A CAMPAIGN has been launched to raise awareness of private fostering and encourage people to inform council bosses if they are private foster carers.
The Hartlepool Borough Council campaign coincides with the nationwide Private Fostering Week, which gets under way on January 19.
It is estimated there are more than 10,000 children in Great Britain who are being privately fostered.
Despite the fact that there is a legal requirement for the local council to be notified, many private fostering arrangements go unreported.
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16, or under 18 if disabled, is cared for and living with someone who is not their parent, guardian or close relative for more than 28 days.
Close relatives are defined as grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts. They could be full or half relation and could be related by marriage.
In Hartlepool there are only two private fostering arrangements which the council have been notified about.
As part of the campaign the council is circulating posters and leaflets to raise awareness and is also targeting local media to spread the word.
Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board business manager Jim Murdoch said: "Many people may not be aware that if they are looking after a child full-time who is not closely related to them for a period of 28 days or more, they need to contact the council.
"We are able to offer a variety of support and advice to private foster parents just as we do to the many local authority foster parents in Hartlepool so it's important for people to get in touch.
"We would urge private foster parents to get in touch so we can follow the notification process and ensure they are given the appropriate support. Also, if anyone knows of a child that is being privately fostered we would urge them not to ignore it and get in touch too."
People should ring the council on (01429) 523872, but people can find more information by visiting the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board website by logging onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and selecting the link in this story.