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Looking after someone else's child (private fostering)

What is private fostering?

Private fostering is when a child under 16 years old (or 18 if they have a disability) is living and being cared for by someone who is not a close relative or parent for more than 28 days. These arrangements are made privately and informally. A private foster carer may be:

  • A neighbour
  • A cousin
  • A family friend

It is not classed as private fostering if the carer is a close relative , for example:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Step-parents
  • Aunts or uncles

Private fostering is not the same as regular fostering. Regular foster carers have been formally assessed and approved by the Local Authority, and then work with us to look after other people's children. If carers who are privately fostering a child do not inform the Local Authority then they will be without support.  

Why might a child be privately fostered?

Each example of private fostering will be different depending on family circumstance and needs. Examples of why a child may be privately fostered include:

  • A child living with a friend of his/her family because of separation, divorce or arguments at home
  • A teenager living with the family of a boyfriend/girlfriend due to a family breakdown
  • A child needing to be cared for because his/her parent has a long-term illness and is unable to look after the child
  • A child from overseas staying with a host family while attending a language school, or overseas students at boarding school who stay with a host family during holidays
  • A child needing to be cared for because his/her parent(s) work away from home or work particularly long/unsociable hours

What do I need to do?

What do I need to do if I think I may be privately fostering or I am planning to have my child privately fostered?

  • If you are a parent or someone caring for a child in these circumstances then you need to inform the Local Authority about the arrangement
  • Ideally this should be between 6 and 13 weeks before the child goes to live with private foster carer
  • If the private fostering arrangement happens in an emergency and is likely to last more than 28 days, you must tell the council as soon as possible
  • If you are a professional and you become aware of a private fostering arrangement then you need to make a referral to the Contact and Referral Team. You need to inform the child/young person and their family that you have a responsibility to do this

Tell us about a private fostering arrangement

To notify the council about a private fostering arrangement, or to get more information, please contact the Referral and Assessment Service:

The Contact and Referral Team
Phone: 0191 456 5010

Emergencies: If you need to speak to a social worker in an emergency out of normal office hours (before 8.30am and after 5pm) phone the Out of Hours Team on 0191 456 2093 to speak to a social worker. 

What happens next?

Once notified we have a duty to contact the child, carers and parents. We will undertake checks and enquiries to ensure that the carers are suitable as private foster carers and they can meet the child's needs. We will then conduct follow up visits to the child/young person and their carers every 6 weeks for the first year, and every 12 weeks thereafter and ensure that all appropriate support is in place.

Why does the Council need to be involved?

South Tyneside Council wants people who arrange for their child to be cared for by someone who is not close family to let us know and get support.

Notifying the council of private fostering arrangements is a legal requirement.

The council does not want to disrupt the arrangements that you have made, but needs to know about the arrangement so it can check that children are safe and being properly cared for. The council also wants to make sure that you are getting the help you need.

Private fostering related documents

Friends and Family policy436.66KB

Private Fostering- A guide for parents2.26MB

Private Fostering- A carers guide2.17MB

Private Fostering- A guide for children and young people1.34MB

Other sources of information

Visit the somebody else's child website

Watch the somebody else's child film - a guide to fostering for someone you know

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