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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

Private fostering happens when a child under 16 (or under 18 if disabled) is being looked after in the home of someone who is not a close relative or guardian for more than 28 days.

Private fostering arrangements often come about as a positive response to a family’s difficult circumstances; however, the child’s welfare must always come first.  

Is the child being privately fostered?

If a child is living with a relative as defined under the Children Act 1989, i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle (whether of full or half blood or by marriage), or a step-parent then they are NOT being privately fostered.

If a child is living with a friend of the family, a boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents, their best friend’s parents or a neighbour, they ARE being privately fostered. Occasionally, someone previously unknown to the child’s family might be willing to privately foster a child.

It is NOT a private fostering arrangement if you look after someone else’s child for a short time, e.g. when they are ill, go into hospital or go on holiday.

When does private fostering happen?

Private fostering often starts without much planning or what began as a short-term arrangement continues for a longer period.

Some examples include:

  • Children want to stay in the same school when their parents move so they move in with friends.
  • A young person may get on better with a boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents than their own and so moves in.
  • Arguments at home lead to a young person wanting to live apart from family.
  • Parents have sent a child to this country for their education or health reasons.

Who arranges private fostering?

Private fostering is arranged by the proposed foster carer and the child’s birth parents, or sometimes older children themselves.

Local authorities do not formally approve or register private foster carers, but they must satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are, or will be, privately fostered within their area is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.

Are private foster carers paid?

Any financial arrangement is made between private foster carers and birth parents. As the child’s carer you may be eligible to claim certain benefits, e.g. child benefit, but any maintenance payments you receive from the child’s parents will be taken into account if you apply for means-tested benefits. Social services will offer advice on benefits.

Telling social services

The law says that anyone who is planning to enter into a private fostering arrangement – or is already privately fostering a child – must tell social services.

If the private fostering is planned, you should do this at least six weeks before the arrangement starts. If the private fostering starts suddenly – perhaps as the result of an emergency – tell them as soon as possible.

Why must I tell social services?

It’s important that social services know about the private fostering arrangements for several reasons:

  • They must be happy the foster home provides a safe and secure environment for the child and that all household members are suitable to look after the child. Enhanced DBS checks will be carried out on all household members aged over 16.
  • Social workers will give the private foster carer as much support and advice as they need.

What happens next?

Social services must be satisfied the arrangements are in the best interests of the child. This doesn’t mean they have to be perfect, but they will stop a placement if they consider it isn’t in the child’s best interests. This would be discussed with you and the child’s parents.


Last updated: 06/01/2023