Kirklees Council has issued an important message to parents, carers and professionals: “Help us to protect children by being aware of private fostering.”

Children under 16 (or 18 if disabled) are classed as privately fostered when, for 28 days or more, they are cared for on a full-time basis by adults who are not their parents or a close relative.

It’s essential that the council knows about these arrangements so that children receive the support they need.

So if you’re looking after someone else’s child – or if you know a child living with people who are not close relatives (a grandparent, brother, sister, step parent, aunt or uncle) – the council wants you to get in touch.

Clr Viv Kendrick, Cabinet member for children, said: “Kirklees is no different to other parts of the country because there will be people who have entered a private fostering arrangement without realising it.

“Nobody knows the precise number but around 10,000 children in England are thought to be privately fostered. It’s vital that they get all the help they deserve.

“We can work closely with carers by giving valuable advice and support whilst also making sure the child or young person is in a safe environment.

“If a child is being privately fostered, it often means there have been difficulties involving their parents. This makes them vulnerable and we will do everything possible to wrap the best care around them.”

Usually a birth parent arranges private foster placements, which could take many forms. These include children coming from abroad to access education and health; children living with a friend’s family after separation, divorce or arguments at home; teenagers living with the family of a boyfriend or girlfriend; or children of people who are working anti-social hours after coming to this country to study or work.

Here’s some advice from the council on what should be done:

  • Parents and carers must let the council know six weeks in advance if they are setting up a private fostering arrangement, or as soon as possible if arrangements are made in an emergency. This will enable essential welfare checks to take place to make sure the child or young person receives the right support.
  • Parents retain parental responsibility for the child or young person, including financial responsibility, so they must ensure the arrangement is suitable and the carer has all the information they need to care for the child.
  • Children and young people who think they may be in a private fostering arrangement can contact the council for help and advice.
  • Teachers, health and other professionals must contact the council about a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention if they don’t think the arrangement has been or will be reported.
  • Members of the public should contact the council if they are aware or suspect that a child is living in a private fostering arrangement that hasn’t been reported.

Please contact the Children’s Services Duty and Advice team by calling 01484 456848. Children can also use this number or can call Childline on 0800 1111 (calls are free).