Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on fostering.
National Register of Foster Carers(34 Posts)
So, I?d like to make a proposal for a National Register of Foster Carers then if you could all jump in with ideas and how it might or might not work please?
Body 1 recruits new carers (currently costs a LA £8k per foster carer I think), assigns groups of qualified people to form panels to approve and re-approve annually each carer. Panel members are paid equivalent to those sitting on LA panels.
Body 1 also soaks up carers from LAs and IFAs who are already approved.
Body 2 works with the carers and their social workers paid at national rates.
LA?s contact Body 2 to find a match for looked after children. There are standard charges for carers across the country with the usual weighting for inner London, thus negating the need for tenders and improving the chances of better placement matches so reducing the stress for children encountering many placement moves. Difficult children or those with disabilities move onto a different payment scheme rather then moving into the care of IFAs.
Accounts are matched between body 1 and 2 so excess profits are paid back to Las.
Better support for carers is ensured because there is no conflict of interest. When a problem arises, the carer?s social worker and the child?s social worker do not have the same service director ie. they don't all work for the same LA closing ranks to cover their backs.
LA's can concentrate on child protection and adoption and there will be a reduction in turnover of carers because they will be better supported by dedicated social workers who appreciate how hard they work.
Any ideas please??!!**!!??
Almost forgot - a seperate body would also ensure that foster carers can speak out and up about the children they care for without fear of the normal back lash from the LA ie no further placements until you learn to put up and shut up.
This seems like a good idea, and it amazes me that LAs don't currently communicate between themselves about available carers.
I will think some more and post later.
Fostering I am loving your idea. Who will fork out to pay for fostering assessments though? I know my LA wont pay for asssessments if the approved FC then takes on children from a different LA.
Mind you our LA cannot keep FC's because they are so mean to them! This is why IFA's in our district are being inundated with children normally placed with LA. I have been asked 4 times this month if I could take a baby placement (If and when my current placement leaves) - and I am talking newborns. Only 1 is going to have problems due to feotal alcohol syndrome. Mind you my IFA is non profit making. Our LA have hardly any foster carers or social workers left!
The reason why is because once fc start realising how shit their las are and how little they offer with out the rigmoral of having to be re approved and all that they would be gone gone gone it's only the good ifa and good las who would be in favour I totally think though all fc support sw should be independent of the la and ifa
We have been waitng 2 months for a new placement-am thinking of ringing around other la's to see if they need any carers as I am chewing my arm off with boredom!
Lovely to hear from you all.
FTNC - Initially the cost of assesments would need some sort of start up fund or capital investment either private or government equity but on going it would be funded by payments from the LA's when they require a foster carer.
Minnerva - I too am waiting for placements but was told by a previous LA that I worked for that I was only able to accept placements from them. It took me 6 months to transfer from that LA to another and I'm back in the same situation. If I was on a National list those 4 babies offered to FTNC could have come here.
Maypole - With a national register there would never be the need for reapproval or waiting for another CRB check.
Except our LA are not going to place a baby - who presumably will need ongoing contact with bio parents/family in England, when we are in Wales. I have also been through the fostering assessment 3 TIMES. Twice for LA and once for IFA. Our LA fostering files have been through twice, by assessing LA and IFA.
It does seem though that once you are deemed "Unable to work with LA" with one LA, this perception will be carried through by another LA - even if the true "blame" lays at the feet of your previous LA.
Why is it that LA's will not accept responsibility for their (usually crass) decisions, with the Team Manager making themselves look stupid because they always defend the postion of the Linkworker, irrespective of whether the decision made is the right (or even workable) one.
Have to be honest here if any foster carer looked after a child from our LA they wouldn't last long! Unless they were supervised by their own LA.
Our LA have lost most of their Foster Carers and better Social Workers. Serves their right that they are having to pay out for IFA placements.
fostering-thank you for your reply.I actually got as far as ringing a neighbouring la today to ask about their need for foster carers but as you have pointed out I will probably have to go through a similar assessment process all over again-what a bloody waste of time and money!
Meanwhile I would love to foster some more babies-drug withdrawal or not-I do have experience with the withdrawal process and although tiring I found it sooooo rewarding.
As there is not a national register at the mo I shall just have to wait and wait and wait and wait.............................
Good idea fostering-lets hope it can find wings and fly!!
FTNC, good point. Most babies placements do have 5 days of contact but this perhaps could be reduced from 5 short sessions a week, to 3 longer sessions.
Also, one of the aims of a national register would be to enable LAs to place children as near or as far from birth parents as required, given the availabilty of any carers not just those on the LAs register.
Much money (our taxes) would be saved if carers only had to be processed through the initial assesment the once and the independant nature of the body holding the national register would minimize carers being labelled "unable to work with LA".
Minnerva - I'm glad you agree that it is a good idea and I'm sorry you are waiting for a placement. Trouble is, a LA won't let you foster a child from another LA incase they then have to pay out for an IFA for the next child that comes along. They wuold rather you (and I) sit it out. But this is not how carers are motivated and many can't afford to live without the fostering allowances and while there is a national shortage of carers, those with empty beds at the moment could be used immediately if we could take children from any LA.
Hi all you hard working foster carers. Please don't think I am trying to pour oil on troubled waters cus I'm not at all and I can well understand the frustration that most of you are feeling. I just thought I would clarify one or two points. I am actually 7 years out of working for a LA but I know some things haven't changed.
1. Legally you can only foster for one LA. I think (but am not 100% sure on this) that you can be registered as a foster carer for a LA and for an IFA. This is why if you approach another LA you will have to be re-assessed and approved etc.
2. The annual review of carers is a legal requirement. These take different forms, some LA do "paper reviews" and others hold meetings. We always held meetings because it gave me the opportunity as the tm mgr to thank the carer for all their hard work.
3. Re : IFA's - bear with me because I get a bit mixed up with who has said what on the differing threads (put it down to my age!) but the words "non-profit making" IFAs does appear from time to time. All that that means is that the organisation (the IFA) does not have to pay shareholders or owners of the business, and any surplus (profit) gets ploughed back into the business. IFAs cost out what the overall costs of their resources are going to be: social workers, managers, company cars (most sws working for an IFA get a companycar) buildings, placements, carer's allowances and fees, education for children out of school, psychological support etc etc. They then charge the LA to cover all of this plus their own salaries. So they don't need to plough back any profit into the business because it has already been included in the costing. Hence IFA owners become very rich and that is a fact. I know IFA owners who drive porches and have holiday homes in exotic places, Barbados and the Maldives. I know one who owns a string of race horses (and they don't come cheap)
4. Someone (think it was Maypole on another thread) said that LAs are so mean that it is small wonder so many carers went to IFAs where they get paid 2 or 3 times more than the LA allowances. On the face of it that seems to be true, but I would say it is more a case of the IFAs being greedy than the LA being mean. LAs should be paying the rate for the job and yu can check this out with Fostering Networks who will tell you what they consider a fair rate of allowance and fee. If they are not, then you need to take that up with the LA.
5. Given that IFAs charge the LA sucha massive amount (I honestly don't know what they charge now) but going back 7 years to when I was in LA employment, they were charging around £800/£900 per week per child and
paying their carers around £300/£400 per week per child (about double of what the LA were paying, with age related variations.
6. Many of our LA carers used to ask why they were not paid the same, and when we said "because the LA can't afford it" they said "but you pay IFA carers more when you have to" and who could argue with that. I can tell you that myself and other managers argued this case with senior managers again and again, but it got us nowhere. At one stage I was so frustrated that I suggested they got rid of all the LA fostering social workers and that would release the money to pay IFA fees to all carers and the carer support to go with it. You could have heard a pin drop!
7. Sorry I should have started this thread about IFAs (sorry Fostering) but to come back to the National Register, I honestly can't see how it can work. I worked in a Shire county with 7 different geographical areas, and I have to say each area did a lot of "gatekeeping" of their own resources because we all had our own budgets to worry about. Sometimes we "gave" a placement to another area if we had a vacancy and the match was right. We had to refuse cases like "have you got a vacancy for an 8 year old autisitc boy" and we had a vacancy with newish carers approved for 0 -7 years and certainly not an autistic child. Then I would get the Snr Mgr on the phone making another bid for our vacancy to save the cost of an IFA or even worse a therapeutic community of some sort that charged thousands per child per week. I then had to protect our newish carer and refuse to place the boy, and the Snr Mgr had to accept it, but not very graciously.
8. There is a National Adoption Register which I believe works well. Children awaiting adoption can sometimes be matched with an approved adoptor, but it would (hopefully) be a one off plct (with an inter agency fee - reasonable amount paid to the LA with the adoptor plus an adoption allowance (which is discretionary) and post adoption support (which is mandatory now) If anyone saw "Home for Maisie" the LA had to fork out a lot for Family Futures but with good results. But with the comings and goings of fostering I just can't see how it would work because it would mean LAs would not be able to control their own budgets.
Sorry I have gone on so much about IFAs. Fostering - do you and the other carers meet regularly (where I was they met formally and informally - coffee mornings etc) It might be best to put your idea to them and see if there is any interest. Or you may be able to come up with something that is better than what you alreadyhave.
NanaNina - have read you response which is brilliant because you manage to get so much knowledge across, invaluable. I will respond when I have thought about your points to offer ways round the problems.
I will do as you suggest and try to get other carers I know to talk through the existing problems and canvas for suggestions on how to make improvements. But, it does feel like swimming in treacle most of the time.
NanaNina, please let me know if I am moving a little nearer to making sense?
1. Once a carer has been assessed by the body holding the national register then they would be able to work for any LA just like those working for an IFA can take placements from any LA. Some LAs do have inter agency agreements to allow carers to take from neighbouring LAs so I doubt this is covered by legislation.
Legally all carers would be working for the national register but able to take placements from any LA.
2.Any private company would be able to meet this legal requirement to make assessments and set up panels, IFAs currently manage it.
3.The philosophy of a national register would be to charge LAs a reasonable amount for each placement to cover a recognized minimum standard rate for the carer and the salary of SWs and a managers who would be paid at the same rates as those working for LAs. All other support would be paid for directly by the LA dependent on funds being available. I would not be advocating for company cars.
The direct costs for each carer can be easily costed, admittedly it is more difficult to attribute indirect costs of overheads but these would need to be kept to a minimum to attract the LAs to use the register rather than running their own fostering department. There should be economies to scale if one body holds carers rather than each LA who wastes money needlessly assessing carers as they move around from county to county.
4, 5 & 6.This is exactly what the aim of a national register would be, to even out the allowances paid to carers so everyone is paid the same, including clothing allowances, celebration allowances and holidays etc.
It is a nonsense if a carer is paid £200 to look after a child who then moves 5 mins down the road to an IFA who receives £400 to look after the same child just because they are long term carers.
7. A national register would negate the need for gatekeeping, and placements could be best matched to carers regardless of which county they lived in, which geographically may well sit well within a peninsular of another county due to county boundaries. It makes a nonsense of trying to make a good match and may be one of the reasons that children move from family to family several times before they are adopted or more often than not ending up in a secure unit, because better initial matching could be made.
8.If the national adoption register works then all good reason to look at a national fostering register. The interagency fee would be akin to the weekly placement fee, the post adoption support would take the form of a supportive package that LAs provide currently (budgets allowing) eg, psychotherapy, play therapy, contact with birth family. These extras would be decided by the childs SW.
LAs retain complete control of their budget. The only difference would be that they dont have to manage foster carers, link SW and managers to look after link SWs. LA's basically outsource this part of the care system but in the knowledge that the costs are fixed and reasonable.
Home for Maisie - the LA, I think, eventually committed to a year's funding for family futures of £50k?
The success rate of family futures was something like 95% so the LA were rather shortsighted. Why not committ to the 3 years that the adopters were asking for, rather than face 8 years of placing Maisie in a secure unit, cost per year £100K.
The maths isn't that hard is it?
Savings on a massive scale for the LA and a fantastic future with plenty of opportunities for Maisie.
Phew Fostering I will try to answer your post but I think it raises more Qs than solutions!
1. Who is this "body" who is going to assess carers and "hold" the National Register. As you know prospective carers have to be assessed by a qualified social worker. The Adoption National Register is a computer based system and LAs who cannot find adoptive homes register the child/ren on the database, and the same goes for approved adoptors for whom an adoptive placement has not been found. Those with responsibility for the database, look to see if there is the likelihood of a match and if so, arrangements go ahead. Approved foster carers can only legally be registered by one LA. They can take children by inter agency agreements between LAs but this does not change their registration with the LA. You say carers registered with an IFA can take children from any LA and of course this is the case, because the IFAs don't have any children, so they "sell" their approved carers to the LAs and children can be placed from any LA, but the carer's registration remains with the IFA.
Inter-agency placements that you mention are really for adoption. They are not used for fostering because other LAs are not going to give up their fistering resources to another LA. I honestly can't remember this ever happening. Comes down to guarding of "in-house" resources, so as to prevent buying an expensive placement from an IFA.
I don't know what you mean by "all carers could be working for the National Register" and take placements from any LAs. Who is this organisation who are not only "holding a Nat Reg" but is also going to recruit, train and support carers and arrange placements nationally. And what about the carers - who is going to support them when they are taking placements from all over the country. I know this happens with IFAs but arrangements are already in place for the approval of carers and their registration and the supervision for the carers.
Fostering I am going to send this in separate chunks because my computer has been playing up and the last thing I want is for this to all disappear. Stand by for Part 2!
OK - Part 2
Re your No 2 - you say any private company could set up to undertake assessments and meet the legal requirement to set up panels, IFAs do it. Yes that is a fact but for Independent read Private, because that is in fact what IFAs are, so how would another private company set up, differ from the IFa in existence?
Re you No 3 - sorry but I cannot see how this would work. It only works for adoption on occasions because it is a computer based system and "one off" placements i.e. matching child awaiting adoption and approved adoptors without a placement. With all the comings and goings and differing types of fostering I just can't see how it could work. I suspect you are seeing this National Register as something like a living and breathing organisation staffed by social workers, rather than a computer database and I think this is confusing the issue.
You talk of LAs using the Register rather than running their own fostering departments. How would all the LAs in the country "use" this register. Until I can understand this holding of a Nat Reg I can't see how it can be used. I explained in my last post how resources were guarded by differing local geographical areas all working for the same LA. Senior managers always suspected us of guarding our own resources and to a large extent that was true, so that the tm mgrs could bring the budget in without too much overspend. SO they centralised the system and ran a duty service operated by 2 social workers on a rota basis. Then all requests for placements had to go through the central system and then were allocated, so it meant that local geographical areas could no longer guard their resources. It worked reasonably well actually but remember this was all in one LA and the only changes it incurred were the rota base of social workers who had to be on
duty in the central office.
Your 4,5and6. I agree with you in principle that there should be consistency of payments and fees etc for carers and how it doesn't make sense for carer A to be paid half the amount of Carer B for the same child. I can only think of the LA where I was employed as I never moved but the management team of which I was a part, spent endless time trying to work out our policy for allowances, fees, retainers (when carers don't have a plct) kinship carers, age-related payments etc etc. Again we had to "cut out cloth according to our pocket" because we had to work out fair systems that kept us within the budget allocated by the LA for fostering.
The thought of this being done on a national scale makes my head hurt! As I said before all LAs are responsible for their own budgets and how they organise their fostering services within that budget.
Your No.7 sounds something like the way IFAs work now. Within the fostering regs it is clearly stated that a child should be placed within his own community wherever possible, to maintain links with his birth family and not break the continuity of his schooling. This makes absolute sense to me and is what always happened before IFAs came along and when Dundee (say) were at their wits end and could not find an in-house plt, they had to buy one from an IFA, that placement could be in Cornwall. How traumatic is that for a child who has already been moved from his home, to have to travel hundreds of miles to live with strangers and start a new school etc etc, to say nothing of the logisitics of parents maintaining contact.
I thing the govt had no "joined up" thinking because they are responsible for writing into the legislation what I outlined above, and at the same time applauded IFAs, because they believe in privatisation of anything. There is no difference in which govt except this one won't be satisfied till all public services are privatised and that really worries me.
Your No.8 You are not comparing like with like when you talk of the national adoption register and the national fostering register. You seem to be advocating "out-sourcing" all aspects of fostering - who to? Who is this organisation that is going to be responsible for all aspects of foster care in order to ensure there is equality of allowances, fees etc. Even if this massive national organisation could be found to deal with all aspects of fostering, where is it to be located? Presumably the LA fostering workers would have the opportunity of going to work miles away for the National Fostering Register" or be made redundant. Think the unions might have something to say about that!
It might help if you google the National Adoption Register and see how that works and you may then see that it works as a computer database system for matching, and for one-off adoption placements.
Sorry Fostering, I really am not trying to trample over your ideas and I think your philosophy is absolutely spot on - there should not be such inconsistencies in the way that carers are paid etc etc, but I'm afraid it's the system under which we live - it's called capitalism!! Why should the bankers be paid massive bonuses when the country is economically on its knees and footballers, so-called celebrities etc be paid thousands of pounds per week when all you hard working foster carers are trying to help the most damaged and disadvantaged children in the country and are paid a pittance in comaprison.
Thanks NanaNina, your response raised a wry smile in parts.
You have given me much to think about - again.
Can't think that any social worker would ever be out of a job so no need for the unions to worry. There would be the need for regional offices like those set up by the larger IFAs.
Yes, I am not just thinking of "a register" more of a national company assessing, passing at annual panel and monitoring foster carers but not making the huge profits of an IFA so LA's can afford to use them without damaging their very tight budgets.
It would be a very centralised system and the alternative will be no carers working for LAs in the furture because there is insufficient support and half the pay.
The endless time each and every LA spends "trying to work out policy for allowances, fees, retainers (when carers don't have a plct) kinship carers, age-related payments etc etc" would be saved by the centralised practice which would result in the same rates for all carers and all LAs.
The result should be better matching to keep children near birth family and schools because there won't be the geographical borders of the LAs.
I can see where you are coming from with wanting a National Register of Foster Carers - as in a National Register of Adopters.
The problem I can see is if children were to be placed out of area (and I am talking about say a child from S. Wales being placed in London for example) it will cause huge disruption for the child (New school, new friends, Culture etc) Also if there were to be contact between child and bio parents or siblings who is going to pay travel costs for the toing and froing? If I had a child placed whose Care Plan incorporated twice weekly contacts with parents in London, this would cost me more in travelling than my weekly foster allowance!
Also the child would need to take time out of education to implement this contact. Then we come to the child's SW, who is so overworked that she is not up to speed with LO's case as it is. We have seen her twice in nine months. If the child was placed out of county there is absolutely nil chance of her visiting.
Break that down. Instead of one child there may be many children in this position.
Our LA brought in a scheme a few years back where the more experienced foster carers were asked if they would take the more difficult to place children and would be paid accordingly - in fact more than IFA carers. The more experienced foster carers jumped at the chance. Now we have a position where these very carers are being placed with 2 year olds because of the shortage of foster placements, yet they continue to be paid huge amounts of money, as per their contract.
I honestly don't know what the solution is but I would also welcome an Independent Governing Body as our LA seem to cause more problems for child, bio parents and foster carers than is necessary. Hence why I am now a foster carer for IFA. Yet I am paid the same as I was when fostering for LA.
Nana Nina states that IFA's are paid paid thousands of pounds for placements - and in her defence she should know! My position is I am torn between working for LA - who are not fit for purpose - and IFA who, according to others, are getting rich on the backs of needy and vulnerable children.
The solution should be something between LA and IFA but I have no idea what this could be????
FTNC - there should be no need to place children away from bio parents.
This happens presently anyway because of the shortage of carers. There is a shortage of carers because the way LAs treat carers is generally apalling and the pay is not very good when you have a placement, reducing to zero pay between placements. Plus there is a conflict of interest so as soon as any allegation is made against a LA carer, SWs stick together and before you know it no suitable placements are available.
If all carers were assessed by a single company to whom LAs looked for carers, then part of the matching process would look at the distances to contact and school. Pay is consistent and level of support paramount.
Travelling expenses should be paid over and above a weekly fostering allowance anyway, otherwise descrepencies soon start to creep in. The whole idea is that all carers are paid the same rates, inc. the same petrol allowances for travelling. These would be on a rising scale for age, difficult behaviour and disabilities but it would iron out the ridiculous position you mention above where LA carers are being paid a premium to care for 2 year olds!!
It begs the question as to why the LA offered more in pay than an IFA in the first place, although this would still represent a saving on paying an IFA due to the overhead charges they make.
NanaNina, if the philosophy is right then we should make it happen! Tell me how to start. If the govt want privatisation then they should be behind a company where the charter is to consider LA budgets for childcare, making the small pool of money stretch as far as it can rather than lining the pockets of a few IFAs.
Another question - do SWs make the best people fit to organise how fostering is run. Some of the private IFA's do not use social workers to put forward carers for looked after children. SWs who are good at child protection and knowing how the law works with regard to adoption etc. may not perhaps be necessarily the best at setting budgets??
I'm not confident that LAs have the figures at their finger tips to compare the cost of keeping a child in care per week set against the cost of putting together an adoption panel. If these figures were readily available I'm sure children wouldn't be waiting 3 months for a slot at adoption panel and adopters wouldn't be missing vital developmental months and birthday celebrations with their new children.
If LAs out sourced the fostering services they could concentrate on child protection, speeding up adoptions and the work that by rights does belong to SWs who lend very little support and give scant thanks or praise to foster carers.
Also there should be a support package in place for the child. Most IFA's have therapeutic services included in their price but I have yet to see a child therapeutically supported by LA. Their main reason being "Insufficient funds".
Fostering as I have said I agree with the ethos of your suggestion. The sooner we get rid of LA's managing Social Services budgets the better IMO.
FTNC - it's always sad when a child dosn't receive the therapy they need until they are in private care but I really think that if LAs only had that side of fostering to think about they would manage the situation better.
The few children cared for by IFAs are soaking up valuable funds that should be spread more evenly across all looked after children.
Children should be assessed for any therapy the day they come into care not a year down the line when carers are struggling with behavioural problems and the placement is in crisis.
My LA also has a two tier system whereby the more experienced FC's were being paid large sums of money to care for the difficult to place children. They were also meant to care for teenagers. So in effect we had mainstream carers with approval status 0-12 and then higher rate carers 12-16 plus children that would normally be placed with IFA carers. This was meant to reduce the amount spent on IFA placements.
Five years on the higher rate carers are caring for the run of the mill foster placements, including babies - at a huge cost. Mainstream carers are being asked to take the teens and difficult to place children/young people, and IFA's are being used more and more.
LA's have a difficult job budgeting for the needs of all their children, birth parents and foster carers, especially when more and more foster carers are required to transport children to birth parents for contact, with LA having to pay out travel costs. It used to be that birth parents had to travel to contact at a venue near the child. Sadly LA's found that birth parents were not turning up for the contact and money LA's gave the parents towards travel costs was being used to buy other things. (Like drugs).
If LA's cannot effectively manage their budgets at a local level I cannot see how a governing body could manage a National budget. Or have I misunderstood?
I'd like to see one budget which would set pay rates for all foster carers in England with an extra weighting for London. I think it's right that some carers are paid more to look after truly difficult placements with emotional and behavioural problems, but not for those carers to be paid an additionl amount when the next placement is, how shall I say, "straight forward?".
The LAs seem to get into such a mess. perhaps SWs do noy make the best accountants? Is that so terrible? Few accountants would claim to know how SWs cope with the stress of their highly emotional jobs.
The system our LA has doesn't seem to be able to match available carers, leaving them empty and using IFA's instead!
Buying in the foster carers at a reasonable rate, not tendering for the cheapest package, would leave the SWs to concentrate on the birth familes, child protection work and speeding up adoptions for children that have their court orders.
Talking to carers who work for IFAs it would seem that these organisations do not have SWs running the budgets or even putting forward carers for children needing placements.
It seems silly to keep going forward with a system that is falling apart and every child deserves to have a fair chunk of LA public money that is available not those in private care having all the support and those with LA carers moving from pillar to post with their belongings in plastic carrier bags.
This might be really stupid question/idea, but...
I would really like it if foster carers got "1st refusal" (sorry can't think of better term) of the child they've been caring for if they are to be adopted. Reducing the number of traumas and having to make new attachments.
Is this daft idea?
I know that some people would only want to to foster.
No child should have to move in plastic carrier bags. It is down to the foster carer to make sure their foster children have a suitcase.
In my experience children under the age of five will be placed for adoption. Any child over the age of five and those who have not been successful during the adoption procedure will be approved to be adopted by their foster carers. This is largely because LA's do not want a child who has a chance of being adopted taking up a bed for a potential foster child.
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