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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

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?

TheMagicFarawayTree Fri 11-May-12 19:54:21

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

marriedtoagoodun Sat 12-May-12 17:49:33

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.

veritythebrave Sun 13-May-12 17:11:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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).

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