People who are caring for someone else's child – or know someone who is – are being reminded that they must tell the City of Wolverhampton Council about the arrangement.
The council has a legal responsibility to support children who are being "privately fostered" so it can provide help and support to the child and their carer.
A young person under the age of 16 – or 18 if they have a disability – is privately fostered it they are being cared for by someone who is not a parent, guardian, close relative or other person with parental responsibility for more than 28 days without the involvement of the council.
They are not privately fostered if the arrangement has been made with the council, or if the person looking after the child is an approved foster carer. The law states that people must tell the council about a private fostering arrangement at least six weeks before it starts, or immediately if it is any later or already underway, so that the council can ensure the child is being well cared for and receiving a proper education, and that their private foster carer is given the help and support they need.
Jazmine Walker, Head of Service for Children and Young People, said: "Children can be privately fostered for a number of reasons, perhaps because their parents are overseas, their parents are experiencing a difficult period in their life or maybe because they have had family dispute and are living with a friend for a short time.
"Private foster carers carry out a really important role and we can offer them support and guidance to be able to do this, but we can only do this if we know about it. Many private fostering arrangements remain hidden, potentially leaving children vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
"We continue to share information about private fostering to develop knowledge in communities and with professionals of these arrangements. Our aim is to ensure children in these circumstances are well supported and that their private foster carer has the help and support they need to carry out this important role.
"I'd therefore urge anyone who is either looking after someone else's child or knows someone who is, to contact us as soon as possible to ensure we can make sure the child and their carers are properly supported." Anyone who knows of a child who is in a private fostering arrangement is asked to please call the council on 01902 555392.
An arrangement is likely to be classed as private fostering if a child lives with a cousin, great aunt, great uncle or great grandparent, friend or neighbour, divorced step-parent, a host family – for instance if the child is on an exchange programme – or at an independent boarding school if the child remains for more than two weeks during holidays. Children are not classed as being privately fostered if they are living with grandparents, aunts or uncles, step-parents or brothers and sisters over the age of 18.