The team’s main purpose of the Private Fostering Team is to ensure that children in private fostering arrangements are safeguarded and that their needs are met accordingly.
The private fostering team assesses and works with local children and Ukrainian children who fall under private fostering arrangements by living with people who are not close family members. These are arrangements that have been made privately by the children’s parents. Examples of when a private fostering arrangement is made includes when relationships breakdown between parents and children, parents require short-term care for their child whilst they access medical care, parents going to prison, parents wishing to travel abroad and language students coming to the area to study English. A private fostering arrangement cannot be made when there are safeguarding concerns about the child’s parents. Children are considered to be in a private fostering arrangement when the arrangement is intended to last for 28 days or more and until the young person is 16 years old or 18 years old if they are Ukrainian Unaccompanied Minors or have a diagnosed disability. All of these children (except for language students) are considered as Children in Need due to living in a Private Fostering arrangement and are co-worked with either the Assessment and Safeguarding Team or Children’s and Family First. The Private Fostering Team can take the referral as soon as you think the arrangement could reach 28 days.
Most private fostering placements across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are made by language schools and guardianship agencies for children from overseas. The British Council accredits language schools and AEGIS accredits guardianship companies. English UK sets safeguarding standards for language schools. The agencies involved find placements for the students, usually in families (often known as host families) or residential providers including universities and B&Bs.
The team also works with boarding schools and children who stay with host families/private foster carers during school holidays.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for these kinds of placements decreased, so the private fostering team now completes assessment work for the Fostering Service also. This may change back to a private fostering-only caseload if the language schools' numbers increase again.
The BCP Council also has a contract for supplying a service to Dorset Council in respect of children attending language schools in Dorset (and who live in Dorset) under a private fostering arrangement.
Regulations that cover the team’s role and function and are set out in the Private Fostering National Minimum Standards. The receiving agency (i.e., private foster carer/language school must notify the council six weeks before a student arrives. A visit to the proposed adult carer is made within 7 working days of the notification (a Regulation four visit). The social worker visits the child or young person within seven days of their arrival (a Regulation seven visit). They then have 42 working days in which to complete an assessment including all checks of everyone aged over 16 in a supported lodging. Regulation eight visits are six weekly – the Private Fostering Team completes these every four weeks unless a child is in need (CIN) when visits are every two weeks. After a year, visits could reduce to every three months in private fostering arrangements where the child isn’t classed as in need (CIN), if this meets the needs of the child and private foster carer. If there are concerns about standards of care within the private fostering arrangement including safeguarding, the private fostering team is able to issue formal (legal) notification of Required Improvements or a Prohibition. The latter requires the child to leave the arrangement.
The team also has a responsibility to raise awareness inside and outside of children’s social care of the need to notify a private fostering arrangement.