption from this limit must be made to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning). The application must contain the following information:
Exemptions will only be granted in relation to named children and will cease when the named children leave the placement.Where an exemption is granted this will be confirmed in writing to the private foster carers.
A decision can be made to prohibit the proposed foster carer from fostering on the basis that they are not suitable and/or the premises are unsuitable.
The fact that a Foster Carer is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) is a good reason upon which to seek a prohibition.
Where the allocated social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a private foster carer despite the fact that he or she or a person in the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning) for consideration.
Where a decision is made to prohibit a private foster carer from caring for a child, reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of the decision, together with the reasons, must be hand delivered or sent by recorded post to the private foster carer and to the parent by the allocated social worker responsible for the assessment. The private foster carer will also be advised of the right to appeal against the decision to the Magistrates' Court.Discussion should also take place with the parent as to the making of alternative arrangements for the child.
Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with, the allocated social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning) recommending that the foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out above must be followed.
The initial visit by the allocated social worker must be made to the child and the private foster carer at the placement address within one week of the placement, or the date when notification was received if later, and then visits will be made every six weeks in the first year by the allocated social worker.
In subsequent years, visits must be at least once every three months.
The need to visit more frequently will be decided by the allocated social worker and his or her manager depending on the case circumstances and the need to visit unannounced and/or to choose times when all members of the household are likely to be present should also be considered.
Additional visits should be arranged at the request of the child or the private foster carer.
The child must be seen alone by the allocated social worker on each visit unless the child does not wish to see the social worker alone and their views and wishes will be respected and noted. Best endeavours should be made to see the child on each visit and if barriers arise, i.e. the child is not available at each visit that this is questioned and reviewed with the private foster carer.The child's bedroom should be seen on some visits and recordings of the observations should be made
The purpose of and matters to be discussed at the first visit after the child's placement are set out in Section 5, Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers.
The overall purpose of all visits is to encourage the maintenance and improvement of child care standards and check that the child's needs are met within the foster placement and in particular:
An oral and written report on every visit must be made by the allocated social worker. The report must state whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone. If the child was not seen, the reasons must be recorded. The record must comment on the child's welfare and how the placement is progressing including any views expressed by the foster carer and the child. It must also contain any specific recommendations with an analysis about the continued suitability of the private fostering arrangement and whether any review should be taken with respect to the requirements on the foster carer.The report must be reviewed by the allocated social worker's Team Manager.
Where there are concerns about the child's care, the parents should be advised and consideration should be given to invoking the Merton Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Inter Agency Procedures.
The suitability of the foster carer should be reviewed annually by the social worker and shared with their Team Manager. This information will be reported to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Care Planning).
Where local authority foster carers notify their intention to privately foster a child, the above procedure should be followed.
In these circumstances, a supervising social worker will normally carry out the assessment.
The foster carers should be advised of the differences between their two roles.
Consideration will need to be given to the implications for any Looked After Child already placed with the foster carer and contact should be made by the supervising social worker involved with the social workers for such children.
Consideration should also be given to the future placement of any Looked After children particularly having regard to the usual fostering limit of three children.
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 with regard to a disabled child this will be when they reach 18.The Private Fostering Team 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, he or she should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them up as he or she will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance. 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 21 or beyond if the young person is in higher education, up to the end of the course.
Only valid for 48hrs