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SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

1. Introduction

Cambridgeshire County Council policies and procedures in relation to private fostering form part of their overall guidance on kinship care. This policy has been revised to take account of the new measures in the Children Act 2004 and the accompanying regulations which strengthen and enhance the private fostering notification scheme and provide additional safeguards for privately fostered children.

Private fostering is when a child or young person aged under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled), is cared for and provided with accommodation for more than 28 days continuously (continuity is not broken by the occasional short break) by an adult who is not a close relative. A close relative is a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent, but a relative is not, for example, a cousin, great aunt/uncle or a family friend.

Private fostering is different from public fostering as the arrangement is normally organised between the parent and carer, that is to say it has been made without the involvement of a Local Authority.

However, there needs to be a balance between the rights of the parents to make private arrangements for the care of their children, and the obligations of the Local Authority to assess and monitor the safety and welfare of the privately fostered child.

Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group; many young people come to the Britain from overseas to attend a language school. These young people may stay in residential accommodation provided by the language school or with a host family. The language school normally directly recruits the host family. The host family receives payment for providing accommodation, food and sometimes activities and entertainment for the young person.

A young person under 16 years (18 years if disabled) who stay with a host family for more than 28 days is deemed to be privately fostered by that host family.

Language schools are legally required to notify the Local Authority of any children who are placed with a host family for longer than 28 days as they are directly involved in arranging the placement. As such the language school is acting as the parent. Nevertheless the parent of the child should be involved with the arrangements and remain responsible for ensuring the well being of their child.

Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the local authority has been or will be notified of the arrangement.

In cases of private fostering where the parent has directly placed their child with another family, there is a duty on the local authority to establish whether the child could be cared for by their parent rather than by a private foster carer if support and advice were provided. This is not relevant in relation to children placed with host families through a language school.

2. Legislation and Guidance

Part 9 of the Children Act 1989, as amended, deals with private arrangements for fostering children.

A private foster carer can only care for 3 children. This does not apply if all the children are siblings.

The Children Act 2004 and the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005, and associated statutory guidance, introduced measures to strengthen and enhance the fostering notification requirements within the 1989 Act whereby Local Authorities are required to take a proactive approach to identify private fostering arrangements in their area. The aim was to improve compliance with the legislative framework and therefore improve the arrangements for safeguarding children in private fostering arrangements.

Those involved in private fostering arrangements must give the Local Authority notice of the arrangement not less than 6 weeks beforehand (or within 48 hours if the child is placed in an emergency).

Under Section 67(1) of the Children Act 1989 (as amended), Local Authorities have duties to ensure the welfare of privately fostered children within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted including children where it is proposed that they will be privately fostered in the future.

The County Council therefore must meet the following statutory specific requirements:

  • To promote public awareness of the notification requirements in relation to private foster carers, parents, professionals and the public to ensure that all those involved understand their responsibilities and duties in relation to any private fostering arrangement;
  • To assess the suitability of private foster carers and their premises to meet the needs of the child and, where appropriate, prohibit the arrangement*, or impose requirements on the arrangement before the child is placed – if sufficient notice is given;
  • To ensure that the child is visited at the required intervals by a named social worker and that any concern raised by a privately fostered child is investigated;
  • To support monitor and review the arrangements for the child while they remain with the private foster carer;
  • To carry out its duties under the Children Act 1989 regarding the circumstances where there may be reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • To ensure that the limits on the number of privately fostered children per household is adhered to;
  • To provide advice and information to private foster carers.

*The Local Authority can prevent the placement if the person is disqualified under the terms of the Children Act 1989 or falls within the prohibitions of the Act (Part 1X, ‘Private Fostering’ Sections 68 and 69). A disqualified person can appeal against a decision to refuse consent for them to privately foster children.

3. Policy Statement

The Council is committed to children being brought up wherever possible by their parents and where this is not possible by their relatives and friends, to enable children to remain within their family of origin and/or within their community where they are able to maintain and build relationships with people they probably know well and where they can retain their religious and cultural identity. Supporting such placements may mean that children feel more secure and retain a sense of belonging. They may also maintain links with their parents better than if they were placed with local authority carers.

Private fostering provides an opportunity for children to maintain their links and attachments. It provides a bridge between care by the family and care by the local authority.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Office for Children and Young People’s Service (Childrens Social Care) has a Statement of Purpose concerning private fostering laying out its duties and responsibilities and how these will be met. The Statement of Purpose also outlines the duties and responsibilities of parents, carers, professionals and language schools.

4. Principles

In relation to privately fostered children, including children placed with host families by language schools, for more than 28 days, Cambridge County Council:

  • Is committed to ensuring that its functions in relation to children who are privately fostered are anti-discriminatory and provide equal opportunities to services users in relation to resources, support and information;
  • Will ensure that children and young people who are privately fostered are provided with safe and effective care in line with the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering and according to the legislation set out in the Children Act 1989, Children Act 2004 and the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005;
  • Will ensure that the welfare of the child is paramount and will ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child are heard;
  • Will ensure that an assessment is undertaken to determine whether the private fostering arrangement meets the needs of the child;
  • Will ensure that the child’s well being is monitored and that the child has access to an advocacy service;
  • Will ensure that the child in the care of a private foster carer is enabled to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being;
  • Will work in partnership with the parents and the child to ensure that the child can return home as soon as possible;
  • Will ensure that awareness is raised with both the public and professionals about the standards and requirements for private fostering;
  • Will ensure that the child’s cultural and religious identity is promoted and respected;
  • Will ensure that procedures are in place to monitor the welfare and safety of all privately fostered children within their area;
  • Will ensure that users will have the opportunity to inform the Council about the services that have been provided, including how these can be improved and developed to promote the well being of privately fostered children and to support their parents and carers;
  • Will take account of the views of children and young people, carers and other professionals to ensure that the welfare of privately fostered children within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.

5. The Process to be Followed

5.1 The Responsibilities of the Local Authority Kinship Support and Private Fostering Unit

The assessment of private foster carers and the arrangements for the child are the responsibility of the Kinship Support and Private Fostering Unit (KSPF Unit) within the Fostering Service of Childrens Social Care. The Consultant Social Worker of the Kinship Support and Private Fostering Unit is responsible for ensuring that the procedures in relation to private fostering are carried out.

The process to be followed (timescales in bold)

Notification Requirements

The language school must notify the Fostering and Adoption duty service of a private fostering arrangement with a host family. This should be within the 6-week notification period and prior to the child being placed with the host family. If the child is placed in an emergency the language school should notify the Local Authority within 48 hours.

As well as notifying the local authority, the language school will be asked to send the Cambridgeshire leaflets and information documents to the child and their parents once a place at the language school for the proposed period has been agreed. These may need to be translated.

The language school will also be asked to send the appropriate leaflets and documents about private fostering to the host family.

Notification requirements include the following

  • The name sex, date of birth and place of birth, religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background of the child;
  • The name and current address of the host family and any previous address they have lived at within the last 5 years);
  • The intended duration of the arrangement;
  • The name and address of the parent or of any person with parental responsibility, and if different of the person from whom the child was received;
  • The name and address of any brothers and sisters of the child;
  • The name and address of any person who was involved in making the arrangement that is the language school;
  • The date on which the arrangement is to begin or has begunIf known, the following information should also be provided:
    • The details of any offence of which the proposed carer has been convicted;
    • Any disqualification or prohibition imposed on the carer under s68 or s69 Children Act 1989 and any such conviction of any member of the household.

Following notification to Kinship Support Unit within Childrens Social Care:

If the child is not in placement a kinship social worker will visit the private foster carers’ home and make an initial assessment of their suitability to look after the child. This will include the suitability of the accommodation, details of the other members of the household, the safety of the home, the overall standards of care and the requesting of information to determine whether or not they are disqualified from fostering.

The private foster carers will be advised about the nature and purpose of the assessment and how the local authority will continue to be involved.

If these have not already been provided by the language school, Cambridgeshire information leaflets and documents will be given to the carer by the social worker to ensure that they have information and an understanding of the private fostering requirements and legislation.

A draft agreement may be drawn up in relation to the proposed placement if there is sufficient information about the child to do this and may be sent to the parent.

If the Cambridgeshire information leaflets and documents in relation to private fostering have not been sent to the parents and child by the language school, these will be sent by the social worker. (These may need to be translated). If the child’s parents have not been involved in the arrangements made by the language school, or where an agent has made the arrangements at the request of the parents, or where the child will only be placed with the host family for a short period, it may not be appropriate to send information or an agreement to the parents.

A questionnaire will be included in the documentation given to the child.

Documentation and references

The assessment of the proposed private foster carer and their home will be undertaken in accordance with the National Minimum Standards for private fostering. Statutory checks on the private foster carers and all adult members of their household will need to be undertaken.

A Criminal Records check with the Disclosure and Barring Service and a Local Authority check will be undertaken for all members of the household over 16.

In an emergency situation and where the child is already in placement the local police will be asked to carry out a check on all household members over 16 to ensure there are no known factors that would place the child at risk of Significant Harm.

References will be obtained from the private foster carer’s GP, Health Visitor and one personal referee will be requested. Where it is deemed appropriate checks may be made with education, probation and any ex partners of the private foster carer.

Where the child is to remain with the host family for less than 12 weeks, the assessment will be adapted to assess the suitability of the host family to meet the child’s health, safety, religious and cultural needs for the duration of their stay. Other professionals involved with the child should be notified of the private fostering arrangement.

When the child is in the placement, a Kinship social worker will visit the private foster carers’ home to make an initial assessment of their suitability to look after the child. This will include assessing the suitability and safety of the accommodation, obtaining details on all other members of the household, reaching a judgement about the overall standards of care and asking for permission to obtain information on the private foster carers to ensure they are not disqualified from fostering.

The visit to the child must be within 7 days of the child‘s placement with the host family. Visits will be recorded and monitored.

The welfare of the child

The care given to the child should be in accordance with the National Minimum Standards for private fostering. The welfare of the child is paramount. The child will be spoken to and their wishes and feelings ascertained and considered in light of their age and understanding. The child must be seen and spoken to alone unless this would not be appropriate.

Evaluation documents will be given to each privately fostered child and host family. These will be translated into the child’s first language. Leaflets will be given to the child to ensure that they have information and an understanding of the private fostering requirements and legislation.

It is important for the assessing social worker to work with the language school to encourage them to understand that they have a welfare and safeguarding role, as well as educational role, while the child is away from their parents.

If the assessment indicates that the child’s welfare is not being safeguarded or promoted, the carers, parents and the language school will be informed of the outcome of the assessment.

5.2 Responsibilities of Language Schools and Private Foster Carers/Host Families

Appropriate arrangements for the child’s medical, dental care and treatment should be made and agreed by the parents, the private foster carers and the child (according to their age and understanding).

The child must be included on a GP’s list. This is generally the responsibility of the language school who should have obtained written permission from the parents for medical treatment.

The host family should be informed about the arrangements for the child’s medical care and have an emergency number to contact the school out of school hours.

Arrangements should be made for the child to receive appropriate education. During the period that the child is with the private foster carer, this is likely to be through the language school.

Arrangements should be made to ensure that the child’s religious, racial, cultural and linguistic needs are met. The language school should give information and guidance to the private foster carers about how they can support the child with any cultural or religious issues or practices.

Arrangements should be made to ensure that the child’s physical, intellectual, social and behavioural developments are met during their stay with the host family. (The assessment will indicate whether the host family can meet their needs). The language school will need to consider arranging activities and outings as well as providing the child with education during their stay.

Arrangements should be made between the language school and the private foster carer for the child to have contact (direct or indirect) with their family at home.

The child should be given the contact details of a named social worker, and information about an advocacy service and if appropriate have details of their status.

A written agreement should be made in respect of the above arrangements and this should be reviewed on every statutory visit by a Social Worker.

A host family who are deemed to be private foster carers will be provided with any necessary help and advice to assist them to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. Where appropriate the private foster carer should be given information about the child’s needs in relation to his cultural, racial, linguistic and religious needs. In some circumstances an interpreter may be required.

The parent or the private foster carer or the language school must notify the local authority about changes of address, household composition or the knowledge of any offence within the host family.

5.3 Responsibilities of the Local Authority

Assessing the private foster carers’ suitability

The Local Authority must satisfy itself about the suitability of arrangements, carers and premises. In Cambridgeshire this duty will be undertaken by the Head of Service, Children’s Social Care who will make a decision based on the notification by the private foster carer and the assessment reports prepared by the social worker. This will be a paper exercise, but could involve holding a meeting to include the child (if appropriate), the parents and the private foster carers to consider the completed assessment.

Concerns about the suitability of a private foster carer

A language school should inform the local authority if it has any concerns about a private fostering arrangement with a host family. In such instances, the local authority may have to use its statutory powers under the Children Act 1989 to assess and ensure that the child is being safely cared for. There may be occasions where the child should not continue to be looked after by their private foster carers and if neither the parents nor the language school can make alternative appropriate arrangements for the child the local authority may need to place the child in suitable accommodation.

The Private Fostering Arrangements require the local authority to satisfy itself of the suitability of any private fostering arrangements within its area, or to exercise its powers by prohibiting the arrangement, or imposing requirements on the arrangement before the child is placed – if sufficient notice is given.

The Local Authority can prevent the placement if the person is disqualified under the terms of the Children Act 1989 or falls within the prohibitions of the Act (Part 1X, ‘Private Fostering’ Sections 68 & 69).

A disqualified person can appeal against a decision to refuse consent for them to privately foster children.

The Responsibilities of the Local Authority Children’s Social Work Units

Once the assessment is completed, the responsibility for monitoring and supporting the child and the private foster carer will lie with the Social Care Units, except if the child has been placed by through a Language School in which case the Kinship Support and Private Fostering Unit will be responsible for monitoring and supporting the child and the Private Foster Carer/host.

A child placed through a language school and his/her carers have the same rights as any other family in the community to be assessed for help, including financial help, under Section 17 (Children Act 1989). This includes help from other agencies.

In respect of language school students, a Kinship social worker will visit the privately fostered child at 6 weekly intervals in the first year and at 12 weekly intervals thereafter or more often if this is required. Although it is unlikely that a child will remain with a host family for longer than a year some students do stay for several years.

The child should be seen alone at each visit. Their bedroom should also be inspected and a record should be made of the visit.

The arrangements for the child should be reviewed by the social worker at every visit to ensure that they remain appropriate to the child’s circumstances. The parents or their agent should be kept informed about the child’s well-being and progress.

Monitoring

In order to monitor the effectiveness of the way the Childrens Social Care discharges its duties and functions in relation to private fostering, the Council will ensure that:

  • Accurate, comprehensive, well organised and confidential records are kept:
  • The numbers of privately fostered children and private foster carers living in the local authority’s area are monitored;
  • The circumstances of each privately fostered child are reviewed;
  • New notifications are recorded on the statistical data and PAF indicators to include the number and nature of enquiries about private fostering, the responses given and the actions taken. These will be submitted to the Department for Education, as required;
  • The Council will through the Policy and Procedure Manager provide a written report each year, for consideration by the Director of Children’s Services, on the outcomes of its work in relation to privately fostered children within its area.

The Council will regularly review a sample of individual child and private foster carer records in order to ensure the effectiveness of the private fostering procedures. This will include checking on such matters as:

  • Compliance with required timescales for action to be taken on receipt of a notification;
  • Decisions about the overall suitability of arrangements;
  • Frequency of visits to privately fostered children;
  • That children are seen alone, and with an independent interpreter; where the child’s preferred language is not English;
  • That written reports are made in accordance with the regulations;
  • That decisions about the suitability of arrangements are confirmed at managerial level;
  • That concerns raised by privately fostered children are addressed.

The Council will provide an annual report to the Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board on all the above areas.

6. How this Policy will be put into Practice

Kinship policies and procedures will be available to professionals through the Cambridgeshire Intranet, the Cambridgeshire County Council website and will be cross-referenced to the web site for the Local Safeguarding Children Board. The kinship procedures will include those that relate to children placed with a host family by a language school.

There will be a children’s questionnaire on each web site with details of how this should be completed and a link to the Policy and Performance Manager/Children’s Participation Officer.

Raising awareness

  • The awareness campaign will be progressed to promote private fostering;
  • The Kinship Care Team Manager will be responsible for the development of the awareness campaign and promoting good practice in relation to private fostering within Cambridgeshire;
  • All the known language schools have received information about the notification requirements;
  • Leaflets and posters have been distributed to libraries, schools health centres, youth centres and Connexions to promote information about private fostering;
  • Internet cafés will be included in the awareness campaign as placed where young people from overseas may go;
  • Specific documents and leaflets relating to information about private fostering will be available for carers, parents and children.

Notifications by language schools of privately fostered children will be recorded, monitored and compared to previous notifications by the Kinship Care Team Manager, to establish the effectiveness of the awareness-raising campaign.

Training

  • Training will be provided for area childcare social workers in relation to private fostering including children placed with host families;
  • Training will also be provided for other professionals;
  • Specific training will be provided for language schools as part of the multi agency training commitment to ensure they are aware of the notification requirements, the assessment process and ongoing monitoring and support requirements.

End

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