Why are we so short of foster carers?

(110 Posts)
Fosterangel Thu 16-Aug-12 20:38:27

Our LA admits that it is desperately short of foster carers. Where are all the amazing potential foster carers? What is the reason for holding back? Why are we not recruiting enough foster carers or retaining the foster carers we have?

MsCellophane Thu 16-Aug-12 20:42:23

Most people can't afford to give up work to become foster carers

Also, being overweight or a smoker will stop you becoming one

I've looked into it but if I don't have a child and don't get paid I can't afford my house

HaitchJay Thu 16-Aug-12 20:43:28

Money, people can't afford to give up work?
People get stretched too far outside their zone (eg registered for 0-5 and get a teen)and give up?

gallivantsaregood Fri 17-Aug-12 12:02:33

Yip all of the above plus as money gets tighter support suffers and carers struggle. Often the children being looked after have very complex needs, there is little/no therapy/support for them and that combined with the reduction in support for carers means everyone suffers, including the children..........not a good place at the moment. sad

Cazzmags Fri 17-Aug-12 12:09:36

Our LA is the same, we have been reliably informed they are "in crisis". They are spending huge (and I mean huge) amounts of money flooding the local agencies with children due to a chronic shortage of carers and there is sadly no quick fix.

I agree finance is a lot to do with it. The allowance is not generous and good foster carers do not make money out of the children they care for but there is a huge stigma around discussing finance at all particularly during the assessment process. In our LA money is a dirty word and whilst we all understand that the assessment process needs to identify those out to "make money" it discriminates against those of us who want to foster but aren't loaded and who with the best will in the world can't afford to support these children without adequate funding.

A friend of mine (who is an outstanding carer) is about to give up fostering due to the frustrations surrounding communication. I'm sure not all SW's are the same and I've met some good ones, however there are some terrible ones who treat foster carers like some kind of sub species. I'm old enough, articulate enough and (I think) smart enough to put them back in their box and keep on advocating for the children in our care but it is tiresome and soul destroying to keep on doing it and wasting precious energy and time on them when I need to focus on the children. I honestly think this is probably why some give up and we've come very close to it ourselves.

The whole system in particular the use of agencies and the money it costs need to be addressed and quick. I'm afraid as things stand it's going to get much worse before it gets better.

ValiumQueen Fri 17-Aug-12 12:10:14

I have found getting clear information about finances has been nigh on impossible. I need to know we will not be homeless if we do not have a foster child for a period, or even if we do. I would need to give up my job, which would put is in a very vulnerable position financially.

childatheart Fri 17-Aug-12 22:06:15

The way to get more foster carers ?? Simple really- Recognize it as a professional vocation!! If you wan't the best care for children and wan't to encourage the right calibre of person/family to do it then you have to treat it with the recognition it deserves.

There are so many who wan't to do it but can't afford to and I am afraid that while LA'S continue to rely on goodwill and the kind hearts of people then the situation will not improve ( Why should a child's future depend only on a kind heart or some kind of goodwill surely it is worth a lot more than that !! )

I am not saying treat it as an industry and I agree that the stringent checks are totally necessary to ensure only those genuine people who wan't to help a child are approved but the way the system operates at present is to be frank, quite shocking

I am tired of hearing the same old statements about finance and resources, in our LA for example they are spending huge amounts of money placing children with local agencies who in turn are offering foster carers a career, training, retaining fee's etc ( As a LA foster carer we almost feel second class ) the ironic thing is that LA's manage to find the money and resources to fund all of this whilst struggling to find there own FC's.

When will somebody with a brain realize that if LA's recruited and treated carers as professionals with the recognition to go with it then it would drastically improve the levels of LA's carers and the need for agencies would be greatly diminished (with the current system the La's are actively "bankrolling" the agency system)

Sadly though I think that it will get far worse before it gets better.

Rubirosa Fri 17-Aug-12 22:09:10

It needs to be a well paid and recognised profession. Paying foster carers on a similar level to nurses, teachers and social workers would be a start!

No one talks about those awful social workers just going into it for the money, so why is there such a taboo around paying foster carers properly confused

ArcticRain Fri 17-Aug-12 22:14:04

I would love to be a foster career, but I/our family can't afford to take the cut in wages .

scarlettsmummy2 Fri 17-Aug-12 22:18:48

I don't understand why local authorities don't just pay the same as the agencies to begin with? Surely that would be a quick way to reduce their overall costs!

scarlet5tyger Sat 18-Aug-12 10:05:07

I'm another who can't understand why LA don't pay the same as agencies. I receive around £200 per week per child. My friend who fosters for an agency receives £300 per week per child. Yes it's more, but not vastly more. I'm told the agency themselves receive £2000 (yes, two thousand pounds) per week per child. Ten times more than me!!!. Surely this situation is wrong??

I may be missing something but wouldn't it be better for my LA to pay ME £300, who has worked hard for them for years, and still save £1700?

Fosterangel Sat 18-Aug-12 18:02:49

We have been qualified LA foster carers for about 3 years. Our LA is offering cash incentives if fosterers refer a friend, and consult us endlessly just lately on how to recruit and retain carers, but still we are "in crisis". We are losing more and more good carers. Those that remain look after some of the most damaged children 24/7. It does, IMHO, relate to money (not enough) and professionalism (not recognized enough by LA's despite the rhetoric). The remuneration for LA foster carers (where the "crisis" is!) is disgraceful bearing in mind the high standards of care we give. I have felt for a long time that the pay needs to reflect our professionalism and be closer to that of a nurse, teacher or social worker (I agree with both Rubirosa & childatheart's posts on this) and then maybe we will be seen as a profession to aspire to and start to attract all those waiverers with space in their hearts and homes. Whilst we were going through the training (Skills to Foster) it was emphasised by the SW trainers that foster caring was now regarded as a career rather than a "calling". Whilst LA foster carers are seen as a poor relation the agencies will continue to pick up the slack as LA carers resign.

bottersnike Sun 19-Aug-12 13:25:01

I agree wholeheartedly that fostering needs to be seen as a professional career, with foster carers being paid and trained accordingly.
We are seriously considering not taking another placement because it doesn't pay enough, and we end up working all hours just to pay the bills. In an age where two good incomes are required to satisfactorily run a house and raise children, fostering is in a precarious position.
Let's hope the government listens to all the feedback and consultation they are requesting!

Noren Sun 19-Aug-12 14:58:25

I've always wanted to do it but I love my job and don't see how I could do both. I think there should be an option for people in work to train as foster carers then take sabbaticals with a guaranteed return to their job afterwards, sort of like maternity leave. Then more people could do some foster caring. Or pay better for it, perhaps, although it's not just about the money for me, it's about not feeling like I'd have my career any longer.

bonnieslilsister Sun 19-Aug-12 16:20:45

I usually have 2 children in placement and the money is good (very hard work though) as it is supplemented by tax credits but the problem is when I dont have anyone (the time for this is coming very soon as children are moving on) and we (me and my kids) live on savings and I worry then and think I might be better in some more stable working environment until the next child arrives smile It would make so much difference to be paid a wage and treated as a professional. None of us really like talking about money but we all have to live and I agree with Rubirosa nobody criticises social workers/nurses/doctors etc for thinking about money.

NanaNina Sun 19-Aug-12 23:05:52

I think the responses to this query from the OP have more or less answered her. I have 30 years experience as a sw and tm mgr in Fostering & Adoption and have been retired from LA work for 8 years.

For as long as I can remember there has been a shortage of good foster carers, but once the IFAs came along, and started to syphon off our carers with the promise of much better pay and support etc then many of them left the LA and why wouldn't they really. In fact we wondered back then how we managed to retain any of our foster carers.

Our fcs were asking us the same question as is being asked here "how come you have the money to pay the IFA carers but not us" and this of course was a highly relevant query, which we took to senior managers but always got the same response "we can't afford it - we haven't the finance to do this" our arguments about losing more and more of our carers fell on stoney ground. Back then we were not using IFAs that much, and only for hard to place children, but i know that that situation has changed a lot and will as you all say only get worse.

We fought for so many years (it seems) for foster carers to be paid an annual salary so that they had security and that this would greatly increase the chance of recruiting and retaining carers, but no go, as the response was always the same "we can't afford it" - I got so mad at one of these meetings I said "well what you could do, is get rid of all the fostering social workers and tm mgrs which would release enough money for all carers to be paid the same as IFA carers" ther was a lot of shuffling about and this was quickly passed over. I realise that they couldn't just make us redundant but I think I just got to the point of frustration at the picture we could see unfolding before us.

The thing is though that many carers who went to IFAs didn't realise that their allowances and all the support bought in for the children, play therapy, support with education and allsorts of other things that were good for the children, but were charged to the LA. These IFA owners/directors are making enormous profits and I know one of the first social workers who saw this gap in the market and was something of an entrepenur (awful social worker!) set up one of the first IFAs in the shire county were I worked and is now a multi-millionaire and has sold the company and lives a life of luxury. Thing is whatever govt is in power they have encouraged this kind of privatisation and this coalition will not rest until all public services are privatised.

I think someone made a good point about treating foster carers as part of the team, rather than "childminders" and many of the young inexperienced social workers and those without their own kids, had no idea at all of the stress that fostering involves and perceive themselves to be somehow superior to foster carers. My team were often involved with trying to educate social workers about the demands of foster care and many social workers did understand, but many of them didn't and this is another area that needs sorting. I feel a bit pessimistic though hearing of all the things in these posts that I and others fought for over a decade ago are still the same.

There is of course a national shortage of LA carers and that I believe is because more and more IFAs are springing up. When they first started they would only take experienced carers, but then many of them took new carers, though many of these placements ended, because brand new carers were getting very difficult kids from all over the country. Obviously LAs willonly use IFAs when they are desparate because there is no option - if there is no "in house" placement, you can try neighbouring authorities but usually no go, and so it had to be an IFA because you can't send an abused/neglected child home because there is no placement.

I think the other thing is that since the death of Peter Connelly, there has been a 50% rise in applications for Care Orders, as social workers were no longer willing to take the risk of supporting families when being constantly worried about them (and who could blame them, as they are vilified when a child dies) and to prevent this you would have to be with the family 24 hours per day! and so of course the need for placements for allthese children have exacerbated an already "crisis" situation.

bonnieslilsister Sun 19-Aug-12 23:16:23

Another amazing post from NanNina thanks

NanaNina Mon 20-Aug-12 11:57:15

Thank you Bonnie and the flowers smell lovely! Tbh I just feel so damn frustrated and angry that nothing has changed in the 8 years since I retired from LA work. The thing is though that social services has always been under resourced and budget constraints are behind everything really.
I blame the politicians - it was bad enough 8 years ago and now this coalition have come along and the posh boys are slashing public service budgets and at the same time expecting improved services. It's not just social services is it, it's all public services, and they are now selling off school playing fields - they'd sell their granny I reckon if they could get a good price for her!!

Better stop or I will rant on for ever..........!

Fosterangel Mon 20-Aug-12 16:34:07

Thank you NanaNina (and to all those who responded with heartfelt passion for the looming crisis) for such insight. I sort of guessed that this was not a "new" crisis. I understand much better now that it has been bubbling away and growing for years and that good people have foretold of this but have been put down. The whole situation is political (privatisation) and affected by economic forces (supply and demand) so how this "crisis" in LA foster caring will be solved is a bit of a "biggie". I hope the government listens and acts upon the experiences of those who do the actual fostering.
I am guessing that by involving us in asking for our suggestions to improve services the LA wants to make us feel included and less likely to jump ship. Helpful, available SW's that treat us like we actually know the children and have an IQ above a goldfish (sorry to goldfish lovers everywhere) would be a better incentive. But that is for another post........... xx

NanaNina Mon 20-Aug-12 18:34:18

Hi fosterangel and you are quite right about the political dimension to all this - I have no idea how this crisis is going to be solved, and there is the same crisis in recruitment and retention of social workers. Some of the inner cities are running at 30% vacancy rates, and many on sick leave for stress related illnesses. They can't even get in agency staff to cover any more because they can't afford to pay them, so posts are frozen and everyone suffers.

I don't think there's a hope in hell of the govt listening. They want privatisation of all public services, so slashing the budgets, meaning they can no longer function, there will be no option than to bring in some big business provider with loads of cash and they will sell it off. They have already sold off part of the Probation Service. Then social workers and foster carers will have a choice whether to work for the privatised system or go join the jobless queue. After all this is what is happening with schools isn't it - they don't have sufficient funding because the govt has slashed it and so the only way they can survive is by agreeing to becoming an Academy and then the big profiteers can have things their way, and the state will be nothing to do with it. Half of all secondary schools are academies, and the aim is for 100% in this parliament. They are starting on primaries too.

Of course none of this addresses your point about social workers and they do range from extremely competent and woefully inadequate and everything in between, but I guess this is true for other occupations. Your goldfish comment made me smile. I used to get young newly qualified social workers coming to me to complain about foster carer x and sadly many of their team mgrs supported them. I did suggest that we did some joint training, and agreed to organise it and it worked pretty well. I did point out that foster carers are like all of us, they have their own ups and downs in family life, and stresses and strains of caring for some very damaged children. I stressed they are not Mr and Mrs Perfect - they were human!! Oh god are the LA still asking for your views - I can't count the number of times this happened and it frustrated foster carers as they knew that nothing would change whatever they said.

All we can hope is that this is a one term parliament but most of the damage will be irreversible by then.

Ah well I will finish as I could rant all night............!! Oh finally don't ever forget the stability and love and care that you are giving to these children that will stay with them through their lifetime. That's what it's all about isn;t it.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Mon 20-Aug-12 18:50:19

How many people have one or two spare rooms?
I think this is a huge practical barrier.

boredandrestless Mon 20-Aug-12 18:56:41

It's the having a spare room IMO.

I've applied to be a foster carer in the past and was part way through the process when I realised my partner at the time (now EX) was just not going into it for the right reasons.

Now I am a single parent and would happily do it but I don't have a spare room and can't afford to move to a house with an extra room as it would mean moving costs and higher rent!

roundtable Mon 20-Aug-12 19:04:20

Yy, I read the op and immediately thought spare room. I was fostered and want to foster but I don't have the space.

Is an awful state of affairs.

Mrbojangles1 Tue 21-Aug-12 09:56:46

I also would like to ad that its not helapful that virtually every LA have diffrent rules surrounding the situation people can foster

My la allowes people to foster 0-2 with out a spare room were as otherd dont

My la dose not allow people who have not had children themselves to foster babies some las do

The whole thing is insane

Also the fact that my view which is made very clear is not wanted even though some of the sw dont have children and have no knowldge of child development

And this issue of being put on hold if you dont do as your told out of order

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Tue 21-Aug-12 10:17:30

I can see no reason why I shouldn't short term foster babies once my dc5 is in school
The baby would be in my room, my children will all be in school leaving me free for reviews and contacts, baby would be part of a family pre adoption.

But it's never going to happen is it? That is sad. I would particularly like to care for children with complex needs.

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