Looking after someone else’s child

Many people don’t realise that if you care for someone else’s child, and they’re not a close relative, you must let your local council know. This applies to any child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is in such an arrangement for 28 days or more.

During Private Fostering Week (9-13 July), Dorset County Council is raising awareness of the legal obligations around caring for someone else’s child.

Cllr Steve Butler, Cabinet member for safeguarding, said: “By law, you must notify us if you are involved in private fostering, either as a parent or carer. As the local council, it’s our duty to make sure any fostered child is safe, healthy and happy. We can offer support and advice, both to the child and private foster carers.

“We are also urging teachers, health workers and other professionals to be vigilant and to inform us if they believe a child is being privately fostered.”

The ruling doesn’t apply when children are being looked after by ‘close relatives’, such as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (including a relation by marriage/civil partnership).

Some examples of private fostering arrangements are:

  • Parents are overseas and children stay with host families in the UK
  • Parents are ill and can’t look after their children
  • Children are living with friends due to parents’ separation or divorce

To let the county council know about a private fostering arrangement, email MASH@dorsetcc.gov.uk or phone 01202 228866.

Find out more on dorsetforyou.gov.uk – search for ‘private fostering’.