Q&A about fostering with Chief Executive of Barnardo's, Anne Marie Carrie - ANSWERS BACK

(88 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-May-12 09:15:18

To tie in with Foster Care Fortnight, we're inviting you to send in your questions about fostering to Chief Executive of Barnardo's, Anne Marie Carrie.

Anne Marie Carrie has nearly forty years of experience working with some of the most vulnerable children across adoption and fostering, child protection, education, schools, and services for young people.  She became Chief Executive of Barnardo's in January 2011.  Send your questions to Anne before the end of Tuesday 15 May and we'll be linking to the archived Q&A on 24 May.

There is currently a worrying shortage of foster families across the UK, with at least 8,750 new foster families needing to be found this year.  So during this year's Foster Care Fortnight (14-27 May) Barnardo's is urging more people to consider putting themselves forward as potential foster carers - particularly for children who wait longest for a family, such as siblings or disabled children.

Barnardo's is an authority on children in care and child protection based on over 100 years' of experience of finding families for children. The charity wants to hear from anybody who is interested in finding out more about fostering. They will provide training and support to potential foster carers, and do not exclude anyone from consideration on the grounds of sexual orientation, race, marital status, gender, disability or employment status. To find out more contact Barnardo's on 08000 277 280 or barnardos.org.uk/fosteringandadoption.

gettinghappy Thu 10-May-12 10:35:23

What is your view of the new National Contract which is currently being drawn up by Celsis in Scotland? Do you think that it will be an effective tool? Can we prevent a 2 tier service for children if it is implemented?Where do you think the additional funding will come from in order to allow both Providers and Foster Carers to effectively undetake all the responsibilities laid out therein?

Thank you.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 10-May-12 11:22:14

My friend has over 20 years experience of being a nanny, and also grew up with fostered sibs as her Mum was a foster carer.

She has often thought about becoming a foster carer, but rents a small one bed apartment.

Is there any way people like her could be approved for fostering and helped to find suitable accommodation eg rented 2 or 3 bed flat, so that they would be able to offer much needed foster care to a needy child, or possibly siblings ?

It seems to me that asking for people to already have a spare room available must be cutting down on the number of potential foster carers considerably.

Also wouldn't it be worth considering, especially with younger children, that they could share a room with a child from host family ?

JustFab Thu 10-May-12 19:19:33

This is going to be a brain dump. Sorry.

I was fostered and in children's homes as a child and it was a nightmare. I read things in the papers and it seems like things are still not great.

I would love to foster but would I even stand a chance when I have been in care, don't have any family and have had depression?

Myheadmyworld Thu 10-May-12 20:23:39

I second juggling would be happy to foster and eventually adopt especially since I'm in London and I know some children are in terrible situations over here, I just can't afford an extra room

scarlet5tyger Thu 10-May-12 21:15:48

I have been a foster carer for some time now, own my own home and have always received positive praise in my annual reviews. A couple of years ago I was approved to foster additional children - but am prevented from doing so due to lack of bedrooms.

I am struggling to get a mortgage to move as 1) I am paid £200 per week. This is my only income as I am not allowed to work while I foster under 5's; 2) Banks and building societies are reluctant to grant a mortgage on what they see as an insecure income.

Is there any scheme to help carers like me? - an already approved asset for the Local Authority , doing a good job and willing to help more children if I only had the room!

weeonion Thu 10-May-12 22:33:44

I would be interested in fostering but have ben told that I would have to give up my full time employment. I am aware that there is payment but have been told that only covers when a child is actually placed with us. Is this correct? If so - there is no way we could ever consider it and it seems to penalise those who dont have the alternative income to cover when a child is not with them?

Mrbojangles1 Thu 10-May-12 23:16:19

Hi I have been fostering for a number of years and just wanted to know on were you stand on a more nationalised system.

It's costly and very crazy that as a foster carer I have already been approved but cannot foster for a diffrent LA, the cost in man power to re approve foster carers is mad
If a doctor can work in a diffrent NHS trust with out having to re train, a teacher a work in a diffrent school why do I as a foster have to be re approved evey time I want to work somewhere else?

NanaNina Thu 10-May-12 23:27:19

Is it not the case though, that if applicants are assessed and approved by Barnardoes (or any of the voluntary organisations) that they then have to be "sold" to the LA. As I'm sure you are aware all LAs are severely under resourced in terms of finance and staff, and this has been the case for some time, before the huge cuts being forced upon them by the coalition govt. Hence the most cost effective way is to place children with "in house" foster carers, the next option is another LA but this rarely happens, as no LAs have foster carers to lend to another LA. The voluntary organisations will probably be the next best option (dependent upon the fees charged to the LAs) with IFAs being the most expensive. It is sad that children's needs are so linked to finance, but that is the truth of the matter.

Permanent foster carers for middle years aged children and sibling groups, children with disabilities are very very thin on the ground and these are the children who wait - and wait. Over the years children's distress at abuse/neglect in their birth families, has manifested itself in severe behavioural problems, attachment disorders, and a range of other problems, which of course make things all the more challenging for foster carers.

I agree with Martin Narey on the issue of children being removed from home sooner rather than later, but of course this cannot happen, unless the evidence is there to provide to the court.

I despair of how things are going to turn out, because I hear from ex colleagues that they are sitting in front of a computer screen for 70% of their time. Also I don't believe that this coalition govt will be satisfied until they have privatised the entire public sector, so who knows what will happen to these vulnerable children and young people.

Kadgie Thu 10-May-12 23:39:51

I have a muscle wastage disease called CMT which slightly restricts my capabilities, however I have a 24 year old son adn a 15 year old daughter and dont work. When my daughter leaves home I would like to consider fostering a child. Woudl i be precluded because I am disabled ? I dont want to spend a year or so going though an application procedure if there is no point ...

Itcouldhappentoanymum Thu 10-May-12 23:51:57

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FatAndBald Fri 11-May-12 00:41:46

@ Itcouldhappentoanymum
While I'm all in favour of families staying together, and agree that this should be a priority aim, I also think that it should also be easier to restrict/ban access to vulnerable children from parents/families with a history of abuse. My understanding of the current situation is that this is a difficult thing to enforce for LAs. Indeed, if there is an ongoing investigation in this area I would suggest that access is not permitted until the case is resolved one way or the other. While that would be hard on the innocent, I think that the benefits for children who have been abused would be immense.

therealcooperk Fri 11-May-12 10:03:15

Can you specifically foster a certain age of child - for instance my husband and I would really like to care for pregnant teens - is it possible to specialise in that way?
Also does having debt prevent you from fostering? We have a debt management plan and are working towards clearing it, but wondered if not passing a credit check would preclude you from fostering?

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Fri 11-May-12 10:35:37

I agree 100% with the pp regarding spare rooms.
The majority of children from our borough are placed miles away, in Kent.
How many families living in cities have spare rooms? If we want to place children with younger carers and allow them to stay in their schools and within easy contact with their birth families, surely we need to find a way of addressing the issue of accomodation?

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Fri 11-May-12 10:43:56

My main issue is this though..
Research has shown that children prefer to stay with extended family and that outcomes are better for these children.
What is banardo's stance on kinship care?
Are they aware at the lack of financial and practical support available to family carers?
Are you aware that kinship carers are often refused any social service support at all. Even though they are caring for the very same children as foster carers whose work is financially recognised (although I think FCC are generally underpaid)
If kinship carers were better supported there would not be such an acute shortage of foster carers.

MrsMicawber Fri 11-May-12 11:52:33

There is a specific problem in the Orthodox Jewish community - there is a belief that children must be kept in ultra orthodox surroundings regardless. This precludes them from being taken into care, and the community will do absolutely everything in their power to keep (vulnerable at risk and abused) children out of care. This will usually take the form of them being passed around the community often with no more than a week in any one place - as obviously there is no financial remuneration for the host families and also because the host families tend to be large (as are most families in my community). Charities like norwood are not trusted either, as they are not seen as religious enough. Do you think orthodox families should be recruited to become foster carers, and thereby at least make sure that children who are at risk will have somewhere approved and semi permanent to go to?

MrsMicawber Fri 11-May-12 11:52:33

There is a specific problem in the Orthodox Jewish community - there is a belief that children must be kept in ultra orthodox surroundings regardless. This precludes them from being taken into care, and the community will do absolutely everything in their power to keep (vulnerable at risk and abused) children out of care. This will usually take the form of them being passed around the community often with no more than a week in any one place - as obviously there is no financial remuneration for the host families and also because the host families tend to be large (as are most families in my community). Charities like norwood are not trusted either, as they are not seen as religious enough. Do you think orthodox families should be recruited to become foster carers, and thereby at least make sure that children who are at risk will have somewhere approved and semi permanent to go to?

TheRhubarb Fri 11-May-12 12:05:14

I have two experiences to share with you and would like Ms Carrie's opinions.

The first one concerns my sister who adopted two children without the proper checks being carried out by the catholic adoption agency. My sister had a history of depression and mental health problems. She was estranged from her husband's family and only select family members were interviewed about her suitability to adopt. My mother was well known in the catholic community, the local nuns and priest got involved and my sister was given 2 children.

She could not cope with the children. They had no discipline and she sought her emotional security from them. Both are now known to social services, both are suspended from school. Her 13yo daughter has been taken home by police a couple of times after being found drunk and asleep in local parks at night. My sister blames this on their adoption and says they have attachment issues, yet she herself was giving her daughter WKD to drink from the age of 12 and has told her own daughter, that she doesn't love her as a biological mum would.

I believe that if the proper checks had been made and proper assessments carried out, that these problems would have been spotted sooner. So what can you do to ensure that organisations like the catholic church do not make up their own rules and bypass vital checks?

Another example is my mother. She has fostered children for many years and given them more love that she ever gave us (which is probably why my sister was so emotionally needy). She is now in her 70s and the catholic agency again still gives her troubled teenagers to foster. She gets a holiday allowance for them which she uses to take them to Blackpool or Wales whilst she jets off to Spain and Canada, leaving them with another foster carer. She openly does it for the money she receives and cannot be helping these young people to feel wanted or valued.

What are your views on placing young children with much older foster parents and what checks are made to ensure that these foster children are getting the care they desperately need?

NanaNina Fri 11-May-12 12:27:30

TheRubharb - I am totally confused by your post. You talk about this Catholic Adoption society, and in the past I am aware it was the case that charities could arrange adoptions and the "assessment" was as you say, very scant and not in any way thorough. I am a retired sw and have seen these old adoption files, and there would be a page of "assessment" and as you mention with a reference from the local vicar/priest, all that was left was for the adoptors to go and collect their baby from the Mother & Baby Home. This was the system in the 50s, 60s, and possibly into the 70s. When I began reading your post I assumed you were talking of these times in the past. There were also private adoptions organised by the GP.

However for many years now (at least the last 30) the only legal adoption agency is the Social Services Dept of the LA. It is illegal for any other charity to *place children for adoption. They don't have any children for a start. It is possible for adoption applicants to be assessed and approved by the voluntary organisations like Barnardoes, but they then have to "sell" the family they have recruited to the LA, or looking at it another way, the LA have to "buy" the family. Vol orgs charge LAs a sum of money for approved foster carers and I have explained about this in a post above.

As far as your mother is concerned I am at an absolute loss as to how the Catholic Agency can still give her children to foster. This cannot be the case, as they don't have any children - and only the LA can place children for fostering and adoption. The asessments are thorough and a whole range of checks are undertaken. Could you be mistaken in some way?

NanaNina Fri 11-May-12 12:37:32

Mrs Micawber - there is absolutely no reason why Jewish Orthodox families cannot be assessed and approved (or not) by the LA Social Services Dept. Anyone of any race, culture, minority ethnic people, and a variety of religions are welcome to apply to become foster carers and they would be assessed in the same way as anyone else. The only thing I would say is that if Jewish Orthodox people wanted to only foster Jewish children, (which I think would be the case) then the LA would probably advise them that they may not get very many placements, dependent upon the size of the Jewish community in the LA area.

However people have to come forward themselves to advise the LA of their wish to consider fostering children. LAs can't go out looking for people to foster!! There has long been a problem about insufficient African Carribean and Asian applicants for fostering, as same race placements are the best option, so long as the family has been approved by the LA and can cope with the age of the child.

The real problem though is the one you point out, that in the Jewish community the custom and practice is to pass abused children around "host" families. This is probably why they don't come to the attention of the Soc Services Dept because they are "hidden" in a sense. The fact that Jewish people can be approved as foster carers is not going to change this chustom and practice is it?

TheRhubarb Fri 11-May-12 12:44:24

NanaNina - this was in the 90s with my sister. Her eldest son is now around 16 and her daughter is 14.

My phrase of 'give' with my mother, well I don't know how the system works so excuse my ignorance but she receives young children, often boys aged 10 upwards on a temporary basis. They are housed with her and her husband. She is in her 70s and he is late 60s. They are never particularly bothered too much about the foster children, certainly not now in their old age and do it to earn money to go abroad.

In the past when she fostered children we would often have to share rooms with them, including my younger brother who himself had learning difficulties. He was sharing his room with foster children up until he was in his late 20s. You can imagine how vulnerable this made him and I did raise concerns with my mother at the time.

As far as I am concerned, those guidelines you are talking about do not take place and did not take place in the 90s. The nuns, the priest all verified as to the character of my sister. I was never asked any questions, her husband's family were never asked any questions. I don't know if they looked at her medical records but it was blatantly obvious to us, her family, that she was emotionally needy and not in a fit state to be a mother. I would have stated that had I been asked.

MrsMicawber Fri 11-May-12 12:49:14

Right, nananina, and I suggested a recruitment campaign in say, synagogues, or maybe community outreach with a rep going to mothers and toddlers groups, for example. To build up trust and encourage people to engage with SS.

I personally know of a family where the mother was suicidal and incapable of caring for her 3 very young children, the father was violent and came in and out of the families lives. She was still running a playgroup in her house - unregistered of course - working when she could and hiring substitutes at other times. Her 3 children were taken in by host families and passed around on a weekly basis. She was STILL caring for other children.

MrsMicawber Fri 11-May-12 12:49:14

Right, nananina, and I suggested a recruitment campaign in say, synagogues, or maybe community outreach with a rep going to mothers and toddlers groups, for example. To build up trust and encourage people to engage with SS.

I personally know of a family where the mother was suicidal and incapable of caring for her 3 very young children, the father was violent and came in and out of the families lives. She was still running a playgroup in her house - unregistered of course - working when she could and hiring substitutes at other times. Her 3 children were taken in by host families and passed around on a weekly basis. She was STILL caring for other children.

bottersnike Fri 11-May-12 15:40:42

I would like ask your opinion on the "professionalisation" of foster care, and the potential for making it a salaried profession, or at least something that paid a decent living wage.
So many carers that we know are exhausted because they are struggling to cope with the demands of fostering plus managing an additional one or two jobs in the household just to pay the bills.
I could imagine any change in status / pay would need to be reflected in increased levels of training / qualifications; is this being considered?
Thank you.

naturalbaby Fri 11-May-12 16:02:39

I'm interested in the 'professionalisation' issue as well. I would love to be a foster carer but just don't think our family finances could manage it. I'm prepared to jump through a lot of hoops and hope to do respite fostering when my kids are a bit older.

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