The government is to delay its decision on whether to introduce a compulsory private fostering registration scheme next year, giving the current notification system up to three more years to work.
The Children Act 2004 included a clause allowing the government to introduce a registration scheme by 2008, though not beyond, should its new duty on councils to promote and encourage notification of private fostering arrangements fail.
But the Children and Young Persons Bill, published yesterday, includes a clause to extend the deadline to 2011, giving the government more time to monitor councils’ progress in increasing notification.
Figures out last week showed private fostering notifications had risen significantly for the second year running, with 1,250 children recorded as being cared for in private fostering arrangements as of 31 March 2007. However, this falls short of the estimated 8-10,000 children being privately fostered nationally.
British Association for Adoption and Fostering chief executive David Holmes welcomed the extension of the deadline, saying it would give councils the time to prove they could make notification work.
But, calling for a “step change” in notification rates from authorities, he added: “We need to see evidence that notification can work or the case for registration becomes stronger and stronger.”