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Private Fostering & Host Families

There is a plethora of laws that help to keep children safe in the UK. Until recently, HFS London only offered homestays for students over the age of 16. However, we have seen an emergence in younger students applying for homestay in recent years and have now started catering for students between 10 and 16 years old .

Schools across the world are now sending their students to study overseas from as young as 8 years old. The purposes of these visits vary with most of them heading for English language schools or even summer camps. It may seem inconceivable to some parents out there but with a process as rigorous as the one set out by the UK government you’ll find there is little reason to worry.

What is private fostering?

A homestay legally becomes private fostering once a child younger than 16 has stayed 28 days or longer with someone other than their parents or legal guardian. Any stay beyond this point will need to have been authorised by the local authority with the consent of a guardian. Plans would need to be made well in advance if you are planning on sending your child to the UK for longer.

In addition to the fostering or accommodation agency, there are essentially 4 other parties involved in private fostering – the parents, the local authority, a social worker and the host family. In the beginning the process will be constructed and administered by the former 2 – the parents and the local authority. Financial responsibility will lie with the parent and the local authority will be in charge of regular monitoring of the child during their private fostering period. Beyond this, the child is looked after and cared for by the host family.

How can HFS London help?

HFS London has in place a structured system that makes the process of homestay very straightforward for younger (U18s) students. Both the student and their legal guardian will have peace of mind when considering accommodation for the duration of their course. We handpick hosts that we think would be a great match for students under the age of 18. They are then all registered on the Disclosure and Barring Service and submitted to background and reference checks.

Many of these hosts will have previous experience looking after children, be it from an educational background or from caring for their own.

Our eligible hosts are all located within zones 1 -4. Many of those hosts in zone 4 are on the Central Line, guaranteeing direct links to central London. They have also seen plenty of success hosting all ages of students and have built up a solid relationship with the HFS team. Aside from the legalities involved, we also have our own requirements in place for hosts to adhere to. Here are a few:

  • Greeting students upon their arrival in the UK
  • Knowing the general whereabouts of the students at all times by requesting a copy of their school schedule
  • Imposing a curfew to ensure families are aware when the student comes home
  • Showing them to the closest station on their first day and to help them with the purchasing of an Oyster card. (Not a requirement, but strongly advised.)

Hosts must also sign a declaration on our safeguarding policies which outline all the essential process involved in looking after minors.

With emphasis on all the above, younger students are finding their time at their homestay safe as well as comfortable and rewarding.

Become a host with HFS London

We are going to be honest when we say that there is slightly more responsibility involved in hosting younger students. Here at HFS however we would only look to take on hosts who are happy to commit to these extra liabilities and who have an interest in looking after children. If you would like to find out more then give us a call, drop us an email or even leave a question for us below.

HFS is always on the lookout for host families, even if hosting U18s is not for you. We deal with thousands of student applications a year from students aged 18+.

Interested in hosting students aged over 18, under 18 (or both)? Our application form can be found here.


“How long can my child stay in a homestay?”

Children under the age of 16 can stay for up to 28 days (not inclusive) in one homestay accommodation. After this, it becomes private fostering.

“Are HFS currently accepting under 16 students?”

At the time of writing this, no. However, HFS London will be providing homestay for students under 16 from January 2020.

“Who will my child be staying with?”

One of our fabulous host families. We have a large number of hosts eligible to accept 16 and 17 year olds. Many of these hosts will be qualified to take on under 16s too come January 2020.

“Where are your hosts located?”

Currently, all our host families are located within London in zones 1 – 4. The majority of hosts accepting younger students are located either in Central London, or with great transport links to it.

“What is my child going to eat?”

Eligible host families will be providing the children with a full board meal package. This includes a continental breakfast, packed lunch and cooked dinner.

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