Published Tuesday 2 July 2019 at 14:24
A renewed appeal is being launched this week to highlight the issue of private fostering – a little known informal arrangement where a child lives with somebody else other than their parents or immediate family.
During Private Fostering Week and throughout the year, Blackburn with Darwen Council will be working with partners such as health, education, school nurses, safeguarding leads, district nurses, GPs, dentists, Police, Fire and North West Ambulance Service to ensure they are aware of private fostering and when referrals need to be made.
Official figures suggest that there are few children in Blackburn and Darwen in private fostering arrangements, but there could be more children we don’t know about. This could leave them in a potentially vulnerable position and those looking after somebody else’s child could be missing out on vital support from the Council.
Private fostering is the term used to describe an informal arrangement where a child under 16 lives with somebody else other than their parents or immediate family for 28 days or more.
Children and Young people can end up living in another home for all sorts of reasons, from staying with friends because they have fallen out with their parents or their parents have split up, gone abroad or are ill to children being sent over to the UK for education or healthcare by parents who live overseas.
Cllr Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Children’s Young People and Education, said:
The term private fostering can be confusing for people who assume it’s about mainstream fostering which this is not and we need to help people understand the difference, we know that even some professionals who work with families and children aren’t aware of this and that’s what we are aiming to address.
We need to know where children and young people are living so that we can make sure their needs are being met and that they are being cared for in a safe and secure environment.
It’s also important so that we can support families, and in some instances help them access benefits and finances that they might be entitled to when they are looking after someone else’s child.
In Blackburn with Darwen the highest recording of private fostering arrangements in a 12 month period was eight cases– but the Council believes that there will be many more children and teenagers living in these circumstances.
Jayne Ivory, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Director of Children’s Services, added:
Most of these arrangements work well but very sadly private fostering hit the headlines in 2000 when eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was tragically killed by her carers in London. We all have a duty to prevent this from ever happening again.
When could Private Fostering happen?
- When parents travel abroad and leave their child with a distant relative or family friend – after 28 days this is classed as Private Fostering
- When children or young people from abroad attend language schools in the UK and live with a host family – after 28 days this is Private Fostering
- When children or young people live with a friend’s family or non-close relative as a result of parental separation, death, illness of a parent, or family conflict – after 28 days this is Private Fostering.
If you are looking after someone else’s child, planning to in the future, or if you are considering asking someone else to look after your child for more than 28 days, please contact us on: (01254) 666400 or email CYPReferrals@blackburn.gov.uk