Private fostering

If you are looking after someone else’s child, or if someone is looking after your child for 28 days or more, this could be a private fostering arrangement. The law requires you to notify your local council about the arrangement.  We can then offer you information, support, and advice.

What is private fostering

Private fostering is when a child or young person under the age of 16 years old (18 if they have a disability) is looked after for 28 days or more by someone who isn’t a close relative, guardian, or person with parental responsibility. Close relatives include parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. The law states that carers and parents must notify the Local Authority of any private fostering arrangement. They need to be sure that the child is safe, happy and healthy and offer support to you as a private foster carer when needed.

It is not private fostering if the arrangement was made by Children's Services or if the person looking after the child is an approved foster carer.

Reasons a child may be privately fostered

A private fostering arrangement might happen for a many reasons. This might include:

  • a teenager living with the family of a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a school friend because of a family breakdown
  • a child living with a friend of their family because of a separation, divorce, or arguments at home
  • a child needing to be cared for because a parent has a long-term illness and is unable to look after their child
  • a child being sent to England by their parents who are living overseas
  • a child needing to be cared for because their parent(s) work away from home or work particularly long or unsociable hours.

Your responsibility as a private foster carer

You must notify Isle of Wight Council Children’s Social Care Department of your intention to privately foster a child. We need to make sure that you:

  • obtain written consent from the parents to have the day to day responsibility of their child
  • keep in touch with the child’s parents
  • make sure you have the background information (including medical history) of the child before he or she is placed with you
  • register the child at your GP.

Tell us about a private foster care arrangement

The law requires that children’s social care be told about a private foster care arrangement. This needs to happen at least six weeks before you intend to privately foster a child or young person. However, if such an arrangement is made in an emergency, then Children’s Services should be informed within 48 hours of you caring for a child or young person.

If the private fostering arrangement changes or ends, you must tell us within 48 hours of the placement ending. The name and address of the person who has taken over the care of the child must be provided.

Contact Hampshire Council direct on 0300 300 0117 or email

The reason Children's Services need to know is that the Children’s Act 1989 gives the local authority's children’s services a legal duty to safeguard the wellbeing of all children. This includes making sure children are:

  • safe
  • well looked after
  • healthy
  • receive an education
  • encouraged to reach their full potential
  • keep in touch with people who are important to them 
  • are supported when they become independent.
More information

If you would like more information about private fostering or if you want to inform children’s social care about a private fostering arrangement, contact Hampshire Council.

Read the UK Government information about private fostering at Looking after someone else's child.