Portsmouth City Council is reminding residents, and educational and health professionals, of their responsibilities around private fostering. 

Private fostering differs from fostering directly through the city council, occurring where a child under 16, or under 18 if they are disabled, lives with, or intends to live with, an adult who is not a close relative for 28 days or more. It is a private arrangement made by the parent and the carers, and in some circumstances is a choice made by the child.

It is now a legal requirement for the parent of a child who is being looked after by someone else, or for the person looking after someone else’s child, to let the council know six weeks before the arrangement begins, or within 48 hours of an emergency arrangement starting. 

The council is also asking education and health professionals to remain particularly aware, as they are often the first people to realise that these arrangements are in place, and have a duty to satisfy themselves that the local authority has been notified.  Professionals should also advise the private foster carer and/or parent of the legal requirement to notify the local authority.

There are various reasons why a child may not be living at home, and have another adult caring for them, for example due to a family relationship breakdown, parental custodial sentence, parental illness, parental homelessness, or a parent being away with work. More specific examples may include situations where a 15 year old girl chooses to go and live with her friend's family for a couple of months, or a language student under 16 travels to Portsmouth for 6 weeks to learn English.

Cllr Rob Wood, the council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "We are particularly keen for people to report potential cases of private fostering to the council, to help ensure that children within these arrangements remain as safe as possible. The safety of the most vulnerable children and young people in the city is a council priority."

If any parent, carer, education or health professional, or member of the pubic suspects that a child is in a private fostering situation, please email pccraduty@portsmouthcc.gcsx.gov.uk, or tel: 02392 68 8793. For more information on private fostering in general, please visit privatefostering.org.uk.