Foster carers constantly have to balance risks in the everyday decisions they take for themselves, their own children and fostered children. The difference with a fostered child is that foster carers are caring for them on behalf of the state, and so are accountable for the day-to-day decisions they make.
Can these decisions be informed when we consider a survey carried out by the Fostering Network has given rise to claims that local authorities are failing to provide foster carers with enough information about the children they place with them. 442 members of the charity responded to an online survey and their answers revealed that
- 33% were not told about the child’s medical requirements
- 47% were not told of a history of abuse
- 68% were not told about their general behaviour
- 36% stated that they had been expected to look after children they were not approved to foster
All of the above factors also contribute to the Compassion Fatigue that is experienced by many carers.
The charity’s former chief executive, Robert Tapsfield, voiced concern over the results:
“It is accepted and agreed that local authorities have a duty of care to foster carers and their families, as well as children in care. However, the regulations and standards are not being implemented despite high-profile court rulings and this is cause for great concern.”
Foster carers should be treated as childcare experts and equal members of the child care workforce. They are professionals and should be recognised, respected and supported as such.”
This is where on-going due diligence comes in – it is essential that we support a practice that is “risk sensible” not risk-averse. To support this we have drawn up a new skills-based training program Safer Caring in Practice. It is about foster carers working in partnership with children and young people, their parents wherever possible, and the key social workers, to develop the right safer caring plan for that child. The plan will include day-to-day understanding and balancing of the risks involved in a particular activity or decision, rather than applying a set of rules in all circumstances.
We recognise that foster carers are professionals and to support them in continued professional development we have devised Fostering Regulations & National Minimum Standards to ensure confident competent practice! Lastly, even the best practitioners may come in to question, to help your carers understand the process we have devised Safer Caring and Managing Allegations.
Foster carers need to understand and manage the particular risks they may face while helping children to have as normal a childhood as possible. So the key to on-going due diligence is about foster carers being aware of the risks involved for particular children in different situations and making well thought through decisions, in partnership with the child’s social worker and the fostering service. What actions are you taking to protect your service, carers and young people against the increasing trend of legal action?