Am I privately fostered?

What you need to know about getting advice and support at 16 and older

If you are under 16 years old (18 if you have a disability) and you are staying with someone who isn’t your parent, a close relative or a foster carer for more than 28 days, then you are privately fostered. This includes living with someone like a great aunt, great uncle, cousin or a friend’s family.

You are not privately fostered if you live with close relatives such as a step-parent, your brother, sister, grandparents, aunt or uncle or if you are ‘looked after’ and live with a foster carer or in a residential home.

You are privately fostered whether your parents made the arrangements for you or whether you made the arrangements yourself without their involvement or agreement. If Children’s Services made the arrangements for you directly, other laws and regulations will apply.

Under the regulations, Children’s Services must be satisfied about the arrangements and your welfare. Looking at your wider circumstances, Children’s Services may assess whether you are a “Child In Need” and may provide support through a “Child In Need Plan”.

What should happen as you approach 16?

Children’s Services should look again at your circumstances and your future plans. It will be important to know where you will be living, what financial support you will have, how any particular needs will be met with your health, identity, education or training, what support you can expect and from whom and where you can turn for future help if your circumstances change.

What happens at 16?

You may be able to continue living where you are and as you are, but Children’s Services responsibilities under the regulations will end (unless you have a disability). Children’s Services, however, may continue to support you as a “Child In Need” (up to age 18) or you could ask for support as a “Qualifying Care Leaver” (at any time up to the age of 21).

Support as a Child In Need

Children’s Services has a responsibility towards anyone under 18 who cannot meet their own needs and whose needs cannot be met by their parents or anyone else who is looking after them. If you are assessed as a Child In Need, you are entitled to a Child In Need Plan setting out how Children’s Services will help you.

Support for qualifying care leavers

Children’s Services (Leaving Care Service) can assist, befriend and support you as a Qualifying Care Leaver up to the age of 21. You can request help at anytime up to this age. Support will depend on assessment of your needs and the help you want and are willing to accept. If you want more than just “one off” advice, you should have a Case Plan setting out how Leaving Care will support you. The type of support could include:

  • Personal advice from a named worker
  • Finding somewhere to live and getting the knowledge and skills you need to live independently
  • Taking part in groups run by Leaving Care (such as the Smooth It Out Group or Cook ‘n’ Eat)
  • Health advice from the Care Leaver’s nurse
  • Help around education, training and employment
  • Support with vacation time accommodation if you go to University as a qualifying care leaver

Can I claim benefits?

If you are “estranged from your parents” or forced to live away from home for other reasons (such as ill treatment), you should be able to claim welfare benefits at 16. However, you will not be able to claim if you are living with a person who is treated as “acting in the place of a parent” (eg if your carer has claimed Child Benefit).

You may need support to explain your circumstances and help you with your claim. Welfare rights advice is available from the Information Shop for Young People.

What if I cannot stay where I am?

There are supported housing options for young people aged 16 to 25 where you can live and get the help you need to become “tenancy ready” to move into a flat of your own. Children’s Services and Housing both have responsibilities towards you if you become homeless under 18. The Housing Options Service should be able to help you if you become homeless over 18.

Where can I get advice?

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