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raising profile of foster carers

(25 Posts)
fostering Sun 23-Jan-11 22:08:17

Baby P, Victoria Climbie - There are so many articles in the news about children in care or who should be in care, but rarely do foster carers get asked for their views.
Does anyone know the best way to make changes within fostering agencies?
How can the views of foster carers be heard and registered?
When foster carers speak up against social workers or disagree for example about contact with birth parents they quickly discover that no placements are available. This leaves carers with no income and worse, nothing to do.
Foster carers are not paid, they have an allowance to cover expenses so they appear to have no rights as do other employees. Yet they are not free to move between agencies.
It may be the adverse coverage in the media but social workers rarely ask foster carers their opinion.
It is as if carers are "interfering" in the lives of the children they look after if they speak up on their behalf.
If the outcomes of children in care were better, then we would be moving in the right direction to stop the cycle of abuse and neglect.
A focus on looked after children and funding for social care would reduce neglect and abuse amongst our most vulnerable children in society.
Does anyone have some positive ideas on how to make changes?

maypole1 Sun 23-Jan-11 22:56:56

Stop assuming the best place for a child is with their parents

A child in care dose worse than a child with good parents .

But a child in care dose better than a child who has abusive parents .

Also if they put the child need absolutely before the parents need we might get some were.

Also I think we need a national register so that foster carers have to resign and be re assed

Sw, doctors even teachers get approved then are allowed to practice any were with in the uk and Ireland

Agree you should have to interview and crb checked if you want to move but if you have been approved-then you have been approved if they standardised it all it would be a lot better
I think all this beeing re approved for the same job waist a lot of time and ties sw down when they could be freed up to deal with cases instead of having whole teams to re approve people

NanaNina Sun 23-Jan-11 23:34:00

Fostering - I see from your post on another thread that you foster for an IFA. Is there not a Foster Carer Group who can raise issues where necessary. I know there was in the LA where I worked and they were very influential, which is how it should be. I think too many social workers don't have a high enough regard for foster carers and think that they should be Mr and Mrs Perfect. Social workers without kids of their own don't realise just how hard it is to look after kids, let alone damaged kids that foster carers take on.

I'm not sure what you mean about no placement being available if a carer disagrees with a sw. This certainly should not be the case and I am assuming that you have had this experience. I think one of the problems is (especially about contact) is that the sw knows that when they get to court for the final hearing, they will have to prove that they have offered regular and frequent contact, otherwise the defence solictor and probably the judge will tear them to pieces and the case could be lost. Quite often social workers (like foster carers) know that contact is making the child worse, but it is necessary and expected until the final decision is made about the child's future.

I think many foster carers know far more about child care/development etc than sws and then the situation can become tense because the sw (especially inexperienced ones) get defensive and sometimes scared of the foster carer.

Your voices should be heard - surely you are invited to case conferences, core meetings, have your own annual reviews etc. The foster care groups in the LA I worked for, got together for anything from coffee mornings to meetings when they wanted to raise concerns about sw practice and on more than one occasion all joined together from each area and had a meeting with the Director of Social Services which changed practice quite a bit.

Try talking to Fostering Networks - they will have ideas and experience that may be useful.

SenSationsMad Mon 24-Jan-11 21:03:51

from talking to a lot of professional people recently, I've noticed that a lot believe that parents, and I mean bad parents get too many chances.

fostering Tue 25-Jan-11 12:31:29

When attending fostering support groups, many carers will warn others not to complain about the system or raise concerns about their placements because it is well known that placements suddenly dry up.
I was invited by a services director at a LA to write outlining the many problems I had had leading to me requesting deregistration. I didn't even get a acknowledgement, let alone a response.
I propose a national register for foster carers, with national consistent pay schemes (London weighting) to allieviate the discrepencies of the LA allowances and IFA payments.
Carers look after some of the most vulnerable children in our society and I believe that by raisig the standards of the care system much could be done to break the cycle of abuse.
COntact is necessary and expected by the courts but if not in the best interest of the child who should be speaking up for the child, to whom and in what format?

NanaNina Tue 25-Jan-11 15:01:30

SenSationsMad - yes I think you're probably right. The thing is that sws know that unless they can present a cast iron case to the court at the final hearing which decides the child's future, they will not be granted a Care Order or Placement Order. Lawyers for birth parents (defence lawyers) fight their corner very hard (and I have no objections to this because that is fair) although I don't believe that the adverserial system is right in child care matters. Defence lawyers routinely cross examine social workers for anything up to 3 hours. I was once cross examined for 4.5 hours until the Judge intervened and told the defence solicitor to stop. Most unusual.

Also there is the issue of the LA lawyers who take the case to court on behalf of the sws. They will only agree to present a case if they feel that there is a strong possinbility that it is "cast iron" and and every opportunity has been given to the birth parents. Mind I think sws and their managers (if they feel that the case needs to go before the court) should argue the toss with LA lawyers, but too many are willing to accept the lawyers viewpoint.

The other thing of course is that sws can't do right for doing wrong and if they do not remove the child and institiute care proceedings and the child dies, then there is a vicious condemnation of social workers. On the other hand you get the people (and many of them post on here) about sws "snatching children from decent parents" and placing for adoption.

There have been over the years a minority of cases where children shouldn't have been removed (in the Orkneys and Cleveland where sexual abuse was suspected but not proven and children returned) but people talking about sws "snatching children" make me really frustrated because I know how certain sws have to be before they take a case to court. Guardians also have a view and they are very influential in court. Birth parents are usually interviewed by psychologists and possibly psychiatrists if there are mental health issues.

Sorry I'm going on a bit but I agree that too many children are left at home and supported in the hope that matters will improve. However since the death of Baby P, aapplications to the courts for Care/Placement Orders (which allows a child to be adopted) have risen by 50% as sws are no longer prepared to take the risk of having a Baby P on their case load, and who can blame them.

Martin Narey (chief ex of Barnardoes) has been saying this for a long time, that children should be removed earlier and placed for adoption to give them the best opportunity in life, and some MNs have come out in droves talking about children beint "snatched" etc. and no amount of trying to tell them all the steps that have to be taken and all the evidence that has to be collected before a case gets to court, makes no difference to their point of view.

Sorry my posts are long - it comes from learning to type when I was 16 and I never lost the knack!

NanaNina Tue 25-Jan-11 15:17:48

Fostering - you have clearly been treated appallingly by whichever LA is involved. You really should have gone through their complaints procedure, but I know it's probably water under the bridge now.

When you talk of placements "drying up" if anyone criticises anything, are you talking about the IFA that you work for. If they are conducting themselves in this way, then that is totally unacceptable. Are you sure it isn't just that placements just aren't available, because as LAs become more and more cash strapped they will be looking at every other way of placing a child rather than using an expensive IFA. Don't know, just wondered.

Your issue about contact is complex. Until the final hearing when the judge decides upon the child's future, it is not known whether the child will be returning home or not and if that is the case then obviously it will be better for the child if he has had on going contact. If he is not going home and moving to a permanent placement, then contact is usually stopped or re-arranged to very infrequent contact. I wonder if you are thinking about the times when a child is upset by contact both before and after contact, and the carer has to deal with the difficulties. I know that in those cases, carers and many sws just wish they could knock contact on the head, but it just isn't possible because of the demands of the court and defence lawyers would make mincemeat of a LA that had refused contact before the judge had made the final decision about the child's future. I think foster carer's observations about the child before and after contact should be recorded and the sw should be able tomake use of these inthe care proceedings, though the rules of "hearsay" apply and sws are not able to say "Mrs X (foster carer) says this and this. Although it can be worded in such a way that does not present evidence as hearsay.

I think carers should make their concerns about contact known to the guardian as they are very influential in court. The other thing is that there is a view that children should see their parents even if this is upsetting to them, so that they know they have not disappeared - not sure about that at all.

I'm afraid fostering that you will never get equality of allowances and fees between LAs and IFAs. If LAs could pay the same as IFAs there would be no need for IFAs! It's called privatisation and governments of any political colour encourage privatisation of almost any service. I absolutely agree with you that fostering that carers look after the most vulnerable and damaged children in society and far far more recognition should be given to this. I have spent 25 years championing the rights of foster carers but am now retired.

I'm afraid things will get worse for LAs as you will no doubt have heard on the news, as under this coalition government, they are all having to make huge cuts in their budgets and if the money isn't made available from central government, then LAs are between a rock and a hard place and have to make cuts themselves, and all services will be affected one way or another.

I really do worry about the future of all our public services as they are all being slashed to the bone under this coalition.

fostering Tue 25-Jan-11 19:59:30

So... the LA's are in a catch 22 situation, as they pay more out to IFA they have reduced funds for their own services. Could the government cap costs requested by the IFA? It has so little to do with the money for the vast majority of foster carers. In fact I can't think of any that foster for the money although I see no reason why this valuable service should not be fairly compensated. Nearly all move to IFA for the individual support from SW's both to help them with their own concerns and also to be an independant voice for their placements. If this is true, then the LA's should split in 2, providing independant support from SW's who do not share an office with the children's social workers.
I asked for a change of support worker after a baby who had 7 SW's in 7 months then returned to parents. I was 7 months waiting for another placement because I had complained about my SW. When I went to support groups everyone said that I should have waited for a new placement before swopping SW because I was being punished.
I have many friends who foster babies with daily contact. Often parents don't turn up so the baby has a disrupted routine and a wasted round trip, (another waste of money). Is the legal system keeping up with the baby's interests and well being if they are woken up/ suffer a broken feed/ changed 3 times an hour/ to satisfy a form that says SW's did all they could to encourage parents to bond? The legalities seem to work on behalf of the parents, some who have had several children already placed in care and still habitual drug users.
I can't understand why people believe what they read about children being snatched because the law works in the parent's favour the whole way through the legal system and no LA can afford to take a child into care if not absolutely necessary, in fact, the bar seems to get higher and higher.

fostermumtomany Wed 26-Jan-11 15:51:36

i think parents get far too much say and far too much support. although not in every case.
of course they need to be kept informed but when they are getting more help than the child then in my opinion there is something wrong.
my first lo was a heroin withdrawal baby. mum was a habitual user of every drug you can imagine.
this baby was in need of help, in the form of clothing, equipment, appointments etc. i had to fight for months to get him help.
mum on the other hand was given every help going via childrens services even though she had her own sw and drug worker. including help getting a house, money for food, support and appointments etc.
every meeting for the lo turned into a meeting about mum and her needs, i put up with it for weeks then opened my mouth and stated that i was under the impression these meetings were for the lo and if we were no going to discuss his needs i saw no point in being there, with that i walked out.

i also found this with the following placement. my current placement however, mum gets no support at all, to the point she was not even made aware of the last court date.
it seems to me that regarding bf it is all or nothing.

i also think foster carers should be listened to.
i had a lo who went for adoption. during the bridging process i raised concerns that lo was not ready to move but they would not listen. the result?
3 months into the move they decided he wasnt for them and he ended up back in care.
i told them it wouldnt work but they would not listen to me as i was "just" the carer.

i agree regarding complaining and being punished. my mum refused a placement as the parents lived on the next street to her, she did not want any hassle.
as she refused she was made to wait nearly a year for another placement. she was told at a later date (by a different sw) that they had been annoyed at her refusing and decided to let her know who is calling the shots.
their words!

fostering Wed 26-Jan-11 19:53:25

fostermumtomany- I really agree so much which what you say.

I can see and understand the reasons to keep birth parents informed but not when their needs are put above the needs of the child. I'm sure the courts have much to do with it but there must be a way of speaking up for changes.

If parents don't turn up for contact, 1st warning, 2nd warning then 3rd miss and back to court for revised contact plan. End of. Period.

It is the foster carers who have to pick up the pieces when things go badly for the children, - children upset when contact is cancelled - 20% of adoptions breaking down (and how many times do foster carers opinions get ignored about adotions?) - therapy and counselling not put in place for children.

If the dots were joined up, pushing services towards children in care would break the cycle of abuse and neglect, raise life long expectations, reducing costs for future drug/probation/prison services.
More thought into helping vulnerable children would reap many rewards.

Social services are often in the news but hardly ever do we hear from a foster carer. Does the general public realise what a shambles children's care is? I sometimes think it's like placing a child with a first time Mother. Social services seem to be in shock unable to provide support yet they are very aware of why the child was placed in care and there should be a package of support in place and ready to start from day one.

fostermumtomany Thu 27-Jan-11 00:19:05

itell you what really grates me...when something does go wrong in the care system, when something happens to a child...the general public always but always slate foster carers.
how many times have i read "kids are abused in foster care"
it makes my blood boil. i have never met a bad foster carer yet!

fostering Fri 28-Jan-11 12:17:16

fostermumtomany - I shall look out for the next piece on foster carers in the news then post something under the topic heading "In the news" hopefully that will generate a discussion throughout mumsnet becuase it would be iteresting to see how we are viewed by parents in general.

I was horrified when I read on another thread that someone thought the birth parents and the foster carers of the 2 Doncaster boys who were in the news a while ago should all 4 be sent to prison!

Not sure if the public understand what foster carers have to try to deal with?

fishtankneedscleaning Fri 28-Jan-11 13:03:39


When people post things like, "Why should a foster carer be paid to put a child to bed, feed it and take it to school", then obviously they do not have the faintest idea of the Foster Carer's role. wink

fostering Fri 28-Jan-11 17:38:55

fishtankneedscleaning - that made me grin.

But that's exactly why I think we deserve more recognition, equal pay for all carers, and procedures to follow when accusations are made that do not take over a year to follow while carers can't have placements.

I also think that if children in care were a priority for the government in one of their schemes for private investment, the payback would be enormous. Breaking the cycle of abuse/neglect and lifting children out of environments where drugs and poverty are the norm.

Raising vulnerable children's life expectations and providing them with opportunities is not exactly just about feeding and dropping them off at school!

fishtankneedscleaning Fri 28-Jan-11 17:44:37

Fostering. Totally agree! Wish I had a magic wand tho

fostermumtomany Sat 29-Jan-11 00:29:04

whilst on this topic i am just going to vent a bit of anger at my sil.

i was talking to her today about working from home.
she had said she wishes she didnt have to go back to work a she has recently had a baby.
i laughingly said well i work from home so nothing to worry about for me, (meaning fostering) to which she replied "you dont work, if you dont get paid then its not work, its just life, seeing to babies is life for millions of people"
i calmly explained that no it isnt just life, and yes millions of peoeple do have babies but they dont have to take them contact everyday or go to meetins every day or medical appointments etc every week, i said its not life when its somebody elses baby.
to which i was told that all people who foster are just doing so, so they dont have to get a proper job and so they can make easy money.
easy money??? i wish.
this is the hardest thing i have ever done workwise!

see its attitudes like hers that annoy me.
when i tell other people that im a foster carer i get funny looks, i got sick of it and one day i asked someone why they were looking at me like that, the reply was, well foster carers treat kids like personal slaves dont they, they do it for an extra pair of hands round the house!!!!!!!!

grrrrrr doesnt cover it!

fishtankneedscleaning Sat 29-Jan-11 00:51:02

Foster mum

Lots of people seem to think fostering is lots of money for nothing.

Anyone can apply to become a foster carer if they so wish. Strange that there is a national shortage of foster carers if it is money for old rope isnt it? wink

I am a firm beleiver that people have to have a genuine love of children to foster for a long period of time. If someone goes into fostering purely for the money they don't stick around for long.

fostering Mon 31-Jan-11 21:02:15

fostermummyto many - don't get cross, whoever you were talking to contradicted herself so she probably doesn't have a clear idea about fostering.

"you don't work if you don't get paid"

"foster carers don't want a proper job just easy money"

So she thinks we do nothing rather than work for a wage but our allowances are easy money. Perhaps she is feeling sorry for herself because she is leaving her baby while she returns to work and feels jealous of you at home.

Most people I come into contact with say what a wonderful job FC's do but they couldn't do it because it would break their heart to give the children back. Strange that they are thinking of their own hearts rather than the neglected and abused children left with inept parents because of the chronic shortage of foster carers.

I do know of one couple who say they do it for the money £800 per week with an IFA, for 2 children but even they take excellent care of the children who are well fed, clean, neatly presented and very happy. Maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive?

You couldn't look after someone else's child for money, clearing up their sick and faeces, hugging them when they're screaming at you that they hate you. 24 hour shifts 7 days a week. Nobody would pay enough!

purple12 Sun 13-Feb-11 09:25:47

I'm a social worker and I'm also a foster carer. (I work in a neighbouring borough from the one I live in and foster for). I think there is a lack of understanding about the amount of time and dedication that it takes to be a foster carer.
The thing I am finding difficult is that at work, I am treated (usually) as a competent professional but sometimes I feel very patronised as a foster carer (sometimes by the same organisations!).
I think that within social work departments some people don't understand and appreciate the work done by foster carers as well.
All I can say is that having to work with social workers in my role as a foster carer has, I think, made me a better social worker in my 'day' job

fostering Sun 13-Feb-11 20:48:52

Purple12 - how do you keep your mouth shut when you're in your foster carer's role?

I have been staggered about the literacy standards of some social workers and some have no first hand experience of children and their milestones. It is so difficult to take advice from this type of social worker.

Have you ever thought of writing a piece for the foster care magazine about your 2 roles with your thoughts from both sides of the fence? It might help to bring the 2 sides together!

saliseolivia Mon 17-Dec-12 18:03:58

Fostermumtomany - Millions of Foster Carers all over the world are doing a fantastic job taking care of Foster Children in their care as though they are their own birth Children and to these people I say hats off to you all. However, I know that there are cases of Foster Parents only meeting a Childs wee basic needs, fed, clothed, schooled, bed and in the view of the LA in question, emotional warmth etc does not matter as long as the Child's wee basic needs are being met. Unfortunately I have had first hand experience in dealing with a Foster Carer that had a Foster Child in care along with their own Children ad the differences in the way that the Children were treat was unreal.

This Carer was assessed and registered as part of a couple. Couple had their own Birth Child and then Fostered. Both foster Child and Birth Child were brought up together, treat equally and loved equally ( when all was well in couple's relationship ). Couple split, Mother took custody of Children. Father fought to see Children. Father had 50/50 custody of Children and it is his opinion that because he does not get paid to look after the Foster Child, he doesn't see the problem with his Birth Child having more food than Foster Child, or having more new clothes and toys than Foster Child, more days out....etc. This was incredibly alarming and as you can imagine raised many a concern. How emotionally damaging was this for both Children? This attitude has now ruined two close relationships for the Foster Child who was supposed to be suitably placed for their own needs. Foster Child now feels second best, a sense of rejection through his favouritism of his "own" Child. Birth Child now feels a sense of power over Foster Child. Both Children feel that Daddy has favoured one Child over the other and therefore loves one more than the other, crushing their self esteem making the Foster Child feel inadequate. This is only the start of the abuse that this child suffered.

Yes Carers have to go through a period of assessment, but is it enough to rely on that one good positive outcome for the rest of the Child's life? Foster Carers like any family with a known Foster Child, or "troubled" Child should have regular checks and updated assessments. After all it is not only regular every day Birth Parents that experience difficulties at some point in life and therefore may need the LA's intervention. Foster Parents are made of the same DNA as any other Parent, we are all after all only human, capable of error.

saliseolivia Mon 17-Dec-12 18:07:58

And Purple12, good for you. Fostering and Social Work! You therefore should have the first hand knowledge and experience of how the different roles could work together in a ore harmonious way for the best interests of the Child. Knowledge is power, put both to good use. Heaven knows we need people like you to help improve a currently flawed system.

scarlet5tyger Mon 17-Dec-12 20:26:34

Hi Saliseolivia, you are right that there are flaws in the current system, some of which I have tentative hopes will be addressed now the new children's minister (Edward Timpson) actually has personal experience of foster care.

Foster carers DO receive regular checks already though - supervision visits at least every 4 weeks, unannounced visits throughout the year and an annual review each year being just some of them. Foster children also have opportunity to raise their own concerns should they sadly need to.

gallivantsaregood Mon 17-Dec-12 21:27:22

Hi Everyone. The GMB Union are looking yo take up the plight of foster carers, raising issues on their behalf and generally trying raise the profile of foster carers.

It costs £6 per month and they really do want to get tgeirvteeth into this.

Thus avenue was sought out by a fellow foster carer and the GMB are realot keen to take things forward. They are planning an advertising/ information campaign in The Fostering Network magazine.......

Lease forget in touch with your local office and ask for information. If you get stick, ask the rep to contact the GMB office in Falkirk where things have already started moving.

Hope thus I'd helpful :-D

gallivantsaregood Mon 17-Dec-12 21:27:54

Hope this is helpful, even!

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