Skip to content
  1. Do it online
  2. Login
  3. Have your say
  4. My Durham

We will be carrying out essential maintenance on our website on Tuesday 23 April 2024 between the hours of 8.00am and 10.30am. During this time, the website may experience technical issues. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Private fostering

Private fostering is the term used to describe an arrangement made privately (without our involvement) where a child under 16 (if disabled, under 18) is cared for and lives with an adult who is not a close relative.

Learn the key facts

Icon for pdf Private fostering video transcript (PDF, 88.3kb)

Under the Children Act 1989, a close relative is defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or step-parent.

A child is considered to be in private foster care if he or she is in the care of someone who is not directly related, or is a legal guardian, for a total of 28 days or longer.

Private foster carers are not approved as local authority foster carers and usually have had no training to become carers. Families find private foster carers themselves, and it is their responsibility to find carers that are suitable.

This does not include children and young people who are being looked after by us.

How to identify a private fostering arrangement

If you suspect that a child you work with or a child you know is being privately fostered, you should contact us.

Some signs that a child might be privately fostered are:

  • The child is consistently presenting with a new or unknown carer.
  • Someone other than the parent is coming along to parent's evening.
  • A child mentions that they are not staying at home or have not seen their parent for a long time.
  • A child not previously known, starts living with a friend or neighbour.
  • A child of a friend is no longer in the parental home.

Responsibilities of the parent and foster carer

By law, those involved in the private fostering arrangement (both the birth parent or person with parental responsibility and the private foster carer) must notify us. We must be aware of the situation six weeks before the child is privately fostered. We must then be notified again within 48 hours of the child arriving.

We must also be notified of any changes in circumstances such as change of address. By law when a child is privately fostered, the child's parents still have full parental responsibility.

How we can we help

Under the Children Act 1989, we have a duty to make sure that the proposed arrangement will provide for the child's needs and safeguard their welfare.

We will work with the child's parents and the carer to make sure they are meeting the child's needs. We can also explain the rights and responsibilities of both the parents and the carers and help you to meet these. 

We will also:

  • Visit the parents to find out why the placement is needed and whether any services can be offered to help keep the child at home.
  • Visit the private foster carer to check that the placement is suitable for the child and that it is safe.
  • When the child is living with the private foster carer, the social worker will visit regularly to make sure everything is going well. If there are any concerns they will be reported immediately to the parents.

We have the powers to prohibit a person from privately fostering if they, or their household, are judged to be unsuitable.

If you are involved in a private fostering arrangement or suspect that someone else is, please contact us who can help and advise.