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Private foster child doesn't want to return home

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:32 pm
by Busymum
Hello everyone!

Hoping that someone can point us in the right direction. I have a 15 year old private foster child living with me, and as far as her social worker is concerned she's here to allow family mediation to happen so that she can return home to live with her mother (dad hasn't been around since she was 3).

It's been over a year since she lived at home, and in this time she's had no contact with her mother, and has made it very clear that she doesn't want to. SS have not yet arranged a single mediation session.

I'm concerned on two fronts- firstly they keep saying that private fostering arrangements end at 16, which is fast approaching. What happens to her then? I really hope that she can work on her relationship with her mum but I think if they just pick her up and drop her there at the moment she'll either run away or have a breakdown (she's been hospitalised for mental health before). Secondly as a family we are thinking of moving house over the summer, and would be in a different council area. What happens if we do? Will they try to force her home? She's with us because there isn't another placement for her.

Any advice appreciated! I just want her to be okay, I came from a similar background and ran away at 16, and I don't want to put anyone through that. She's a sweet and clever girl.

Re: Private foster child doesn't want to return home

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 3:09 pm
by Suzie, FRG Adviser
Dear Busymum

Welcome to the Family and Friends discussion board.

My name is Suzie, online adviser at Family Rights Group.

In your post you describe the child in your care as a private foster child. I would like to ask a couple of questions regarding this to find out whether it is in fact a private fostering arrangement of one where children’s service should have been treating you as a foster carer.
Firstly, how did the child come to be in your care? Did her mother make an arrangement with you? Did a social worker play a major role in her placement with you? Were any restrictions placed on contact by children’s services? Did the child’s mother sign a consent (known as section 20) for her daughter to be with you?

If the answer to the above questions are yes, I think you should have been assessed as a foster carer and paid the appropriate fostering allowance. This would mean that she is a looked after child (although not in care) and children’s services have particular duties where a child is in the care system. Please read our advice sheet relating to Duties on Children’s Services when children are in the care system

Our advice sheet Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency explains what should happen in an emergency situation. Also, read Support for relatives and friends who are looking after someone else’s child as well as Family and Friends Care: becoming a foster carer

In a private fostering situation children’s services should be informed within 28 days of the arrangement and would visit to check that it was a safe placement. Our A-Z of terms explains what happens in a private fostering arrangement and a link is here for your information.

Should it be the case that you fall within the situation where the child is looked after you can ask the social worker to explain why you have not been assessed as a foster carer? Ask to be assessed and for the child to be treated as looked after and payment of the fostering allowance backdated to the date the child came into your care.

You refer to the young person in your care having had mental health problems in the past, this suggests she is a vulnerable child and children’s services should have assessed her as a child in need and provide appropriate support for her. I suggest you ask the social worker why this has not happened, if that it is the case.

Regarding the arrangement ending at 16 this will depend on her actual status, if a looked after child, children’s services has duties towards her. If not, she would still be a child in need in their local area to whom they have a duty. She could at that age ask children’s services to accommodate her and they would have to carry out an assessment to see if she can safely return home or provide her with accommodation as a looked after child.

Children’s services cannot expect you to change your plans for your family. If your plans are to move you can do so. As a looked after child children’s services could transfer the case to the new area. I think you should write to children’s services and ask for an explanation of what will happen to her once you move.

If there is no other placement for her with her mother or other family member then children’s services have a responsibility to provide accommodation for a child in need to ensure she is safeguarded.

Should you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes,


Re: Private foster child doesn't want to return home

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 10:05 pm
by Busymum
Thanks for your advice Susie.

The child is currently classed as a child in need. She came to us when her previous placement came to an end (She had been staying with a family member, but the relationship broke down after frequent disagreements with her mother). The child was at school and didn't have anywhere to go, social worker had refused to attend. School called us to ask if we could have her overnight and she's been here since. Social worker telephoned a few days later to ask if she could run a police check but didn't attend for 3 weeks. We now have 6 weekly visits and child in need meetings.

4 months later they classified it as a private foster agreement and we now have a written agreement with her mother, through the social worker (only ever met her at the child in need meetings). She hasn't had any contact, but hasn't asked for any. Child is adamant she doesn't want any contact and that she doesn't feel safe to return home. I text the mother with updates but that's about it, the agreement says she will financially provide for her child but she says she's waiting for benefits to come through and haven't had any to date.

I did challenge the private foster arrangement with the social workers manager at a child in need meeting, as I think as a looked after child she would get an advocate and more support, but was told that I'm wrong as the matter hasn't been to court. I know that there wasn't a section 20 order and the child is with us 'because the mother consented to the placement'. There isn't a child protection order either.

To me it feels like they are dragging things out until she's 16 and they can close the case, but maybe I'm just cynical haha.

Re: Private foster child doesn't want to return home

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:08 pm
by Suzie, FRG Adviser
Dear Busymum

Thank you for your updating post.

I am very surprised to read that a social worker refused to attend when contacted by school that a child did not want to go home or the placement she was living in had broken down. That is certainly not what should have happened.

Children’s services have taken the view that because you collected her from the school then it was a private arrangement with her mother. This means they are treating the placement as a private fostering arrangement. It is completely wrong that the court need to be involved for a child to be ‘looked after’. A child can be looked after in the following instances:

This means any child who is being cared for by Children's Services or who is remanded by a youth court. There are three main types of looked after children:-
• those who are in care (i.e. they are removed from home under a court order, for example a Care Order or Emergency Protection Order);
• those who are accommodated (i.e. they are in the care system with the agreement of their parents/others with parental responsibility (see children in accommodation); and
• those who are on remand because they are awaiting trial for a criminal offence
When a child is looked after (and not on remand) they may be placed:
• with the other parent/other person with parental responsibility, provided they are suitable, but if there is no sutiable parent then in the most appropriate placement. When deciding which is the most appropriate placement, preference should be given to placing them
• with a relative, friend or other connected person who is approved as a foster carer. Otherwise they will be placed
• in foster care or a residential unit.
However, if they are on remand, they will be placed in Youth Detention Accommodation (secure training centre, secure children's home or youth offender institution) or in local authority accommodation (for example with a foster carer).
Since you took the child in at the school’s request (it was not for the school to do this), then I think you could make a formal complaint that the social worker failed to take appropriate action to safeguard the child. This is what it means for a child to be accommodated:

Accommodation is when a child or young person is cared for by Children’s Services because:
• there is no-one with parental responsibility for them or
• they have been lost or abandoned or
• the person normally caring for them is unable to provide them with suitable accommodation or care (whether this is temporary or permanent), for whatever reason. This is also known as section 20.
• Children's Services may not provide accommodation for a child if someone with parental responsibility objects and can provide accommodation themselves or arrange for someone else to provide accommodation;
• A person with parental responsibility can remove a child from accommodation at any time (although there are some exceptions to this). It is essential to take legal advice first before doing this.
Before or immediately after a child is accommodated by Children’s Services, the social worker should draw up a care plan for the child and should get the agreement of their parents or those with parental responsibility or the young person themselves if they are aged 16 or 17 to the plan. If there is no parent/person with parental responsibility and the young person is under 16, they can ask the last person caring for the child if they agree with the child's care plan.
The care plan should set out how the accommodation arrangement can be ended and what the contact arrangements are whilst the child is away from home.
There is no court order when a child is accommodated and Children's Services does not have parental responsibility for them.
If a child is ‘accommodated' it means he or she is being ‘looked after'.

The above is taken from our A-Z of terms for which there is a link here

You will see from the advice sheet relating to children’s services’ duties included in the previous post that duties to children in the care system.

Should you wish to make a formal complaint about how you have been treated, here is our advice sheet Challenging decisions and making complaints .

It must be difficult to be caring for this child without any financial support from children’s services or the child’s mother. I think you should insist on being given financial support from children’s services, she is being treated as a child in need and therefore they can provide section 17 payments. I suggest you write a letter to the Director of Children's Services explaining how this child came to be in your care and the fact that you receive no support.

Just to clarify s.20 is not a court order but a parent’s consent to a child being accommodated by children’s services.

I hope this is helpful but do please telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366 if you wish to speak to and adviser. The advice line is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).

Best wishes


Re: Private foster child doesn't want to return home

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:46 pm
by Busymum
Thank you again Suzie

I am confused, I've been told that she isn't a looked after child, because she isn't in care. I was trying to arrange an advocate for her but she was told she isn't entitled to one as a child in need, but would be as a looked after child.