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.

gettinghappy Fri 11-May-12 17:02:01

Can I just add a question in relation to professionalism please. WHat do you think about registration ( in Scotland with the SSSC).

I believe that maing Fostering a registerable profession would improve standards and would go some way to further protecting children. I am already on the childcare part of the register in Scotland and I cannot understand why fostercare is not already registerable. What are your thoughts please?

I wondered if I might go off at a bit of a tangent for a minute – I am aware of the work you do with children who have been or are at risk of being sexually exploited.

In light of recent events that have been widely reported – are you taking any steps to expand your service and how widespread would you say the problems of sexual exploitation are?

Kristina2 Fri 11-May-12 22:43:07

Nina, i canjot understand your comments to Rhubarb. There are indeed Catholic adopion agencies operating perfectly legally in the uk at present

Devora Fri 11-May-12 23:12:26

Although I adopted through the more conventional route, I'm really interested in the potential of concurrent planning to get children living with their adoptive families-to-be as early as possible. It breaks my heart that we were ready for my dd from the moment she was born, but only able to take her home nearly a year later, even though there was never any question she would be able to stay with her birth mother. What a lot of unnecessary trauma and heartbreak for her - and, incidentally, for her foster carer who desperately wanted to keep her and wasn't allowed to.

Concurrent planning seems so obviously the way to go, even though I know it's not appropriate in all cases (the one adopter I know who has done this has had a very difficult time of it). Could you explain to us whether you think it could become the norm, and what the obstacles are to making that happen?

maples Sat 12-May-12 09:30:36

Devora I couldn't agree more with your comments about delays

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Sat 12-May-12 09:32:27

If its ok Devora I would just like to make a comment on our experience of concurrent planning.
Our first experience was alarming in that DS had been marked down for CC planning even though he was the first baby of an 'untested' young mum. Despite no family members (of a huge family) being contacted. It was all set and sorted till we struck our oar in and Barnardos, to their credit, backed off as soon as they got wind.
We were then to all intents and purposes concurrent fostercarers and it was bloody awful. We were involved in all aspects of the process but without any status or power.

I think anything that protects children from delays is good but any improvements have to be managed incredibly carefully to avoid children being adopted out of the family unnecessarily

NanaNina Sat 12-May-12 12:56:35

Kristina - Catholic Adoption Societies may well be able to recruit, train and approve adoptors, in the same way that the voluntary organisations and IFAs can, but they have to "sell their families" to the LA as they cannot place children in the way that the poster I was responding to, seemed to be suggesting. My concern is that posters may think that there are still very scant "assessments" because this is far from the truth. As I'm sure you know assessments for adoptors and foster carers are quite rightly extremely comprehensive with a range of checks, including 4 referees and checks on any applicant who has been in employment which is child related.

Devora - completely agree with you - I fought hard when I was working in the area of fostering & adoption with a LA but sadly there was very little interest. It's a big ask I know to expect foster carers to take a baby/young child and to co-operate with the LAs attempts to reunite the baby/child with the birth parents, and not to know whether this will happen or not. However there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best way of serving the best interests of the child.

Mrbojangles1 Sat 12-May-12 13:53:00

Devora my LA no longer do concurrent planning as serval concurrent carers had taken the LA to court and one once it was established the child was to go home.

To be honest I blame the court delays my heart feels for anyone who has been looking after a child from birth meanwhile after 3 years expected to return that child.

Beause the children were not taking care of there parents in the first instance so had no real attachment to them and saw the carers as the parents the courts were often judging in favour of the carers also making LA pay for carers costs

Personally I think the court process simply takes to long for CP to work the baby and the carer get strongly bonded, whilest the parent because detached

My husband is in the military. We live in areas for between two and three years. Every time we move we have to redo the skills to foster course and redo the Form F. We literally had three children placed with their adoptive families after 18 months of hard work receiving huge amounts of praise from all prfoessionals involved for our efforts, and then the next week because we had moved 75 miles we were no longer able to foster despite there being a desparate shortage in our new area. When we move next I do not think we will jump through the hoops and will give up fostering. Why is it necessary to process experienced carers who move to a new area in the same way as a person who has never fostered?

We curently have an incredilly demanding placement. We are not allowed to see court transcripts and rely on the social worker who gives us snippets. the children we are dealing with are very vunerable and we do not have confidence in our social worker. Why are foster carers not allowed into court routinely in order to be able to give evidence, correct mis informed facts and also be able to genuinely know what is happening in a case in order to be able to help the children they live with every day.

Our social worker visits the minimal amount of times she can and for the shortest period of time. The information she gives the children is not enough and leaves them full of questions that we are helpless to answer; why are we trusted to cope on a daily basis and yet not considred professionally competent to be fully involved in case conferences etc.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Sat 12-May-12 18:07:00

Excellent questions IMHO goodun smile

You can understand the need for thorough checks when foster carers move to a new area, but you'd think this would mainly be verifying they are who they say they are, and have the experience and successful outcomes in fostering that they say they do. Also checking the reasons they are moving areas perhaps but completely agree that it is very odd to treat them exactly the same as someone new to fostering.

An appropriate appraisal scheme needs to be developed for such people surely ?

Whilst having the best checks on foster carers possible for the well-being of children we need at all times to have the greatest respect for those offering this valuable service to our children.

The same applies to others working with children, such as myself. There is no need to make people feel that they are under suspicion just because a CRB check is in process for example. I think the way things are done could often be improved. Fortunately for me the first CRB check I needed for voluntary work at our local hospital was carried out in an exemplary and respectful way - so I've always been able to say to myself that that's how it should be done when I've experienced slightly less professional and respectful approaches from others smile

insancerre Sat 12-May-12 18:21:59

I would love to be a foster carer. I have a spare room, am a qualified and experienced nursery nurse and am just about to start my Early Years Professional Status.
However, my husband won't even entertain it. How can i persuade him?

NanaNina Sat 12-May-12 19:40:30

I don't think you should try to persaude your DH insancerra. You both need to be motivated. Sometimes the husband/partner might not feel quite as enthusiastic as the woman in the first place, but then as they learn more, their interest develops. I have assessed many couples where this happens, but if your DH won't entertain it, then you cannot go ahead, as it is unfair on him and more pertinently it is unfair on the children. Even if you did manage to persaude him this would be picked up by a competent asessor.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Sat 12-May-12 21:41:13

That's just got me thinking that maybe one partner should be allowed to persuade the other - as long as in the end both want to/ agree to go ahead with the application to become foster carers. I'd think this might especially be the case where the primary carer (often the woman) is able to persuade her partner to go ahead with fostering.

I'm Thinking saying it isn't allowed may just lead to more stress and dishonesty anyway. Openness and honesty should be enabled and encouraged IMHO smile

Wiggy29 Sun 13-May-12 08:49:21

Firstly, Is there a set rule on how old your own child/ children have to be before you can foster?

Secondly, I've noticed on this thread people talking about giving up their employment to foster, is this only if you are fostering children under school age?

only4tonight Sun 13-May-12 10:29:21

I would love to foster. I, and my husband, would be good (great) at it as we have a lot of love to give and a lot of experience in childcare and supporting family members. However we would need more space (bigger mortgage) and I would have to give up my professional job. So financially its not an option.

The second biggest barrier would be the emotional turmoil seeing a child go back to parents who can't give them the care they need. (all for the sake of keeping families together no matter the effect on the children, or on society as a whole). I would not want children to be needlessly withdrawn from caring, but struggling, parents who just need some support. But I do believe that there are very often cases where the parents are unwilling or are incapable of change.

Rubirosa Sun 13-May-12 13:01:31

I am also interested in how fostering can be made financially viable for more ordinary families. At the moment it is only really possible if you have a home that is larger than your needs (unusual in itself) and are either independently wealthy or can live on a single salary (also unusual). I don't know anyone in my peer group of 20s/30s families who can afford both a spare bedroom and a stay at home parent.

Is there a risk that fostering is seen as an altruistic hobby rather than a demanding and rewarding career? Many people who work with vulnerable or challenging children are prepared to do so for very little money (as support workers, in children's centres etc) but they still need a reliable income.

I would like to foster, specifically long term and specifically children over 8 or those with needs such as autism or medical issues.

I am same though, I have no spare room, I would be willing to move to a bigger house but dont want to if I would not be approved.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Sun 13-May-12 18:33:08

I hope you'll be able to find a way to foster verity - it sounds like you could give someone a wonderful family.

I think that's the thing really the carer and the family offering care need to be looked at way over and above the simple accommodation/ spare room

NanaNina Sun 13-May-12 19:46:43

I suppose what is surprising me is the number of posters who are interested in fostering but worried about this or that, have not approached their LA to talk over these matters with someone from the fostering team. I have noticed on the Fostering threads that already approved carers who have children in placement, are asking questions of other cares, rather than ask the social workers. I am not saying there isn't a place for carers to discuss things with other carers, indeed most LAs will encourage foster carers to get mutual advice, help etc. Sometimes a carer would prefer to talk to another carer, but there does seem a reluctance to discuss things with social workers.

scarlet5tyger Sun 13-May-12 20:01:33

NanaNina, I remember you raising the issue of FC discussing things with SW before and I disagree that it's a "reluctance" to do so, more of an impossible task tracking a SW down these days! I can leave 3 messages before I get a call from a SW and it would seem silly spending all that time doing so when I can get a much quicker (and often more truthful) answer from on here.

Rubirosa - I'm a young carer and definitely wouldn't describe fostering as a "hobby"! and I'm far from wealthy, but I manage on the income I receive. I do agree that it should be given more status and promoted as a "career" though, but worry that it might attract the wrong people if more money was involved (not that I wouldn't say no to being paid at least the minimum wage, which we are not currently paid)

Kristina2 Sun 13-May-12 20:22:15

Nina,often carers will chooseto ask another expedinced carer rather than a Sw who may have very little exepirinece and even less training. Many Sw have had literally a few lectures during their course on fostering and adoption aand have maybe attended one or two days of in service traning.OTOH, many carerss have 20 years experience, 24/7.

Much SW traniing and practice can be focussed on minimising the risk to the agency rather than being child and family centered. Often they have no first hand experince of how to handle difficult issues.having read a book or being familiar with the agency policy often isnt a lot of use.

For example, carers who face violent behaviour from Fc are told to call out of hours.when they do, they refuse to coem out and simply say call the police. Not a lot of use

Rubirosa Sun 13-May-12 20:41:21

I find it interesting scarlet that when raising wages/professionalism/status in other areas of children's services is discussed (whether that is early years, teaching, social work) it is with the intention of attracting the right sort of people. Yet with foster caring, which is easily more difficult, demanding and important than working in a nursery for instance, the worry seems to be that it will attract the wrong sort of people.

Of course potential foster carers will still need to be rigorously screened, but if there is a shortage of carers than surely increasing the pool of people for whom it is even financially a possibility is a good thing?

Kristina2 Sun 13-May-12 21:11:23

Excellent point rubirosa

scarlet5tyger Sun 13-May-12 21:11:53

I agree Rubirosa. Unfortunately experience shows it does happen - my LA last raised our allowance (not allowed to call it a wage) around 10 years ago - by quite a significant amount. As a result they attracted vastly more foster carers. Hindsight shows some (not all) of those new carers were "in it for the money". Some couldn't handle the pressures of fostering even for the money paid and left relatively soon after. Others were found to be taking the money for themselves, leaving vulnerable children in situations no better than those they'd been removed from. And others left as soon as the LA realised they couldn't afford to pay out the higher allowances and cut them again. I don't know what the solution is as I DO want to be paid a decent living wage! My LA recently suggested a sliding scale based on the difficulty of a placement. Maybe a sliding scale according to experience/positive annual reviews could also be implemented? I'd definitely like to see a national allowance set - allowances differ greatly from borough to borough.

I've heard recently that the Government IS interested in placing Foster Carers on an equal status with SW/education/health etc and making our opinions actually count but having heard that one before I'm afraid I'll believe it when it happens.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Sun 13-May-12 21:17:41

I agree Rubirosa.
The 'wrong sort of person' and 'only in it for the money' argument comes up whenever money is mentioned.
I even know of people who think foster carers shouldnt be paid at all. After all, if they really want to do it, they would do it for nothing hmm

No one ever says that about lawyers or doctors do they?

IMO if you treat a job/vocation/profession as high status and value it, it tends to attract the 'right sort of people'.

Unfortunately there are already fc who only do it for the money (not a generalization, I mean just as there are in any job). The low wages dont seem to have detered them.

I think older carers do a fine job but if we want to recruit younger carers we must offer them a career. Making fc a career would not make it any less of a noble undertaking (IYSWIM).

lardylump Sun 13-May-12 21:42:02

I am confused about the 'not in it for the money' argument. We cant be in it if there is no money in it. We cant afford another child.

i love kids and am a registered childminder, but my husband refuses to entertain the idea of fostering unless we are being paid for it. Now he realises that there is a payment element he is willing to take it on as a career, in addition to the job he does every day

We have done the fostering course and he is going to be a fantastic foster carer (he is a fantastic father), some of the answers he gave at the course made me fall in love with him all over again.

BUT it worries me that if he openly says ' we would love to foster care, but we cant afford to do this without being paid' it will preclude us from fostering.

if this is to be a positively recognised profession, then the fees need to reflect this. If this sounds mercenry then i'm sorry , but i live in the real world and we all have bills to pay.

scarlet5tyger Sun 13-May-12 22:03:53

Just to clarify, my point was that people are being put off fostering altogether because they think they can't afford it. If it's something you really want to do then you should at least make enquiries before assuming you won't be able to manage on the money paid. In no way was I saying foster carers shouldn't be paid! Also look into the tax allowances and benefits you may be entitled to.

On the other hand, be wary of the large adverts in the local press, usually by fostering agencies, offering excellent pay (one near me quoted £600 per week per child). They can offer all the money they like if they don't have any children to place with you.

(Sorry if my posts appear contradictory tonight, I've spent the day arguing with a toddler and haven't come out of battle mode yet!)

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Sun 13-May-12 22:12:18

Your post made me think of the things I had heard other people say scarlet, so I hope it didnt seem as if I was jumping on your comments re payment.

You should hear what they say about Kinship Carers asking for financial support hmm

I think there should be more uniformity between agencies and LAs across the country regarding payments for FC.

Rubirosa Sun 13-May-12 22:13:13

That's the other issue though isn't it - if you do manage to move to a larger home, give up work and budget carefully to live on the allowance, what happens if you don't have a placement for a month? Or have a series of short term placements with gaps of weeks in between? Are foster carers paid a retainer or are they expected to go on and off benefits or in and out of work?

scarlet5tyger Sun 13-May-12 22:23:12

Now you've opened another can of worms Rubirosa! I'm a short term (task centred) FC and most of my placements have been no shorter than 8 months - usually more like 2 years! There has only been 1 occasion (for around 2 weeks) when I didn't have a placement, but my LA don't pay retainers so I had to claim Job Seekers Allowance - here's where the worms come in.

I qualify for Income Support as my allowance is low, yet when I had no child in place I had to switch benefit to JSA. The money I received was exactly the same yet I was expected to go to the job centre to sign on - even though I wouldn't have been able to accept a job offered to me as I knew I'd be taking in another child any day!

I think most agencies DO pay retainers, and holiday pay, but you're much more likely to have gaps with them than you are with LA.

Rubirosa Sun 13-May-12 22:36:13

I wonder if the lack of foster carers is linked to the fact that they are expected to have spare rooms and claim benefits? I find it appalling that we (as a society) value children and carers so little that FCs are not even paid a living wage!

Devora Sun 13-May-12 23:52:35

I think people generally don't really understand what foster care is, and think it's a kind of diluted adoption. Hence some of the comments that it should be a vocation not a job.

Foster care IS a job, albeit one that demands a high degree of emotional investment, empathy, compassion etc. Of course we don't want people to do it just for the money, but equally we don't want them to lack professional commitment, professionalism in their dealings, and indeed a degree of professional detachment. Seems to me you're more likely to get both if you pay a decent enough wage.

Adoption, by contrast, is NOT a job and shouldn't be waged. Which is not to say that allowances shouldn't be paid where necessary for the children's welfare, including to allow the parent to give up work in some cases.

As for kinship carers, every time I read about people forced into poverty so that they can keep a child in the family a red mist rises. Talk about exploiting people's good will.

TheRhubarb Mon 14-May-12 09:36:15

NanaNina, it seems you might not believe my post earlier? When exactly did the catholic adoption agency have to adhere to the LA's assessment criteria?

If the assessments were that strict, then my sister would not have gotten through and my mother and stepfather would not still be fostering young teenage boys. My mother has a long history of mental health related illnesses that are on her medical records for all to see. This, coupled with the fact that she is in her 70s should prevent her from fostering vulnerable young children who deserve better care then she is currently able to give them.

Some people do slip through the net, quite possibly aided and abetted by the church.

NanaNina Mon 14-May-12 15:45:29

TheRhubarb - it wasn't that I misbelieved you, I was just confused by your post. It isn't so much that the Catholic Adoption Society have to adhere to the LA's assessment criteria. As far as I'm aware all LAs, and voluntary organisations (like the one you mention) follow the same guidelines for the recruitment, training and assessment of prospective adoptors. This means that they put on training/preparation courses for prospective adoptors so that they may learn far more about the adoption process, and the reasons why children need to be adopted and about some of the behaviours that they wil have as a result of being abused/neglected in the past.

As far as I am aware all LAs, vol orgs (like the one you mention) follow the same procedure for assessing applicants. This is produced by the British Agencies for Fostering & Adoption (BAAF) and is usually known as the Form F. Now I am 8 years out of LA practice (am retired) and I do know that BAAF change their forms and the format, sometimes to make it easier to carry out the assessment. However I can assure you that these assessments are very comprehensive, covering all aspects of the applicant's lives, the way they were parented and their own parenting capacity to name but a few. Alongside the assessment there will be comprehensive checks, CRB checks, medical checks (this takes the form of a questionnaire being provided to the applicants and they then have a medical with their GP. The GP will then send the medical report to The Medical Advisor for the LA (assume that vol orgs have their own medical advisor) and the medical advisor, on the basis of the GP report makes a decision whether the applicants are suitable adoptors on the basis of their medical history. Additionally the applicants will be expected to provide referees (rules on these do change between different LAs and Vol Orgd) but it is usual to ask for 2 family referees, and 2 independent referees.

The applicants are often invited to write something themselves about their lives, though this is not essential.

OK let's take the Catholic Adoption Society who undertake an assessment; they cannot place children for adoption a) because they don't have any children and b) because it is illegal and has been for many years, though I can't tell you exactly when.

So if Mr and Mrs x have been approved by the Catholice Adoption Society and it is legal for them to have their own adoption panel to recommend them as adoptors. Now what I don't know is whether people approved by this society will only want to place children whose birth parents want them to be brought up in the Catholic faith. However the next thing for the CAS to do is to find out from LAs (who are the only authorities who actually have children in their care that are awaiting adoption) whether they would like to "buy" one of the approved families. It may be that the CAS have applicant(s) who are considering a child with disabilities or a large sibling group (as these are very hard to place children) and so the LA may be interested in such applicants. The Vol oRgs send round to LAs details of their families who are approved adoptors to see if there is a "match" - however because of the cuts in budgets LAs are seldom able to "buy" the family because they cannot afford to do so. However if the LA are interested in "buying" adoptors from the CAS (or any other vol org) they will scrutinise the assessment in the same way as they would their own assessments. There would be no question of the CAS assessment being very scant (as used to be the case many years ago).

I'm sorry I can't comment on your sister's case.

As far as your mother and step father are concerned, they must be registered with a LA or an IFA (Independent Fostering Agency) to be able to foster. If they have been approved by an IFA, the same thing will apply, they would have had to have been comprehensively assessed, and the IFA would then have to "sell" them to the LA, or to put it another way the LA would have to "buy" the placement from the IFA. So your mother and stepfather must be registered foster carers, as they are still taking places. By law all fost carers have to be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that everything is going well, and the age range of the childen they foster is still right for them.

I appreciate that you are very concerned but I can only tell you what the process is, and has been for many years. I will look up when it became law that only LAs could be adoption agencies that could place children and let you know.

TheRhubarb Mon 14-May-12 15:53:44

NanaNina I think it was after my sister's case.

Yes I am concerned. All whilst I was living at home, I never heard of any annual reviews and still don't know that she gets these. If these annual reviews were being carried out then why, is a woman in her 70s with mental health problems and her husband still able to foster young boys? Is there not a maximum age? If there is, what is it?

These guidelines may be there but is it possible that some authorities do not carry out the necessary checks to ensure that they are being adhered to?

NanaNina Mon 14-May-12 15:57:04

Devora I agree with your post above. I have championed the rights of foster carers for most of my working life and have been at the forefront of fighting for a living wage for foster carers; a salary, like any other job so that you are not just paid when you have a placement (or maybe get a small retainer)

I agree that adoption is not a job as such but I think that some of the children that are being adopted these days, have severe and enduring emotional difficulties, and adoptors need post adoption support (by law) but seldom get it, and many adoptive families are reliant on some form of post adoption allowance, although these are of course discretionary and can be decreased or stopped altogether.

I totally agree with you about kinship carers and think they are being massively exploited by LAs. When I last worked for a LA 8 years ago, we were paying kinship carers a fostering allowance for the child in placement, but not a fostering fee (or reward element for the job done) but I know different LAs have different practices. Even worse is that even 8 years ago kinship carers were being encouraged (Hmm) to apply for Residence Orders, so that the child would no longer be in care of the LA. Yes all well and good but that means that any problems in the future (about contact or anything else) will not be sorted out by the LA, because the case will be closed. I'm pretty sure this is still going on, as budgets become more and more slashed by this coalition, and is in my view exploitative.

I and other colleagues also fought for the LA to pay carers the same as IFAs pay them but the response was that we couldn't afford it, but as the LA carers said to us "yes but you place them with an IFA carer when there is nowhere else" - absolutely true. I often wondered how it was we had any LA carers left - but it's privatisation isn't it and this is the way successive goverments have wanted - indeed I don't this this coalition will be satisfied until they have privatised all public services. Sorry I'd better stop there as some your "red mist" might descend on me.!!

NanaNina Mon 14-May-12 19:17:29

TheRhubarb - there isn't a specific age that carers can no longer be registered. People are very different and some people in their 70s still have a lot to offer. I do have to say though that there have been cases where we have to politely suggest that carers may be coming to the end of their fostering career and in my experiece carers usually know themsleves when things are getting a bit too much for them.

If you really are concerned then I think maybe you have to find out with LA or IFA or Vol Org (like Barnardoes) and make your concerns known.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Mon 14-May-12 19:32:09

nana the practice is to now encourage carers to apply for Special Guardianship Orders rather than a RO.
This is good in many ways. It gives the carer more control than a RO and is not as drastic as an AO.

However the issue of financial support still remains. It is not as bad as when ROs were the norm but it is nowhere near sorted and the majority of KC I know have to take the LA to appeal before appropriate support is awarded.

NanaNina Mon 14-May-12 19:49:31

Yes Kristina I fully accept that carers may wish to talk to each other rather than a sw and I think I've already made that point (and Scarlet) I take your point that it is very difficult to get hold of social workers.

I am however a little puzzled about how you claim to know so much about social work training, since you have made it clear in the past you are not a social worker. I would take issue with your statement " that much of social work training and practice is about minimsing risk to the agency rather than being child and family focussed." Are you able to evidence this?

I am fully aware that many social workers are young and inexperienced, and the only opportunity they have of first hand experience before they qualify is whilst they are out on placements. When I trained many years ago, we had 2 practice placements and 1 plct in res care. I don't know how many plcts students have on the 3 year degree course.

Yes there will be some foster carers who have 20 years experience and a newly qualified sw, but it is just as likely that you have a sw with 20 years experience and a newly approved foster care. Also, is it not the case that all professionals and other emplyees have to "learn on the job" - you only have to watch Young Doctors (recent TV programme) after 5 years hard study, they were on their first hospital placements and were on a very steep learning curve, and were dependent on the good will of the nurses, same with nurses, teachers, who of course have to get through their NQT year, lawyers, accountants etc. etc.

Re a foster carer calling EDT but told to call the police, is not I agree very helpful, however some counties are very large and a very small number of EDT workers, who have to prioritise their work eg. a person needs to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act as they are a danger to themselves or others, a 6 month old baby with a fractured skull and the account of the parents does not match the injury - needs immediate response etc etc.

I was a social worker for 6 years on a Teenage Placement Project where some very difficult and challenging young people were in placement, and the carers had my home number. In all those 6 years I never had to go out at all (even though I was prepared to do so) most carers just needed advice or reassurance. A violent teenager is in fact probably committing an offence and therefore it is more appropriately dealt with by the police.

I do realise that social care is in need of many improvements, including more resources (but small chance of that with this coalition and its slashing of all public sector budgets) and I have seen very poor practice when working independently, but this was due to inner city LAs trying to run a service on 30 - 40% vacancy rates, many staff off sick with stress related illness, agency staff coming and going and managers promoted beyong their competence.

TheRhubarb Mon 14-May-12 20:21:54

Thank you, I have raised concerns before but nothing was done.

At least they aren't in childrens homes I suppose.

NanaNina Mon 14-May-12 23:32:53

Mrs DeVere - I am aware that SGOs (which is relatively new legislation) Jan 2006 is by far the best route to permanancy especially in kinship assessments. I have carried out several SGOs whilst I was working independently and agree they are only really one step "short" of adoption.

However I think LAs prefer ROs because it involves less work for them, and there are still sws who don't realise what documentation is needed for an SGO. The assessment is comprehensive and the issues to be addressed are laid down by a legislative process. In addition the LA have to carry out an assessment of the applicant's needs in terms of practical issues, (supply of equipment) on going financial support and contact issues. I am at present attempting to help someone who thought she was applying for an SGO (well actually she didn't think she was applying for anything because the LA don't make it clear that only applicants can apply for ROs, SGOs, AOs, but the recommendation was for an SGO (but with none of the right paper work) and the social workers came out of court with a RO and were very happy about it!

However you are right that whether RO or SGO the case is closed and finance is discretionary althought there is a clause in the SGO legislation that states that finance (same amount as fostering allowances) should be made where a child was previously in the care of the LA, for the first 2 years after the making of the Order. However in another clause it states "that no placement should break down because of financial issues."

I am interested in what you say about KC having to take the LA "to appeal" before appropriate support is awarded. It was my understanding that the only course of action was to apply for a judicial review - is this what you mean, because I was left wondering how many KC would be in a postion to pay a lawyer to institute such proceedings, nor how costly that might be.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Tue 15-May-12 11:38:12

Not if you go through the complaints procedure and escalate to stage 2 . Most don't need to go further than that before resolution in favour of the kc

Jessie02 Tue 15-May-12 12:58:53

There are many foster carers with vacancies but they foster for independent fostering agencies. Time perhaps for Martin Narey to update the fostering system? Funding for children in care to be ring fenced and a National/Regional register of foster carers, their skills and vacancies to be matched with the children who need to be looked after?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Tue 15-May-12 14:20:48

"There are many foster carers with vacancies"

& There are many children needing foster care.

"Time perhaps to update the fostering system ?"

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

And makes me angry on the children's behalf that we (collectively as adults) can't get it more right more often for more children angry

laviniasmum Tue 15-May-12 15:54:19

i would love to be a foster carer to babies age 0-2 but i have been told by two LAs to wait a couple of years till my children are older sad my children are 12,8,5,2 my youngest starts nursary in sep so home alone it is lol
i know is sounds like i have alot on but i know me and my husband would be able to provide a safe and loving home for a foster child or children.
i was disheartened when we was told we couldnt go futher with our ap i just wish they could of done the home study got to know us better and seen how we are as a family. have you any advice or would you say the same??

laviniasmum smile

NanaNina Tue 15-May-12 16:48:06

LAs like there to be a 2 year gap between your own children and fostered children. Fostered children ideally need to be the youngest in the fanily, so that they are not competing with younger birth children.

Also there are usually a great many carers who want 0 - 2 and so you might have to wait for placements. How about childminding?

Laviniasmum - I hope you don't mind me answering, I know that this is a Q&A thread for Anne Marie Carrie, rather than a general fostering thread.

I think, rather than there needing to be a two year age gap and for fostered yp to be the youngest (which is often the case, but I have known many exceptions to this rule, particularly for task centered/short term foster care) the "wait a couple of years" approach is often because it is difficult for would-be foster carers to appreciate just how time consuming and draining foster care can be.
There is no doubt that the task becomes a little easier when your own children are a little more self-reliant.

I agree though that it is a shame that you were not offered at least an initial meeting as you would have then had an opportunity to talk about your support network. I really hope that you have not been put off making enquiries again.

NanaNina I went to an open evening and was told they wouldn't even give me any information or answer any questions until I had lived in the area for 18 months.

I didn't want to apply at that stage I just wanted to ask questions.

NanaNina Tue 15-May-12 19:02:50

MFT (love the name cus have hapy memories of how much my kids loved this book when little) I totally agree that when "backs are against walls" and a child out of the age range for which you are approved, needs placement, sws will ask if you can take the child. This makes something of a mockery of approving carers for a specific age range to fit with the ages of their children.

Sorry but I don't understand what youmean about the "wait a couple of years" is because it takes a long time for carers to be able to understand how draining and time consuming caring is. Of course I agree with that but applicants can't even begin to understand what is involve until they start a training course.

Verity I can't even hazard a guess what this was about. It makes no sense whatsoever does it.

Sorry, perhaps I did not explain myself very well - the "wait a couple of years" was in relation to waiting for the youngest child to be a little bit older, rather than because it would take a couple of years to get ones head around the challenges of fostering.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-May-12 09:43:10

This Q&A is now closed. Thanks for your questions. We'll be sending over 20 questions to Anne Marie Carrie later today and will link to her answers from this thread on 24 May.

Jessie02 Thu 24-May-12 11:40:36

I'd be grateful if you would you tell me where I can find or where I will be able to find the answer to my question that I left in the thread for Anne Marie Carrie?

Hi Jessie - the Q&A's are Here

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 24-May-12 16:22:19

Please click here for answers to the Barnardo's Fostering Q&A.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 24-May-12 19:55:36

I was a little disappointed in her answer to my question, under the "accommodation" section. I felt she could have been more open to the new ideas contained in the questions, considering fostering evidently needs a fresh approach in order to meet children's needs more successfully.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Thu 24-May-12 20:49:26

'However, it's very important that relatives are carefully assessed to ensure they will be able to sustain the level of care offered throughout the child's life - this is vital as many children in these situations will have already had to endure a great deal of instability and difficulty in their young lives'.

How patronizing.
We know that already.
Are Barnardos actually aware of the amount of FC placements a child can go through whilst in care?

I am very disapointed in this reply. It appears that Barnardos are not really behind KC.

Devora Fri 25-May-12 00:51:46

I was disappointed in the replies. I felt as though I was handed a leaflet rather than engaged in discussion.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Fri 25-May-12 08:48:23

I feel the same Devora.
I didnt feel as if she acknowledge our experience.
We could have gone on the website to see that stuff.

scarlet5tyger Sun 27-May-12 20:24:28

Mrs DeVere - was about to post exactly the same thing! I felt like I was reading an advert for Barnados rather than a discussion on foster care.

Would be great if we could place questions like this to a government minister rather than an agency who (seemed) to be recruiting for new carers in a slightly new way.

Devora Sun 27-May-12 21:05:20

I've been thinking more about why I feel slightly insulted (only very slightly, I can't say it's been keeping me awake at nights). And I think it's what MrsDV said about not acknowledging our experience. If she had read the thread properly, she'd surely have understood that most of the posters were already deeply invested in fostering and adoption. Some of us have spent years engaged with the system, caring for our adopted or fostered children etc. So we want conversation that's just at a slightly deeper level than if we were passers-by who airily lobbed in a top-of-the-head question and got handed a leaflet in response.

I'm sure someone from Barnardos Comms will read this at some point, so my advice to them is to do a little more work on their digital engagement stakeholder segmentation...

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Sun 27-May-12 21:09:17

I am relieved its not just me (although not exactly pleased).

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 28-May-12 11:16:01

Yes, glad we've continued the conversation here with our remarkably similar feedback about the responses offered.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 28-May-12 11:18:46

Personally I don't have much experience of fostering itself but I am professionally involved in work with young children.

Many of us on mumsnet are more than "just Mums" - As if there is such a thing! smile

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