Officials defend existing policies on private fostering

Department of health officials defended existing policies on
private foster caring, during the committee stage of the Adoption
and Children Bill, writes Jonathan

Responding to concerns expressed in a recent British Agencies
for Adoption and Fostering report that unregulated private
fostering exposes thousands of children to physical, social or
sexual abuse, MPs said current legislation that private foster
carers must notify local authorities did not work.

The BAAF report estimated there are between 8,000 and 10,000
children in private foster care in the UK, many of them of West
African origin, but Mark Ferrero, doh adoption and permanence
branch head, admitted: “We don’t have reliable data. It is
very difficult to get information on it.”

BAAF chief executive Felicity Collier told the House of Commons
special standing committee on the adoption bill that a register of
private foster carers would allow people to choose from an approved
list, rather than being forced to go out into a “word of mouth”

But Ferrero said: “It’s difficult to see what would make a
private foster carer register when they don’t notify. The
critical point is the local authority social services department
knowing the arrangement takes place.”

Professional and public awareness needed to be raised so that
more carers registered with councils, he added. Once councils know
there is a private foster care arrangement, then they have duties
which they must perform to safeguard the children.

“Essentially we’re dealing with private arrangements,” he
continued. “I am still not convinced that creating a registration
scheme will increase the number of private foster carers to come

Moira Gibb, former president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, and Kensington and Chelsea director of social
services, backed the development of a register, but said that it
had to be properly resourced.

Health minister Jacqui Smith, who is a committee member,
suggested that regulation might make people less willing to come
forward, but Andrew Christie, Hammersmith and Fulham council’s
assistant director (children’s services), representing the
Local Government Association, said: “Given so few come forward, the
risk is minimal.”

Christie added the appropriate analogy was with childminding,
where the government had decided to press ahead with registration
and regulation.




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