Plea to track children in unofficial fostering

2 July 2013

North Yorkshire County Council have joined a national campaign to raise awareness about private fostering in a bid to track “lost” and often vulnerable children living in unofficial arrangements outside their immediate family.

Private foster carers are those people that look after someone else’s child full-time, for more than 28 days and are not the parent or a close relative.

Private fostering can include:

  • Children and young people living apart from their families
  • Children with parents overseas
  • Children living with host families or “education guardians” for a variety of reasons
  • Children on holiday exchange

Private fostering is a cause for concern for local authorities because trying to find out how many children are looked after in private fostering arrangements is often difficult. People involved in ‘private’ child care arrangements may be unaware that the council must be notified. For this reason the county council is appealing to the county’s residents for help in finding out how many such children there are. It is crucial that the local authority is alerted to private fostering arrangements so it can check that they are suitable for the child.

About 10,000 children in England are privately fostered and studies show that more than 50 per cent of placements are not notified to local councils. Even when they are notified it is nearly always after the fostering has started.

County Councillor Tony Hall North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services said:

Privately fostered children and young people can be amongst the most vulnerable young people in the UK. Whilst we do not want to interfere in what is working well, we want to be in a position to provide support and advice and ensure that the private arrangement goes as smoothly as possible.

In many cases, private foster carers are completely unaware that they have to notify us and this means we are unable to check whether the child is being properly cared for. In North Yorkshire we are now having a major push to find out just how many young people are in private foster care.

It is vital we have that information and we would urge anyone who is involved in such an arrangement, or who plans to be involved in one in the future, to contact us as soon as possible. In certain instances financial help may be available, and we can put people in touch with local support networks for carers.

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