If a child aged under 16 years (or under 18 years if they are disabled) stays with people who are not related to them for 28 days or more, this is known as a private fostering arrangement and special rules apply.
Private fostering is the term used to describe an arrangement made privately (that is without the involvement of a local authority) between a child's parents and a carer of their choice.
A child is considered to be in private foster care if they are in the full time care of someone who is not directly related, nor is a legal guardian, for a total of 28 days or longer.
The period of 28 days does not have to be continuous. If, for example, a child regularly stays with a school friend's family and this arrangement adds up to 28 days or longer, after which he or she returns home to the full-time care of their parents, then this would not be a private fostering arrangement.
However, if a child is cared for by a non-relative or legal guardian but returns to the parent at weekends, then this is a private fostering arrangement.
Private fostering and childminding
Private fostering is different from child minding in that the child in foster care lives with the carer. Childminders can only offer daily care and occasional overnight stays.
Private fostering arrangements are used by some parents to meet the needs of their children. Such agreements are acceptable providing specific guidelines are followed for the protection of the child, the parents and the carers.
Some teenagers may choose to live with another family who agrees to care for them. The same rules apply.
Let us know about a private foster care arrangement
What is best for the child is always the first consideration even if the arrangement is not intended to be long term.
If you are looking after a child and think you could be a private foster carer or you are the parent of a child who is cared for by someone who is not a relative - contact us for advice on 0800 083 7744 - you may be involved in a private fostering arrangement.
You may also like to find out about other types of fostering.