As part of Private Fostering week, beginning today, Suffolk County Council is appealing to Suffolk residents to let them know about children who are being privately fostered.
An estimated 10,000 young people are privately fostered across England each year, but local councils only know about a small number of them.
Private fostering is when a child under 16; or under 18 if disabled, is looked after by someone other than their parent or a close relative for 28 days or more.
A close relative includes a stepparent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, but not extended family, such as a great aunt or uncle.
Private fostering is different to the care provided through the council’s Fostering Service. It covers situations such as a teenager living with a friend’s family because they don’t get on with their own family, children staying with another family because their parents have separated or divorced, or children sent to the UK for education by parents who live overseas.
Although it is a legal obligation for anyone involved in a private fostering arrangement to inform their local authority, it is thought that local authorities know about less than 50% of such arrangements.
Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Whilst the majority of families who take children into their homes are doing a fantastic job, we need to ensure that children and young people are safe and well cared for. There are children in our communities who may be vulnerable or at risk.
“Once we are aware of an arrangement, we can support the family by providing advice on benefits and accessing emergency funding, or helping to bring families in crisis back together.
“Whether you are a young person, parent, foster carer, or a member of the public, we would encourage you to contact us.”
Private fostering can be a really positive experience for children and young people. When things are strained or unstable at home, going to stay with a foster carer often results in an improvement in a child’s school attendance, and after spending time away, many end up returning home.
If you are involved in a private fostering arrangement or know about one, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/private-fostering or contact Suffolk County Council’s Private Fostering team on 01473 265025.