Are you looking after someone else’s child?

Merton Council is marking Private Fostering Week (3 – 7 July) by reminding residents to get in touch if they know a child is living with someone other than their parents or close relatives.

Private fostering is an informal arrangement made by a parent for a child under 16 years (or 18 if disabled) to be cared for by someone other than them or another close relative, for example a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, step-parent or grandparent, for more than 28 days.

Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the council about where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is safe, that the arrangement is suitable and that they have the right support and access to services.

There can be a number of reasons why a child is privately fostered, including a parent’s ill health or teenagers who move out of their parents’ home to stay with friends. Other children come to the UK to study and are staying with extended family members or a host family. A private foster carer might be a family friend, a cousin or a neighbour.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Katy Neep, said: “Whether you are looking after a young person or you know someone who is we want you to let the council know so that you and the young person can access support and advice. Alongside this it is also important that we ensure the young person is safe as unfortunately young people who are privately fostered can be at increased risk of abuse or trafficking.”

Staff from Merton council will be answering questions about private fostering and providing information in the Link at Merton Civic Centre in London Road, Morden, on Tuesday 4 July, Wednesday 5 July and Thursday 6 July between 10am and noon.

If you are aware of a child who has been living with someone who is not a close family member for more than 28 days, please contact the Merton Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8545 4227 or email:

For more information about private fostering, please call 020 8545 3672 or visit: