Council urges people to protect children

PUBLISHED: 15:05 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:08 17 June 2010

DEVON County Council is urging people across the County to help them protect vulnerable children living under private fostering arrangements. The call to action is part of a national campaign called Somebody Else s Child, which is run by the British Assoc

DEVON County Council is urging people across the County to help them protect vulnerable children living under private fostering arrangements.

The call to action is part of a national campaign called Somebody Else's Child, which is run by the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, and aims to raise awareness of private fostering.

Children living with someone who isn't their parent or carer for more than four weeks are classed as living under this arrangement. Many are unknown to the local authority, meaning they are potentially open to abuse or neglect.

Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is being properly looked after. Nobody knows exactly how many children are privately fostered, but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that some of these 'invisible' children could be at risk of abuse, or victims of trafficking.

Last year, there were 22 notifications of private fostering arrangements in Devon. However there is likely to be many times this number in the county. The Council is particularly asking people who work with children to be aware of private fostering and contact them immediately if they suspect such an arrangement. They say the general public also has a part to play.

Private foster carers who do not notify the Council may also be missing out on important information and support, such as financial advice about benefits to which they may be entitled.

Councillor John Smith, Executive Member for Children and Young People's Services, said: "Everybody has a role in keeping our children safe - whether you are a teacher, youth worker, neighbour or just chat to the other parents at the school gate. If you hear about a child who is being privately fostered please let us know immediately so we can ensure the child is being kept safe.

"Our message is simple: If you think you might be privately fostering, get in touch with us now - it is against the law not to do so and you may be entitled to benefits and support which the council can help identify.

"If your child is living with someone outside your immediate family, or you are in the process of arranging this, you should notify the council. And if you work with children and young people and think you may know a privately fostered child, talk to their carer, but if they are reluctant to tell us, please get in touch.

"If we do not know about these children, they remain hidden and we are unable to check that they are safe."

Once a local authority knows about a private fostering agreement, a social worker will check the suitability of the arrangement and continue to make regular visits to make sure the child is safe and well cared for, as well as offering information and support to carers. The council has the power to remove a child from a private foster care placement if it has concerns for the child's welfare.

To find out more about private fostering and how to notify Devon County Council of a private fostering arrangement, go to www.devon.gov.uk or call 0845 155 1013.


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