Private Fostering – Don’t Keep it to Yourself!

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Being a parent can sometimes be challenging and there may be times when you may feel that your child is ‘better-off’ staying with a friend for a period of time until the challenges you are facing have passed. If your child stays with someone else for longer than 28 days, this arrangement could be recognised as a private fostering arrangement.

To raise awareness of Private Fostering, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is taking part in Private Fostering week, which runs from 21st February until 28th February and aims to raise awareness of the legal requirements associated with making these arrangements.

Private Fostering is where the parents make an arrangement for a child under the age of 16 years to stay with someone else who is not a close relative and has no parental responsibilities, and the child stays with that person (the private foster carer) for more than 28 days. For disabled children the age limit is 18 years.

Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. It is the responsibility of parents to inform Rhondda Cynon Taf Council about the arrangements; failure to do this could result in up to a £1000 fine.

Private Fostering occurs for many reasons: illness, work relocation, relationship problems, behavioural issues or possibly bereavement. In most cases the time apart can lead to a stronger, healthier and happier relationship between parent and child.

Mary-Ann needed time away from her parents when things seemed to be getting on top of her and her family:

“On bonfire night a rocket hit our garage and did a lot of damage. My mam was ill and she couldn’t really handle the pressure of the situation. We were running out of money because of the accident and we were all getting upset and losing our temper. We couldn’t take it any more and we were letting our anger out on each other. I couldn’t take the pressure of always getting told off and I was always chucking things back at them.”

“So I just packed my stuff and turned up at my friend’s door saying can I just stay here for a few nights and it happened from there really.”

“I was privately fostered for about a year. It was a nice experience but I had to get used to the changes. But it changed my opinion about how I should treat people, instead of losing my temper.”

“My parents were a bit upset at first but finally understood I needed some space to calm down.”

“After the first year, I still felt the same about my mam, but a social worker asked me if I wanted to see her again. It took me a few weeks to build up the courage to do it but eventually I did. And after a few weeks I was back living with my family.”

“Being privately fostered definitely helped my relationship with my parents.”

Mary-Ann’s story highlights the successes of some Private Fostering arrangements. Sadly, not all work as well as this. Faith was only 12 when her mother died and her dad wasn’t able to cope with his grief and a teenage daughter, so Faith arranged to move in with a friend, who from the outside seemed to have the perfect family life. Instead of finding a new family, Faith’s life began to get even worse; she was physically and mentally abused and treated like a slave.

Faith’s story:

“I had to wake up between 5 and 7, clean the house, wake up the kids and bath the young one before she goes to nursery. I had to cook food for the other ones, and my friend and her husband.

“My friend’s mother used to beat me almost every day. She said I wasn’t allowed to sleep next to her babies because they were like princesses and I’m her slave. So I had to sleep downstairs on the floor and it was so cold. If I went upstairs I would get beaten. I was only 12 and it was like hell to me, I’d lost my mother and felt like my dad didn’t want me, I was trapped!”

“When I was going to school one girl used to ask me why I came in with scratches and bruises. I started crying and told her what was happening. She told me I had to tell someone or my new family would kill me. Then one day after a really bad beating I packed my stuff. My friend asked me what I was doing and I told her I was going to wash my clothes. I went out the back and started running and running.

“I’m much happier now I don’t have to sleep on the floor, and go in and out when I like but I feel my private fostering arrangement spoiled my childhood.

“Luckily for me, my dad pulled himself together and is now the best dad in the world, so in some ways, things worked out. I just wish somebody had been checking up on my placement and helped me when I felt so trapped.”

If Faith’s dad had notified the Council, she would not have had to endure this torment, as a social worker would have been assigned to ensure that she was safe and well looked after.

Councillor Annette Davies, Cabinet Member for Children and Equality, said: “It is extremely important that parents notify the Council if they enter into a Private Fostering arrangement. Although in many cases the placements are successful, some children are put in very vulnerable positions that could result in them being harmed, physically and or emotionally. The Council is here to help you ensure your child is in a safe, happy environment, while you take the time you need to work through the difficulties you may face.”

If you have or are considering arranging a Private Fostering placement for your child, or if you know that a child has been privately fostered, please contact the Council on 01443 490400 or email privatefostering@rctcbc.gov.uk Alternatively visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk for further information.

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