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Drive to raise awareness of support available for private fostering

Wiltshire Council is asking people to get in touch if they are privately fostering so they can receive help and support

Published 7 November 2023

Wiltshire Council is asking people to get in touch if they are privately fostering so they can receive help and support. 

The call is also going out to local communities to get in touch if they think a child in their community is being cared for by someone not related.

People who are looking after a child who is not a close relative for 28 days or more are deemed to be privately fostering. 

The call to action ahead of Private Fostering Day on 8 November, is to ensure Wiltshire Council is notified of all children in private fostering arrangements. 

Currently Wiltshire Council knows of 17 children supported with these arrangements, including Ukraine children who have come to live in Wiltshire. The council is particularly keen to hear from any families looking after Ukraine children so the support can be provided. 

People who are looking after young people under 16 may also not realise they are private foster carers and the need to let Wiltshire Council know about the arrangements. For Ukraine children the age of private fostering is up to 18 years old.

If a child aged 16 or under (or under 18 with disabilities) is cared for by someone other than a close family member (parent, step-parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle) for 28 days or more, then they are deemed to be in private foster care.

Private foster care can be a very positive experience, but some children may be in a vulnerable position. Private fostering is arranged between parents and the private foster carer, and legally the parent and carer must notify the local authority so they can ensure the child is being properly cared for so it can provide support where needed.

There are a number of reasons why children can be privately fostered. They can include teenagers living elsewhere because of a family breakdown, cultural exchange students, a child from overseas living with a host family while attending school, or overseas students at boarding school who stay with host families during the holidays, or any child whose parents have made a private arrangement for them to be cared for by somebody else.
 
Wiltshire Council offers support through dedicated staff in the Kinship and Fostering Team. A social worker will arrange an initial visit and speak to the carer and members of the household. There will be continuing support for the private foster carers and the child and child's parents.

Wiltshire Council is particularly asking people who work with children to be aware of private fostering arrangements among the families they work with, and to notify the council - although everybody has a part to play.
 
Mandy has provided a warm, stable home for a friend's young child for a number of years. Since she's stayed with Mandy she's really thrived and has 100% attendance at school and is doing well. Mandy has never questioned her commitment to looking after the child who is now 10 and about to spend her fifth Christmas with her, and she recommends reaching out for support from the council. 
 
She explained: "I was dubious to start off with about contacting anyone as I'm a private person. I spoke to my own kids who have grown up and they said reach out and get hold of social services. If I didn't stand up and do what I'm doing she would be in the care system now but personally I would say to anyone to reach out and get that support. I didn't realise first of all I was classed as a private foster carer. I was the one who contacted social services. I didn't want to get into trouble and I contacted social services to ask for some advice, they came out and they were brilliant and have been ever since. They are there if I need them. Personally I would say to anyone, reach out and get that support."

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children's Services said: "Private fostering arrangements can work very well as we can see with Mandy's case. We now have a number of Wiltshire families where a Ukraine child is privately fostered with a relative. We are here to provide support and advice but we do need people to come forward and let us know so we can ensure everything is in place. If you are caring for someone else's child for 28 days or more then you need to get in touch with us as there is a legal obligation to let your local authority know. Additionally we will also provide help and advice and support you as you take on this important role of ensuring the child is safe and well cared for. If you know of a private fostering arrangement, please let us know so we can ensure that support is in place. We all have a role to play in keeping our children safe."

To notify Wiltshire Council of a private fostering arrangement, contact the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0300 456 0108 who will advise on the support and advice available or email mash@wiltshire.gov.uk 

For more information visit the private fostering page on our website.

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