WARRINGTON Safeguarding Partnership is launching its first-ever Private Fostering Month during October to raise awareness and educate residents.
Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 – or under 18 if they have a disability – is cared for on a full-time basis by adults, who are not their parents or a close relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparents) for 28 days or more.
The law requires parents, prospective private foster carers, and anyone involved in arranging for a child to be privately fostered to notify the council of the arrangement. However, many private foster carers, parents and those working with children and families are not aware of this requirement and, as a result, many private fostering arrangements remain hidden, leaving some children vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
There has been cases where privately fostered children have been neglected, injured, or who have died as a result of arrangements being hidden, or not properly monitored. In February 2000, eight-year-old Victoria Climbie died in the care of her great aunt after being brought to the UK. The enquiry into her death highlighted how partner agencies failed to protect her and monitor the arrangement to make sure she was properly cared for.
Now, children’s services have a duty to assess and monitor all children to ensure placements are suitable, and that children are safe and well cared for, and that all their needs are met.
Some people don’t realise that it is the responsibility of the child’s parent, carer, or adult involved in the fostering arrangement, to notify their local council. If any professional becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement, such as being notified by the child’s teacher or school, they also have a duty to inform the council.
According to research commissioned by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (CORAMBAAF) in 2015, 91% of the UK adult population don’t know what private fostering is. Many councils are concerned that lots of private fostering arrangements are still unreported due to the lack of public and professional understanding about what it is, and what needs to be done when it happens.
Cllr Matt Smith, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “In Warrington, the number of private fostering arrangements reported to the council remains low, and there are likely to be many more arrangements in the area that we haven’t been told about.
“By letting us know about a private fostering arrangement, you can also get help to support the child in your care. For example, if the child or young person needs help with their health or education, which would be difficult for a private foster carer to access without support, a social worker can facilitate regular meetings to discuss the situation, and make suitable arrangements to ensure the child’s needs are met.”
If you are a Warrington resident and are privately fostering a child, or you think a child is currently in a private fostering arrangement and you need advice, please contact the council. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with some basic information about the arrangement, or call 01925 443400.
To learn more about Private Fostering month, visit warrington.gov.uk/private-fostering-month