Child care campaign backed by county council

A NATIONAL campaign to ensure the safety of the invisible children being cared for by an adult who is not a direct relative is being backed by Essex County Council. Somebody Else s Child, launched last month, is run by the British Association for Adopti

A NATIONAL campaign to ensure the safety of the "invisible" children being cared for by an adult who is not a direct relative is being backed by Essex County Council.

Somebody Else's Child, launched last month, is run by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, and aims to raise awareness of private fostering.

This occurs when a child or young person under the age of 16, or 18 if disabled, is cared for by someone who is not a close relative - a step-parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt - for more than 28 days.

It is not known exactly how many children across the UK are being privately fostered, but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that because they are falling under the radar some of these children could be at risk of abuse, or victims of trafficking.

Deputy leader of the county council, Cllr Peter Martin, said: "Both the parent and the carer have a legal responsibility to notify the local authority where the child is going to live so safeguarding checks and assessments can be made to ensure the child is being appropriately looked after.

"We must keep sight of the fact that the priority of this campaign is to ensure that all our county's children can grow up in a safe, nurturing environment that allows them to go on and fulfil their full potential.

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"Everybody has a role in keeping our children safe - whether you are a teacher, youth worker, neighbour or just chat to the other parents at the school gate. If you hear about a child who is being privately fostered please let us know immediately so we can ensure the child is being kept safe."

In the year to March 2008 there were 70 notifications of private fostering arrangements in Essex. However, it is believed that there could be many more.

The council is particularly asking people who work with children to be aware of private fostering and inform them immediately if they suspect such an arrangement.

For more information on private fostering visit www.essex.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering or visit the national campaign website at www.privatefostering.org.uk

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