New research out today reveals that more than a quarter (28%) of people living in the North West, including Cumbria, could miss a clear sign that a child may be at risk.
The ICM research was commissioned by the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) as part of their first ever national private fostering campaign -Somebody Elseís Child.
Private fostering describes an arrangement lasting 28 days or more when a child is cared for by someone who isnít a close relative. To protect children, it is a legal requirement that parents and carers inform childrenís services at their local council of these arrangements.
But sadly, most donít. Therefore the charity is asking the wider community to learn how to recognise the signs of private fostering arrangements.
BAAF is concerned that peopleís lack of awareness might leave some children invisible in the community and more at risk of abuse.
There are currently twelve notifications in Cumbria.
Key survey findings for the North West reveal:
* 28% of people living in the North West would do nothing if an unrelated child suddenly appeared living next door, the highest in the country, compared to 22% nationally.
* 10% would not act if an unrelated child next door disappeared, again the highest in the country, compared to 7% nationally.
In addition 8% said they would do nothing even if they were directly concerned for a childís safety, which equates to 405,000 in the North West. Ths is also the highest in the country, compared to 4% nationally.
The unexpected arrival and disappearance of children are warning signs of a private fostering arrangement. To ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, BAAF urges the community not to ignore these signals.
Further analysis in the North West reveals that the most common reason for peopleís reluctance to act was that they felt it was ďnone of their businessĒ. 19% of people said it was none of their business if an unrelated child suddenly appeared next door, and 4% felt it was none of their business if an unrelated child next door disappeared.
Helen Smith, Head of Service, Child and Family Care, Cumbria County Council, said :
"Itís the county councilís job to ensure the safety and welfare of children who are privately fostered, so itís vital we know if this is happening. You can help us in our work to safeguard Cumbriaís children by making sure we know if you, or friends, neighbours or family members, are looking after someone elseís child.Ē
According to the research, private fostering spans all regions and all social classes.
However, the types of children who are privately fostered can vary greatly Ė they include teenagers who have had a row with their mum and dad and have left home to live with friendís family, children whose parents are in prison, children sent to the UK from overseas for educational reasons, and trafficked young people who could be used as domestic slaves, or sold into prostitution.
Members of the public who wish to contact Cumbria County Council Children's Services should call 01228 226 917.
Media enquiries to Media Officer Paul Bell on 01228 226337.