A private fostering arrangement is a family arrangement agreed by the child’s parents or others with parental responsibilities for their child to be cared for by someone who is not a close relative.

The local council has a duty to ensure the child or young person’s welfare and that any arrangements meet the needs of the child.

Private fostering arrangements are separate from our foster care service. The people looking after children in private arrangements are not foster carers, nor are they governed by the same legislation or regulations.

A private fostering arrangement is when a child or young person under 16 (under 18 if they have a disability) is cared for and provided with accommodation for 28 days or more by someone who is not a close relative.

Someone who is not a close relative is a:

  • cousin
  • great-aunt or great-uncle
  • family friend.

A close relative is an:

  • aunt
  • uncle
  • a legal step-parent
  • grandparent
  • sibling.

A private fostering arrangement is organised between:

  • a parent or person with parental responsibility
  • the child
  • the adult who is providing the care, known as a private foster carer.

Why private fostering arrangements might happen

There are many reasons why a child may live in a private fostering arrangement.

These can include children or young people who:

  • are living with a friend's family because of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
  • are sent to this country for education or health care by their birth parents from overseas
  • are cultural exchange students
  • have parents that work or study long or antisocial hours
  • have parents who may be planning for their child to live in a private fostering arrangement.

These are only examples. There may be other arrangements which do not fall into any of these categories.


Private foster carers

Private foster carers must make sure that the:

  • Children’s Services department knows if someone else comes to live in the same house
  • Children’s Services department know within 48 hours when a child leaves their care and gives them the name and address of the person caring for the child
  • child has medical checks before or soon after they’re placed
  • child's parents are informed of any changes to the arrangement.

You will work closely with the private fostering social worker for the duration of the arrangement. 

The child’s parents are still financially responsible for their child, and it is advised that you have a financial agreement in place before the arrangement starts.

For information about claiming tax credits or social security benefits such as Child Benefit, your local benefits agency office will be able to advise you.


Parents should:

  • tell the Children's Services department of the arrangement 6 weeks in advance (48 hours if in an emergency)
  • keep parental responsibility and make sure the arrangement fits the child and their needs
  • provide as much detail as possible to the carer about their child's information
  • be financially responsible for the child
  • keep in touch with the carer and their child.

You are not giving up any rights to your child, as your child is only being looked after temporarily.

If you have any concerns about your child’s welfare, do not hesitate to contact us for help.

Children's Services department

We will:

  • allocate a designated private fostering social worker
  • check the arrangement is suitable and tell the parents, carer and child
  • visit the child and their carer every 6 weeks in the first year (every 12 weeks after the first year).

When to contact us

You must contact us if:

  • you're looking after someone else’s child
  • your child is living away from home
  • you're no longer living with your parents for more than 28 days.

Under the Children Act 1989, the local council must be informed when a private fostering arrangement is being planned or has been made.

The penalty for non-reporting is a maximum £5,000 fine.

Professionals who work with children also have a duty to notify the council of any private fostering arrangements they become aware of. Failure to report could result in a fine.

If you would like an informal discussion about private fostering arrangements, or if you know of a child living under a private fostering arrangement, you can contact us on 01634 335 726 or by emailing private.fostering@medway.gov.uk to get advice, support and to comply with regulations.