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Private fostering - a guide for professionals in social care, health and education

What is private fostering?

A 'privately fostered' child is a child or young person aged under 16 (or under 18 years if they are disabled), who is cared for by an adult who is not their:

  • parent
  • relative*, i.e. grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or stepparent
  • legal guardian

A child is considered 'privately fostered' only if he/she has been living away from home for more than 28 days, or the arrangement is going to last for more than 28 days.

*The Children Act defines 'relative' in relation to a child as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt. They could be a full or half relation, and could be related by marriage. The term also includes a step-parent. A cohabitee of the mother or father would not qualify as a relative, neither would extended family such as great aunt/uncle or parent's cousin.

A child looked after by the local authority is not a privately fostered child.

Privately fostered children could include:

  • adolescents that have to live away from their family as a result of separation, divorce or disputes at home
  • teenagers living with the family of a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • children sent to this country for education or health opportunities
  • cultural exchange students
  • children from overseas whose parents are studying or working during unsociable hours, which make it difficult for them to use ordinary child care provisions
  • unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • any child whose parents have made a private arrangement for them to be looked after by someone else.

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