Many families experience illness and difficult times and other friends and family members may step in to support a child by looking after them for a period of time. Whilst this is a really great thing to do there are lots of things that need to be considered.
If you are looking after a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) who is not your child or a ‘close relative’ under an arrangement with their parent or carer (close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts, whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity) for more than 28 days you may be classed as a private foster. If this sounds like you, you need have a legal duty to notify Lewisham Council.
What counts as private fostering?
The fostering arrangement is made privately between the parent and the person looking after the child. Lots of different situations count as private fostering, including children or young people:
- who are sent from overseas to the UK for education or health care by their birth parents
- whose parents work or study long or antisocial hours
- who are living with a friend’s family because of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
- who are living with their partner’s family.
Close relatives include:
- aunts and uncles
- step parents
Family friends, cousins, great aunts and uncles do not count as close relatives.
Who needs to tell Lewisham Council about a private fostering arrangement?
If a child is being privately fostered in the Lewisham borough, you need to tell them if you are:
- their parent
- their private foster carer
- anyone else involved in making the private fostering arrangement.
When to tell Lewisham Council if your child is being privately fostered
If you think your child will be in this placement for 28 days or longer, you have a legal duty to tell them at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start.
If the arrangement is due to start within six weeks, or has already started, you must tell them immediately.
Tell Lewisham Council you are privately fostering a child
If you are involved in private fostering, or are likely to be, you should contact them through the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). You should also contact them if you’re not sure if you’re in a private fostering arrangement.
What to do if you already privately foster and you didn’t know you had to tell Lewisham Council
You should contact them and explain the situation. They will:
- take your details
- explain the first stage of the assessment process.
It is illegal not to tell the council you are involved in a private fostering arrangement. If you don’t tell them you could get a fine.
Why Lewisham Council need to be involved
Lewisham Council have a legal duty to make sure that:
- your child and their is being looked after safely
- the arrangement is suitable for your child.
The council will visit to your child and their private foster carer regularly, and we can give help and advice.
You should contact Lewisham Council as soon as possible if:
- the private foster carer is not giving you enough information
- you are unhappy about the standard of care your child is getting.
Together they will do their best to make sure that your child is safe and well looked after.