Private fostering in Scotland: practice guidance for local authority children's services

Guidance for local authorities in Scotland on how to handle notifications of private fostering arrangements.

Annex B Case Studies

When private fostering arrangements go wrong.

Child A was brought to the UK by his father and left with his father's friends in the Central belt of Scotland. He has lived in Scotland for five years before coming to the attention of a child care agency after being brought to a legal advice appointment. He has never attended school but has been registered with a doctor who has never questioned him living with the family, despite knowing the family composition well. No one questioned his status or the level of care afforded to him.

He states he has never been happy with the family; he had wanted to go to school but was left in the house to play computer games. He is given adequate food and accommodation but there is clearly no affection given to him and he is treated very differently to the other children in the household.

There are no known trafficking indicators and he is clearly physically well cared for. However his mental health is poor and he has no obvious attachment with anyone he has been living with, despite spending his formative years in Scotland. His father is no longer able to send money for him and consequently the foster family has made attempts to secure status for him with little understanding that his developmental needs have not been met, and he presents as very troubled unhappy young man.

Child B is Chinese and placed at 6 weeks with a white couple, his parents lived about 40 miles away and no formal visiting arrangements were made. Consequently he had very little contact with his parents as he was growing up. Unfortunately, as he reached his teenage years he had no attachment to or affection for his parents. He did not even feel Chinese, couldn't speak Cantonese and he had little understanding of the culture - in fact he felt white Scottish. He would go there or they would visit every 6 months.

When he reached the age of 13 years his parents decided he should go home but he resisted for some time postponing the inevitable, His foster carers referred him to the Children's Reporter who decided to refer him to a Children's Hearing. Children's Services worked with the parents to get them to understand his viewpoint and with the child to help understand his Chinese heritage. Finally his parents conceded and he stayed with his foster family.

Child C entered the UK with another child who may be his sister, several years ago. He himself is unsure of how and when he arrived. The children were separated and each left with an "aunt", though these arrangements were at no stage formally registered. At no time was either child enrolled in school by the aunts and they were left to look after the houses and care for the aunts' children over-night while the women presumably went to work.

The aunts, who were subject to immigration control themselves, fled leaving the young people to fend for themselves. One of the young people, having found the other, contacted the police for help when the little amount of money they were left with ran out.

The fact that a variety of professionals had been involved with both households but had never queried the children's presence is of grave concern. A paediatrician at one point raised the alarm but no further action was taken by children's services. The children were in and around the community but at no stage were referrals made to the children's panel. Only when the police became involved were they able to access services, including specialist legal representation which has been crucial in their cases in order to look at their statuses and the fact that they may well be the victims of trafficking.

When private fostering arrangements go well.

Child D had children's services involvement on and off from the time he was 12 years old. Initial involvement surrounded the fact that his mother had a stroke and struggled to deal with his basic needs and behaviour. The mother's friend offered to look after him on an informal basis and despite some issues this arrangement worked well over the years.

The mother's friend and his partner duly applied to the local authority to be assessed as private foster carers. The assessment was undertaken and the couple were approved as private foster carers for the child. The arrangement continued until the child turned 16 and left school, when the case was closed.

Child(ren) E A charity called Chernobyl Children Lifeline places children from Belarus and Chernobyl with families in Scotland over summer and Christmas periods and these arrangements can come under private fostering as they stay for a period of more than 28 days. The charity wrote to the relevant local authority of its intention to place 4 children during the summer months following a letter from the then Care Commission alerting them of their responsibility to do so. The local authority was able to monitor the arrangements for the time of the placements in Scotland.


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