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Private fostering arrangements

Are you looking after someone else's child?

Watch a video about private fostering

Video transcript

Are you caring for someone else’s child?

Who is not a close relative.

Who is under 16.

For 28 days or more.

And has not been arranged by Oxfordshire County Council.

If so, you must inform us.

You might be entitled to further support.

If so, you must inform us.

What is private fostering?

Private fostering’ is the name for an informal arrangement made by parents and carers for a child to live with another family. A child is automatically being ‘privately fostered’ if they are:

Under the age of 16 (or 18 if the child is disabled)


They are being cared for and provided with accommodation by someone who is not a close relative*


The arrangement has lasted or is intended to last for 28 days or more.

*Close relatives are parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle or step parent (by marriage) but not a cousin, grand aunt or a family friend.

When is it private fostering?

Private fostering covers a wide range of situations. Here are some of the most common within Oxfordshire:

  • Teenagers living with friends or extended family following problems at home
  • Children who stay with another family while their own parents are unable to care for them (due to hospital admission, prison sentence, or family crisis)
  • Children sent to the UK for education or health care by birth parents living overseas.

It is not private fostering if:

  • The carer is the child’s legal parent (by birth or adoption)
  • The carer has a legal order which gives them parental responsibility
  • The carer is an approved foster carer and/or the arrangement was made by social services
  • The arrangement lasts for less than 28 days.

Tell us

If you are privately fostering a child or if your child is being privately fostered you must notify your local authority.


Privately fostering a child is legal, but not notifying the local authority is against the law.

More about private fostering

Assessing private fostering arrangements

We have a duty make sure that private fostering arrangements are satisfactory. We are required to visit the child in the private foster home and assess of the suitability and safety of the home placement.

When you have notified us about an arrangement, a social worker will arrange to visit you and the child in your home to meet you and all members of your household.

We will create a written report. You will be asked to complete police check forms and provide details of your GP. Provided the assessment is satisfactory, the social worker will visit at six weekly intervals in the first year, and three monthly intervals in the second and onwards until the child reaches 16.

What help and support am I entitled to while fostering?

Private foster carers are entitled to certain welfare benefits, as well as comprehensive advice, support and training. Responsibility for overall cost of the placement rests with the parent.

You may be entitled to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits for a privately fostered child. Contact your local benefits agency office who will be able to advise you.

What if the child is leaving my care?

You must tell us if a child is leaving your care. You must also say why the child is leaving and give the name and address of the person who will be looking after them

Information for health, education and social care professionals

To help us safeguard children in private fostering arrangements, we rely on other childcare professionals’ awareness of new legislation and their awareness about children’s living arrangements.

As many private foster carers are not even aware of the ‘need to notify’, we rely on other professionals passing this information on to colleagues, parents and carers, and actively identifying arrangements.

Contacting us

For enquiries about a possible private fostering arrangement and to discuss it with someone contact our Private Fostering Team.

To report a private fostering arrangement complete the private fostering notification form (docx format, 54Kb) or call 0345 050 7666. If you are a professional use the MASH referral form.

Further information