Just two families in the town are currently registered as being in a Private Fostering arrangement – but it is thought there are likely to be many others who are simply unaware of the issue.
Middlesbrough Council’s Safeguarding and Children’s Care Services team is using Private Fostering Week (Monday, July 6 – Friday, July 10) to raise awareness and encourage people to ask the question ‘is that us?’.
A privately fostered child is an under-16 (or under-18 if disabled) who is cared for by someone who is not a direct family member or legal guardian for 28 days or more in that person’s home.
These arrangements are made privately and the responsibility for the welfare and support financially of the child remains with parents.
However, under the Children Act 2004 there is a legal necessity that the Local Authority is made aware of such arrangements.
Legislation was brought in following the Victoria Climbie Inquiry which followed the death of a nine-year-old girl in London in 2000.
The regulations aim to ensure that private fostering arrangements are notified to the Local Authority so that checks can be done to ensure that the child is safe and well cared for and the foster carers receive any support that they might need.
Despite this, 15 years after Victoria’s death private fostering remains significantly under-reported.
Samantha Addison, Service Manager for Safeguarding and Children’s Care Services with Middlesbrough Council, said: “It is completely understandable that through a lack of knowledge and awareness of Private Fostering that many people will be in this situation without knowing the need to notify.
“Those that are will no doubt just be doing what they think right and providing care and a home for a child and may be in no need of any assistance, however it is essential that the local authority is made aware and can be assured that a suitable home environment is in place.
“We would just like to ask that anyone in Middlesbrough who cares for someone else’s child asks themselves ‘is that us? Might we be in a Private Fostering arrangement?’.”
While there are no accurate numbers for children living in Private Fostering arrangements it is estimated that nationally there could be between 10,000 and 20,000.
In Middlesbrough, the local authority are currently only notified of two such arrangements, and in the last three years that number has only ever been as high as 10.
Monica Di Meo, a Social Worker with Middlesbrough Council, said: “All families tend to have their own individual set up and go with what works for them and that is absolutely fine.
“We just want to be able to let those in a Private Fostering arrangement know that there is a need for them to let us know about it so we can ensure the child’s welfare and offer support and advice.”
If you know of a child being privately fostered it is advised that you speak to the child’s carer or inform your local authority’s private fostering team, in Middlesbrough on 01642 726004, in Redcar & Cleveland on 01642 774774, in Stockton on 01642 527764 or Hartlepool on 01429 284284.