Residents urged to report private fostering arrangements in Bournemouth and Dorset

Posted on Tuesday 27th June 2017

‘Everybody in the community has a role in keeping children safe’ – that’s the message from Bournemouth Council as part of Private Fostering Week (3-7 July 2017).

The Council is appealing to residents to let them know if they think a child in their community is being cared for by someone who is not a close relative.

Few people realise that there is a legal duty to report to the Council if they know about a child who is living in a private fostering arrangement. The Council is appealing to people who come into regular contact with children – neighbours, teachers, childcare and health professionals – to take their responsibility in ensuring the welfare of these potentially vulnerable children.

Private fostering is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a close relative. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether full blood or half blood or marriage).

Examples of private fostering include children sent by their parents from abroad to stay with another family via language schools or agents, usually to improve their English or for educational opportunities; teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives; and children living with members of their extended family due to their parents being unable to care for them for a period.

It is estimated that there are 10,000 children living in private fostering arrangements in England and Wales. Last year only 1,500 referrals were made to local authorities and only a small number were reported to Bournemouth Borough Council. Whilst many of these arrangements may be positive and the children considered to be safe, some children may be at risk of abuse or neglect. If Children’s Social Care are not informed of these arrangements, the abuse could go on for years. Victoria Climbié was murdered whilst living in a private fostering arrangement with her great aunt in 2000.

Councillor Nicola Greene, Bournemouth Council’s Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, said: “During this national week we want to take the opportunity to raise awareness of private fostering. The safety of children living locally is our priority and I would urge any residents, who may be looking after a child in a private fostering arrangement, to contact their local council. By law the Council must be informed about any private fostering arrangement to ensure safeguards are in place for the child and advice and support can be provided to the carer.”

When the Council is informed of children living in a private fostering arrangement, background checks are completed and a social worker is allocated to the child and private foster carer to ensure that they can access the help and support available.

Council support for private foster carers and children includes:

  • Arranging for a social worker to visit the private foster carers and the child
  • Assisting carers to fill in the necessary forms to apply to be a private foster carer
  • Helping to ensure that the child’s cultural, linguistic and religious needs are being met
  • Offering advice and support to the child, their parent(s) and private foster carers
  • Advice on claiming benefits
  • Help in bringing families in crisis back together.

Bournemouth Council has also agreed a contract with Dorset Council for the Bournemouth Private Fostering Team to manage and deliver a private fostering service in relation to all language and guardianship school students across Dorset.

For more information about private fostering or to report a private foster caring arrangement please contact the Council’s Private Fostering team.

Bournemouth: Tel 01202 123334

Dorset: Tel 01202 228866

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