Living away from home?
What you need to know
What is private fostering?
Private fostering is when your parents arrange for you to stay with someone, who is not your parent or close relative, for longer than 28 days. If you are under 16 (or 18 if you are disabled) and are living with a family friend, distant relative or a neighbour you are being privately fostered. The person who is looking after you is called a private foster carer.
The law says that your parents and your private foster carers must tell the local authority about the arrangement so that we can make sure that you are safe, healthy and happy while you are away from home.
Why are children privately fostered?
Children will usually live with a private foster carer because their parents or the person who they usually live with cannot look after them for a while. Often, children in private foster care are able to live with a relative or a friend who they already know. A private fostering arrangement might happen for a number of reasons.
What should my private foster carer do?
Your private foster carer is responsible for your day-to-day care. Your private foster carer should:
- give you regular meals;
- make sure that you have a comfortable bed of your own and that you get enough sleep;
- make sure that you are clean (you should have regular baths or showers) and that you have clean clothes;
- help you to stay healthy, and make sure that you receive the medical treatment that you need if you are injured or ill;
- make sure that you look after your teeth and visit a dentist regularly;
- make sure that you go to school and do any homework that you are set;
- make sure that you have a chance to make friends and to enjoy sports and/or hobbies that interest you;and
- make sure that you are able to keep in touch with your family and friends who are important to you.
Staying in touch
It is important that you stay in contact with your family while you are living away from home. Your parent(s) and sometimes other relatives may visit you or keep in contact through: telephone, letters, emails, texts.
If you are of school age you should be in education. Your parent(s) and your private foster carer must make sure that you receive full-time education, unless you are too ill to do so. When you start living with your private foster carer you may need to go to a new school near to your new home, but your parent(s) must agree to this change.
While you are living with your private foster carer, your parent(s) should still make all the important decisions about your life. However, your private foster carer can make day-to-day decisions about your routines and activities. Your private foster carer cannot change your name, make you change school or arrange any significant medical treatment for you without asking your parent(s)’ permission.
Religion and family customs
Your private foster carer must respect the things that are important to you and your family, and they should help you to follow any customs that are related to your religion; like special prayer times or eating special foods. Your private foster carer should also help you to learn about your culture and to meet people who share your cultural background. If English is not your first language, your private foster carer should support you in having contact with people who speak your language of birth (however it may be up to your parent(s) to identify who these people should be).
In most families, children and young people help with small jobs around the home, like setting the table for meals, washing dishes, putting clothes in the washing machine, feeding pets or keeping their bedrooms clean and tidy. Your private foster carer cannot make you do jobs that are inappropriate for a child of your age to do, such as making you clean the house from top to bottom everyday or expecting you to stay at home to look after an old or sick person instead of going to school. They also cannot make you work in their business.
No child should be bullied or abused by other children or adults. If you are bullied or hurt either at school or at home you should always tell an adult who you trust. If you are called names or bullied because of the colour of your skin, or the language that you speak, the food that you eat, or the clothes that you wear, you should definitely talk to someone about this.
If your private foster carer or any member of his/her family makes you eat something or do something that is against your religion or that makes you feel uncomfortable, please tell your social worker or an adult who you trust about it.
The law says that while you are living with a private foster carer, the local authority must check on you regularly to make sure that you are safe and being properly looked after. As soon as we know that you are going to live with a private foster carer a social worker will arrange to visit you. This social worker will talk to you to find out how you are feeling about your situation, and if there is anything that you are worried or unhappy about.
Your social worker should always see you on your own without your parent(s), your foster carer, or any other grown-up being around. This means that if you feel worried or frightened about anything, you can tell you social worker and no one else will be listening.
A social worker must come to see you at least every six weeks in the first year of you living with your private foster carer. After this, they may visit you less often. If you are worried about anything or you just want to talk to your social worker, you can contact him/her.
For further advice and information
If you require more information about private fostering please contact us:
Children’s Services Department
Hampshire County Council
Elizabeth II Court East
0845 603 5620*
A 24-hour helpline for children who are in trouble or at risk of being hurt or abused. Call free on 0800 1111 or visit the website www.childline.org.uk
If you are having a bad time at home, being bullied at school, or are worried or scared about something call free on 0800 800 5000 or visit the website www.nspcc.org.uk
Children’s Legal Centre
Call on 0845 120 3747 or visit the website www.childrenslegalcentre.com
* Calls to 0845 numbers will cost between 4p (local rate) and 6p (national rate) per minute for BT customers. Calls made using other service providers or mobiles may cost more. Alternatively call 01329 225398 - standard and local call rates apply to this number.