British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering has called for
urgent government action to protect the thousands of privately
fostered children, many of whom are West African, at risk of
physical, social or sexual abuse, writes Jonathan
BAAF has called for the Adoption and Children Bill currently
before parliament to be amended in the light of its new report into
private fostering, which reveals there are between 8,000 and 10,000
children currently in private foster care in the UK.
A significant majority are black children of West African
origin, says the report, and many end up privately fostered by
white families, often in rural communities where the child will
experience separation from their culture.
“We do not think it is any longer tolerable that there is a
large group of children who are not given the protection of
children living away from home,” said BAAF chief executive Felicity
Collier. “This is simply not good enough.”
“Private fostering” applies to children up to 16 years of age
(18 if disabled) who are in the care of someone who is not their
parent or relative for 28 days or more.
The predominance of West African children in private fostering
dates back to the 1950s, when hard-up immigrants found private
foster care their only child care option, says the report. It adds
there is a common perception among West African parents that
placing their children with white families will lead to a good
upbringing and better education.
Others affected by private fostering include children attending
language schools, boarding school pupils who live away from parents
during the holidays, and “backdoor, pre-adoption” arrangements.
Using the current Climbie inquiry to highlight the tragic
consequences of unregistered private fostering, the report calls
for urgent central and local government action.
Under the report’s recommendations, legislation should be
introduced to require local authorities to maintain a register of
“approved” private foster carers in their area; and to make it an
offence to use an unregistered carer.
The report also calls for department of health standards and for
the National Care Standards Commission to follow Scotland’s
lead by inspecting councils’ private fostering services in
England and Wales, while each council should address private
fostering in children’s services plans and incorporate the
Children Act principles of considering a child’s religion,
race, culture and language, in all its guidelines and policies on
Association of Directors of Social Services children and
families committee chair Rob Hutchinson said the report’s
recommendations were “pragmatic, implementable and welcome”,
adding: “We need more than resources on this. It requires accepting
a different level of priority for this group.”
* Terry Philpot, A Very Private Practice (BAAF)
available from 020 7593 2072.