Local authorities are not being notified of the majority of private fostering arrangements, according to new research.
A survey published by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) shows 91% of UK adults do not know what private fostering is, or the fact it should be reported to the local council.
Private fostering is an arrangement where a child is looked after by someone who isn’t a close relative for 28 days or more, and includes trafficked children, unaccompanied asylum seekers, and teenagers estranged from their parents.
Government figures reveal that while there were more than 10,000 privately fostered children in the UK, local authorities were only told of 1,560 arrangements last year.
‘There could be thousands of children in private fostering arrangements that the authorities are totally unaware of,’ warned chief executive of BAAF, Caroline Selkirk. ‘It is important that local authorities know where these children are so that they can protect them and provide appropriate support. Please help us make sure these children don’t remain invisible.’
Chloe Setter, head of advocacy, policy and campaigns at ECPAT UK added: ‘Unregistered private fostering arrangements put children in an extremely vulnerable position. Many children in such placements are trafficked or at risk of trafficking and exploitation but these children are often invisible to protection services.
‘The lack of review and oversight of the placement makes identifying these children very difficult and little is known by the public about the obligations and risks. There is also a deficit of knowledge about child trafficking among some frontline practitioners, which means sometimes trafficking is not identified.’