Private Fostering Stories
A parents story
My husband and I work and live abroad but our daughter Jessica attends a boarding school in the UK. We had a family crisis and arranged for Jessica to stay with her school friend Laura’s family in the UK, rather than coming out to us. This arrangement was considered as private fostering because it lasted more than 28 days.
At first we thought it very strange that a social worker got involved because we considered ourselves responsible parents, able make safe arrangements for our child – but we did appreciate it when we learned that the friend’s family were happy to be going through checks and assessments – especially as we had not actually been able to meet them or visit their home.
We also found that Jessica’s social worker was a very useful point of contact. We could ask her to check that Jessica was happy and this made Jessica feel less isolated.
A private foster carer’s story
Tracey‘s best friend Rachel suddenly landed on our doorstep very late one evening. Tracey was in bed and I was really cross to think that Rachel just thought she could come and call her up at that late hour. However, when I realised how upset she was – she was sobbing and saying her step-father had thrown her out after a big family bust-up – I took her in, sat her down and heard the story.
Basically Rachel was saying she couldn’t live at home any more: her mother had been drinking heavily for years and her Mum and step-father had massive rows and always blamed her for all the upsets in the house and this had come to a head this evening and they had thrown her out. I wasn’t surprised as Tracey had been telling me things were very bad for Rachel at home.
By this time Tracey had woken up and she begged me to take Rachel in. I said OK but that I’d have to ring her Mum the next day to talk it over.
I spoke to Rachel’s Mum the next morning. She was still pretty angry with Rachel, but said it would really help the situation if Rachel could stay with us for a couple of months – just until the end of term – so that all the family could all have a ‘cooling off’ time. I said that was fine. We agreed that we’d let the girls’ school know what was going on.
When I spoke to Rachel and Tracey’s teacher she said what Rachel’s mother had arranged with me is called ‘private fostering’ and the law says, if Rachel was going to stay with my family for 28 days or longer, then Rachel’s Mum and I both had to contact our local Children’s Services office and tell them about the arrangement.
Rachel’s Mum and I were both a bit reluctant to inform the social workers as we couldn’t see why it was any of their business, but the school had explained to us that this is the law and that it’s about protecting children and checking that, if they are living away from their parents, they are being properly looked after and are not in any danger or risk.
The social workers visited me and Rachel and Rachel’s family and we all filled in lots of forms and had police checks done. The social worker had a long chat with Rachel and said she would be seeing her regularly while she was staying with us. Rachel found her easy to talk to and I am really glad that she now has someone outside of our family and her own family to share things with.
I feel very conscious that looking after someone else’s child is a big responsibility (even though Rachel’s mother remains legally responsible for her whilst she’s staying with us) and so I’m glad that we’ve been ‘checked out’ and told we’re OK and also that we’re not the only people providing support for Rachel.
I’m hoping that Rachel and her Mum and step-father will be able to sort things out soon, but in the meantime I feel we can help by having Rachel be part of our family.