The British Association for Adoption & Fostering criticised “slow progress” in recording private fostering arrangements after the government produced the latest figures for England today.
They showed councils were notified of 1,790 new private fostering arrangements in the year to March 2008, a rise of 14% on the previous year, while there were 1,170 notifications of arrangements coming to an end. As of March, 1,330 children were recorded as being in private fostering arrangements, up from 1,250 in March 2007.
However, Baaf said the figures were likely to be a gross underestimate and raised concerns that some “invisible” children may be at risk of abuse or trafficking.
Chief executive David Holmes said: “The rise in notifications is a sign that awareness may be growing, which is encouraging but still not enough.”
Baaf said that in 2001 the Department of Health estimated there could be up to 10,000 children in private arrangements in England and Wales. The charity will be running a national campaign on the issue next January.
Private fostering arrangements are those made privately for the care of a child under 16 by someone other than a parent or close relative. Local authorities have had a duty since 2005 to promote and encourage notification of such arrangements, and the parent or carer has a legal duty to inform the local authority where the child is going to live.
The Children Act 2004 enabled the government to introduce a compulsory registration system for private fostering by 2008 if the duty on councils to promote notification did not succeed in increasing the numbers recorded sufficiently.
But a provision in the Children and Young Persons Bill would extend this deadline to 2011.
Minister denies Loughton claim that notification is not working