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					   National Foster Care Association
                                        The Fostering Task

   Children who are looked after by local authorities deserve to be placed with foster carers who
   have the experience, skills and training necessary to meet their needs. This requires that local
   authorities are clear about the needs of their children, and have assessed the skills of their
   carers, in order that appropriate matching can take place. This means that individual childcare
   planning has to be directly linked to the continuing review and appraisal of foster carers.
   Where there is a gap between the identified needs of the young person, and the skills of the
   carer, the local authority is then in a position to identify how it can help the gap to be filled in
   order that the placement can be successful for the young person.

   Care Planning

   In delivering a service to children, the care plan (drafting, reviewing etc.) has to be brought
   together with the latest appraisal of the carers. This ensures a specific view is taken of the
   needs of the young person, and the current skills of the carers. It provides the opportunity to
   spell out at each step where responsibility lies for meeting the gaps between need and

   Skilled Carers

   Children’s needs will vary. In order to ensure that carers are available to meet these needs
   the local authority must enable carers to develop their abilities, and have a pool of carers in
   order that there is a choice of placement for a young person. This requires a rolling training
   programme at varying levels, delivered in a variety of ways, which promote learning. The
   contract with carers must include a commitment to training and developing knowledge.

   Developing a pool of foster carers in order to offer choice of placement, can only be achieved
   if the factors which hinder or help families to consider fostering are taken into account. There
   are a range of fostering tasks. Foster carers cannot be expected to provide a service to meet
   all the requirements. All need basic skills, but there is a need to recruit and remunerate carers
   who have additional skills.

   Allowances and Reward Payments

   Many people will wish to continue to offer a service based on altruism, where they receive an
   allowance to cover the costs of the young person, but do not receive any element of reward
   for the work involved. Such carers, however, are clear that they require the full costs of the
   placement to be covered, not simply the obvious additional costs, eg., extra food, clothing,
   etc. Wishing to continue as a ‘volunteer’ carer must not preclude an identification of the skills
   of the carer, and these being recorded on the carer’s file. It is then the carers choice whether
   or not to opt into a reward payment scheme.

   In addition, there are carers who wish to develop their skills, and who, whilst attracted to
   fostering because it is an occupation which can be undertaken within their own homes, need
   to balance the financial reward from this type of work, with the financial reward that could be
   gained from other work. The demographic profile shows that more women who previously

National Foster Care Association 87 Blackfriars Road London SE1 8HA
Telephone 020 7620 6400 Facsimile 020 7620 6401 E:mail
Executive Director Gerri McAndrew President The Lord Laming CBE

                                       NFCA in Scotland Ingram House 2nd Floor 227 Ingram Street Glasgow G1 1DA
                                                                  Telephone 0141 204 1400 Facsimile 0141 204 6588
                                                     Registered in England and Wales as a limited company no 1507277
                        Registered charity no 280852 VAT registration no 231 6335 90 Registered office London address
might have been available to undertake fostering, are now attracted back into the labour
market and undertake part time employment.

In return for a weekly reward element, these carers accept the additional commitment made
on them in relation to training, and using the skills they acquire to help the young person and
their family achieve change as appropriate. These carers wish to retain self-employed status
as it continues to provide some flexibility, eg., they can more actively refuse placements
which they feel are unsuitable, continue to be in control of their homes, etc.

Employed Status

At the other end of the spectrum from those carers who wish to be considered as volunteers,
there are people who wish to be employed as foster carers. They see themselves as offering
a 24-hour a day professional service working with children, but in their own homes. As such
they wish to have the recognition that employed status can give. For local authorities there
are benefits in having a group of carers who have entered into a contract which provides an
instantaneous service within a specific remit, in the same way as residential establishments

Status of Carers

The over-riding factor which determines whether or not foster carers feel valued by the local
authority is how they are recognised in relation to status, and therefore treated by the
authority, and its other employed workers.

The status of foster carers per se could be improved if children’s social workers recognised
the expertise that foster carers bring as being of equal value, and if the systems within local
authorities underpinned the worth of carers as equals.

An effective foster care service which meets:-

   The National Standards for Foster Care
    The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    Quality protects principles
    Responsibilities placed on local authorities to be a good parent as set out in the Children
     Act 1989 and accompanying guidance can be achieved

At local level through:-

   Ensuring the service is fully resourced
    Integration of fieldwork and fostering to ensure the assessments of children and
     identification of need is matched with carers’ skills.
    A commitment to in-house training including children’s social workers, managers, and
     foster carers.
    Competency based assessment and reviewing of foster carers
    Specialist supervision and support systems for foster carers who recognise their
     isolation, and the complexity of the fostering task.
    Senior managers affirming the status of carers as equal members of the team working
     with children
    Access to services from other agencies, for children.
    A commitment to gaining information and learning from the views and experiences of
     children and young people, both fostered, and sons and daughters of carers.

At Central Government level:-

   Playing a strategic role in developing a national foster care service
   Identifying a framework for delivering services.
   A review of social work training to ensure that child development and foster care are core
     components alongside child protection.
   Sufficient funding to properly resource the foster care service.

Pat Verity
January 2000


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