Private fostering notifications in England have risen for the second year running, Office of National Statistics figures out today show.
As of 31 March 2007, English local authorities had recorded 1,250 children as being cared for in private fostering arrangements – defined as someone other than a parent or close relative caring for a child under the age of 16 for 28 days or more. This compares with 980 in 2006 and 730 in 2005.
The number of new notifications rose by around 40% from 1,100 to 1,570 in 2006-7, representing a 150% increase from 2005. Over the past year, 1,010 arrangements ended.
Two-thirds of privately fostered children were aged from 10 to 15 and 68% were born in the UK.
Despite the rise, the current total falls far short of the estimated 8-10,000 children living in private fostering arrangements in England. This has prompted calls for a mandatory register for private fostering arrangements, something promised under the Children Act 2004 should councils’ duty to promote and encourage notification, introduced under the legislation, fail to deliver.
However, British Association for Adoption and Fostering chief executive David Holmes said: “Just introducing registration won’t hugely increase the number of arrangements we know about. We need a real step change in notification levels. Some local authorities have dramatically increased notifications and we need to see all of them making that progress.”
Concentrating on developing local strategies, building relationships with communities and focusing on seeking out arrangements are the best ways of doing this, added Holmes.