When a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for 28 days or more by someone who is not their parent or a close relative this is called a private fostering arrangement. It is a private arrangement between a parent and the carer. The local council is not usually involved but the carer or parent should notify the Council.
Close relatives are defined as grandparents, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage) or step-parent (a parent’s unmarried partner is not a step-parent in this context).
The London Borough of Merton has a legal duty to ensure that any child or young person is safe, well looked after and does not come to any harm in a private fostering arrangement, by making sure that he/she and their carer are visited regularly and offered advice and guidance when needed.
What you must do
The law requires you to notify Merton’s Children’s Services within 6 weeks of:
- Your child going to stay with someone who is not a close relative for 28 days or more, or
- You are going to look after someone else’s child for 28 days or more
If you are a professional who becomes aware of a child in any private fostering situation – whether proposed or where the placement has begun – you must advise the private fostering carer, the parents and any other person involved in making the arrangements to contact the office below. You should advise to them that it is a potential offence not to do so.
How to notify Merton Children’s Social Care
If you are aware of a child who may be in a private fostering arrangement, or who may potentially be placed in a private fostering arrangement you must contact the Children and Families Hub (formerly known as the MASH) Team on 020 8545 4226 or 020 8545 4227