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Length of time in foster care

(23 Posts)
Lovesoftplay Tue 23-Oct-12 12:57:19

I know this is a thread about a thread but it's such an interesting topic. On the fostering bit there is currently a bit of a debate about how long children should stay with foster carers before being adopted.

There are a few FC who are saying that children should be moved on ASAP, and others who are saying they should be stabilised by foster carers before being moved on. I am wondering what you guys think?

I believe my children should have been moved to adoptive parents much sooner, however, SS didn't do a great job of 'advertising' them to prospective parents.

Kewcumber Tue 23-Oct-12 14:16:30

I think its impossible to generalise because it depends on:

a) age and situation of the child eg an older child who has had a turbulent couple of years would probably benefit from a period of stabilisation, a younger child who wasn't so aware of the upset perhaps needs to be in a permanent home asap.

b) the foster carers - frankly I know of some I would hesitate to leave a child with more than a week and apart from emergency care I don't think they should be trusted with any long term therapeutic role in a childs life

c) training and experience of foster carers

Lovesoftplay Tue 23-Oct-12 16:20:20

As ever kew you are right smile

My feelings are that a child should stay in foster care as short as possible, which i guess may mean a fairly long time if they need to settle down before adoption.

Lilka Tue 23-Oct-12 18:58:10

Kew is right

Ideally, they should be in foster care for as long as is necessary (to determine the plan, get court orders, and make sure the child themself is ready), and not any longer. But unfortunately cases can sometimes last too long, and that might not be anyone's fault. My DD1 was in foster care for ~4 years, including a failed adoption, but had that adoption succeeded it would have been more like 2 years. But the difficult in finding parents for 5+ year olds means that a child might be in foster care for a long time with no plan to go back to birth parents, and nowhere to go on to either. DD2 was in care for over 3 and a half years, and free for adoption months before there was even the remotest possibility of a match for her, meaning she spent longer in care than necessary. That was partly the fault of trying to stay 'in house' for too long before looking to consortiums, national publications etc, but partly the problem of not enough adoptive parents for older children

And as Kew also said, the quality of foster care makes a difference. You don't want a child with very bad FC's, but a very good one, well it could be beneficial for the child to remain there longer

LFCisTarkaDahl Tue 23-Oct-12 19:03:27

From an attachment point of view the time needs to be completely minimised - it's ridiculous that a child comes into the system at birth, attaches to a carer and then takes 18 months to be processed for adoption.

I couldn't be part of that (kudos to those that can) so I now do only long term - still suffering the effects of dd having 3 previous carers plus two previous family placements hmm

LFCisTarkaDahl Tue 23-Oct-12 19:05:07

And obviously I agree with what you all have said too.

Fishwife1949 Tue 23-Oct-12 20:10:35

Sorry but the adopters that my foster child went to were very inxperinced and would not have coped with a baby withdrawing from drugs

I look at foster carer as time to converless for the child hopefully there over the worst of the pain, are in some kind of rountine.

Another issue is la not wanting foster carers to adopt many childre would have been out of care long ago but its frowed upon for foster crares to either moved to adoption Or to try and adopt a child thats in there care

Fyi i also meet some awful adoptive parents

Kewcumber Tue 23-Oct-12 22:25:00

I know you are having a bad day fishwife but you seem to have interpreted what we have said as an attack on foster parents and have "retaliated" with "Fyi i also meet some awful adoptive parents" unnecessarily.

I know some pretty poor adoptive parents to but tbh not at the foothills of how bad some of the foster carers that some of the children I know have been placed with (physical and sexual abuse). Of course I don't doubt there must be some truly awful adoptive parents - statistics would dictate it. But you also need to consider that the foster carers on mumsnet and other forums are the kind who want to do a good job ie they are the cream of the crop. There is a very variable quality of foster care out there and which I would suggest is a great deal more varied than adoptive care (if I can put it that way).

I know an inexperienced adoptive/foster parent (concurrent planning) who did (with support) manage a baby through drug withdrawal though we weren't close and I have no idea how much support she needed.

If foster carers have experience and/or they have specific training in the kind of support that a child needs and they are good and the child would benefit from a period to stabilise in order to make their adoption more likely to succeed then I can see the point of deliberately fostering for a longer period than strictly necessary.

My concerns are twofold:
1 - there is a risk that a child will subtly age out of being adoptable whilst being "stabilised" in foster care.
2 - most adoptive parents deal to some extent or other with issues arising as a result of problems in early life and/or the care/adoption process, and we manage on the whole with a reasonable degree of success. I believe provided the adoptive parents can offer suitable care, it is beneficial for a child to be placed with their long term parents as soon as possible and to work through their issues with their parents rather than without them.

I do genuinely believe that DS and I have a bond that is enhanced by me having dealt with the awful early days of him transitioning from institutional care to me. The idea of someone else dealing with the tough bits then me galloping in for the easier bits doesn't work for me as a parent at all (though there were times when the idea would have been attractive!).

Kewcumber Tue 23-Oct-12 22:25:59

out of interest - you obviously weren't born with the ability to deal with a drug addicted baby - how did you learn before the first one?

Devora Tue 23-Oct-12 23:49:26

My dd was born addicted and had a horrible first six months of life. I will always be grateful to her fc for caring for her through that time, and I know it wasn't easy - walking her up and down, up and down, through the nights.

Would it have been better if she had come straight to me instead? Undoubtedly, I lack the experience of her fc. I also have an older child to care for and may have struggled to provide the care she needed.

On the other hand, I observed the closeness between dd and her fc, forged in large part by the intensity (and, yes, the awfulness) of those early months together. They had a much tighter bond that the fc did with her other charge. So much parental bonding is about the hard times you put in (as kew just said) and I do wonder if it would have been better, if tough, if she could have formed that intense early bond with me.

Fishwife1949 Wed 24-Oct-12 08:52:14

Kewcumber sorry but i dose feel like that

The reason why children are in foster care for so long is not to stabilise them although in my view this should be the only reason its usually becuase yet again

Are intent of giving the birth parent every last chance my last fc was in care for 3 years in the meantime mum had two more children added to the four she already had no one agreed the child should be retured but the judge allowed appeal , re assement , assements of random aunties there was even talk of flying to the continent to seek out a cousin

Its almost as if the the judge was on somthing

Tbh also i dont think many adopters would be willing to do daily contact with the borth parents sometimes in there homes

*Add message | Report | Message poster Kewcumber Tue 23-Oct-12 22:25:59
out of interest - you obviously weren't born with the ability to deal with a drug addicted baby - how did you learn before the first one?*

my oh is a substance missuse nurse and i have been working with chikdren since i left school at 16

Kewcumber Wed 24-Oct-12 10:37:51

"also i don't think many adopters would be willing to do daily contact with the birth parents sometimes in there homes" but they're not required to in this country on the whole so you can't say that - most adoptive parents are desperate to do what is required of them and if it were required I suspect they would.

I know foster/adopters through concurrent planning who have effectively done it; I spent a couple of months visiting DS daily, twice a day for two hours each time with a 30 min drive there and back each time, it took the whole day every day (except Sunday when I only did one visit) for two months. I did it because I didn't have any choice and I would do it again in a blink if I could.

"The reason why children are in foster care for so long is not to stabilise them" - yes I know that but the question was should children be left at foster carers to stabilise them in preference to placement with adoptive parents. And (as I said originally) it really depends on the child and the specific experience and ability of the foster carers.

IME adoptive parents cope fairly well with all manner of issues and delaying the point at which they learn to cope with those issues together with their child is in my opinion counter productive unless there can be a clear benefit shown for the child.

I think its a bit irrelevant because the provision of foster care is more hit and miss (from my understanding) than conscious planning ie not so much "we need a foster carer with this specific skill" than "who is available now. There aren't enough resources in the system to be choosing the perfect option just the available one in most cases. There was a report done in 2010 following the sharp increase in the number of children fostered after Baby P case and two thirds of fostering services said they were "asking foster carers to look after children outside of their approval status often without formal recognition of this change". They also acknowledged that more had to be done to ensure that foster carers had the skills needed to cope with the needs of the chidlren in their care.

The report states:
"Without substantial investment and increases in resources, children are going to continue to be placed with families that do not fully meet their needs, putting a strain on the foster family, the child and the relationships, and increasing the risk of placements failing."

When considering whether children should have a planned period of time in care to "stabilise", I don't think you can rely on foster carers having any special insight, experience or training to deal with these children even if in your specific case you did.

Kewcumber Wed 24-Oct-12 10:44:54

sorry that was a bit of an essay!

Moomoomie Wed 24-Oct-12 13:47:54

Again, I agree wholeheartedly with Kew.
To be honest, I think there will always be some divide between foster carers and adoptive parents, which, in my opinion is very sad, because we all have the best interests of the child at heart.
I have seen the two opposite sides with foster carers but I have also seen some genuinely awful adoptive parents. That is life. I think it would be unfair to generalise.
Fishwife.... You do seem to have a chip on your shoulder concerning adoptive parents. If I recall correctly, you were hoping to adopt yourself?
Fostering and adoption are two totally different areas, which the general public do not always understand.
I will be grateful to our second set of foster carers for caring for dd3 so well u til she came home to us, but unfortunately I can't say the same about the first set.

Fishwife1949 Wed 24-Oct-12 15:04:00

Moon em i dont have any chip on my shoulder the set of adopters my fc went to were lovley

There are bad foster carers of course but likewise bad adopters

And i am not sure that many adopters what ever kew says would be willing to take on the duties that foster carers have to not because they cant because it could literally mean giving up the first 4 or 5 years of your life what puts of many potential foster carers is because they cant afford to swap a working wage for just over £100 a week i would imagain this would be the same for adopters

Also you risk the child after all the years not being placed with you at all i know cases were everyone thought it was a sure thing that the child would be adopted after years of back a forth to the courts then the day before the final hearing mum digs up the birth father

I am completey aware Fostering and adoption are diffrent thats why i am so amazed that some who have not fostered can talk so freely about who bad the care given to children by foster carers is

And also now hoping to adopt moving from fosteing to adoption i can see both sides
Like i said in all adopters, FOSTER carers and social workers there is good and bad

I not looking for a fight please be kind but i dont like foster carers being bashed i always have loked after any children i had like my owan including missing a trip to Disney world with my family so fc didnt have to go into respite

Also buying a new car at pur own expence so we could keep a disabled placed with us

Kewcumber Wed 24-Oct-12 16:11:11

"Also you risk the child after all the years not being placed with you at all i know cases were everyone thought it was a sure thing that the child would be adopted after years of back a forth to the courts then the day before the final hearing mum digs up the birth father " yes this is exactly what concurrent planners risk.

No adoptive parents are often not able to give up work for 4/5 years in order to facilitate birth parent contact though that would be an option is adopters were paid a foster carer rate to facilitate this.

But I'm confused why you are raising this point? The question asked was should stay with a foster carer rather than go to adoptive parents - not "could adoptive parents be foster carers" (though the answer is obviously yes, sometimes). I said it depends on the foster carer and on the child - one of the reasons I gave gave poor quality foster carers. I didn't at any point suggest that all foster carers are rubbish so I don't know why you're taking umbrage at that point on behalf of inadequate foster carers?!

I can comment on it because I personally know at least two children who were sexually or physically abused by a foster carer or their (teenage) child. In the same way that you can comment on the quality of adoptive parents because you have personal experience of them despite not being an adoptive parent (yet).

Fishwife1949 Wed 24-Oct-12 16:45:31

The reason why i raise this as you say is because the op wonders why chikdren remain in foster care for so long as you your self are doing i thought i might put forward some reasons

for some reason you are going to great pains to show i not am not yet a adopter but i am still have my view just as you are not a foster carer but still are having your view

I understand you may know people who been abused by foster carers but i was mearly pointing out from my lowey postion of a perspective adopter that adopters , sw and foster carers are not with also with out there issues to be

Its not about adoters being paid a foster carers wage which is peanuts its about adopters and foster carers being paid a fair wage also i would add kinship carers who are even worse paid than foster carers

I also think the whole conctat system needs a overhaul and also if the courts didnt take so long to make up there ruddy mind

In my view these are the reasons why chikdren spend so long in care also the advertising is a fab point

Moomoomie Wed 24-Oct-12 19:31:48

Fishwife... I do not want to get into an argument here, I understand that I have never been a FC so can't comment on that. We chose to adopt because we wanted a permanent family, not to become carers for other peoples children.

I think I can comment on bad FC though because we had an awful experience with our older two children's carer. And that is not just me saying so, our social worker actually made a formal complaint against them.
We then saw the other side of the coin when we adopted our third child, the family were fantastic.
I could go on but I feel you may take umbridge at what I am trying to say.

scarlet5tyger Wed 24-Oct-12 19:48:45

Sorry I've only skimmed this topic because I always get upset by foster carer VS adoptive parent arguments, but wanted to add my opinion as this is something i do feel strongly about.

I personally feel that if foster caring was seen as a profession, paid accordingly but also subject to proper annual reviews then less of the bad carers (and yes, there are some) would be able to continue. Carers should receive proper training in specialist areas - Kewcumber you are absolutely right that I wasn't born knowing how to care for a drug addicted baby, I was thrown in the deep end, and could very well have drowned without excellent support from other foster carers and my SSW.

But I also know that most of the drug addicted babies I care for are with me so long (on average 18 months) because adoptive parents specify they don't want drug addicted children because of the "unknown" futures they have. The adoption SW for the last child I moved on told me that my area is so short of adopters at the moment that parents can "pick and choose" (her words) and sadly don't choose the very lovely children I so desperately want to be in forever homes.

I agree too with Fishwife that it should be much easier for a child to remain with a FC if that's what fits. Sadly my own LA won't consider this as it loses them a valuable FC. (Maybe a good thing actually or I'd be like the old woman who lived in a shoe!)

Kewcumber Wed 24-Oct-12 21:23:02

scarlet don;t worry about arguments between adopters and foster carers on MN - in truth I've never seen one before and I'm not going to continue this one as I don't think I'm getting my point across.

I do know that adoptive parents aren't generally given the choice of children with a certain future so I can't comment on those who apparently turn down the opportunity to take on a child who is drug addicted because of an uncertain future. I thought it was pretty standard practice to foster children with drug addictions issues - I wasn't aware (except for concurrent planning) that they were even considered for adoption at that stage, I'd be interested to know if Devora was given the opportunity. But maybe experience has shown social workers that adopters are wary in that situation. I know in my sons case where he had a very uncertain prognosis that it was a huge leap of faith for me to accept the referral as it was a lifetime commitment.

The issue with LA's being anti-foster carers adopting is a real toughie. Of course it makes sense for the child but the harsh reality is that most LA's are so short of foster carers they really don't want them to adopt!

Anyway - the Op asked should children stay in foster care to be stabilised before they are adopted. My view - its impossible to generalise - depends on the foster carer, depends on the child, depends of the adoptive parents. On the whole permanence should be prioritised over temporary.

I don't think OP was asking why children stay in foster care so long, unless I missed something, and I suspect we're all pretty familiar with the various reasons why it happens.

Devora Wed 24-Oct-12 21:32:10

I don't understand why there has to be a divide between fc and adopters. I too have had troubles with fc - our one was also the subject of multiple complaints. I don't deduce from that that all fc are crap, only that some are. Similarly, I feel no need to pretend that all adopters are brilliant - I don't feel any sense of collective responsibility.

KristinaM Wed 24-Oct-12 22:47:46

To answer the op-I think children should be moved onto permanence ASAP. Any specialist care or support they need shoudl be provided in their permanent family. If the APs don't have the skills they should be taught them. Or the children placed with families who do.

Some children will take years to " stabilise" m if they ever do. how long should they wait? Until they are old enoughto be " unadoptable " ??

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 25-Oct-12 22:08:18

Exactly what Kristina said

There are some inexcusable delays, eg when the courts don't have time to conclude the case (DD was held up for nearly 7 months because of this - which worked out well for us as we weren't approved until then, and luckily she was with fab FC). Administrative pressure or incompetence are just not good enough reasons to play with a small child's life, IMHO

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