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Why are we so short of foster carers?

(110 Posts)
Fosterangel Thu 16-Aug-12 20:38:27

Our LA admits that it is desperately short of foster carers. Where are all the amazing potential foster carers? What is the reason for holding back? Why are we not recruiting enough foster carers or retaining the foster carers we have?

NanaNina Fri 19-Oct-12 22:05:50

Scarlet They are not paying you mileage.......!!! I thought I'd heard everything but still the horror stories come piling in. Do any of you badly treated carers belong to a group of foster carers for your LA. My experience of foster carers in the LA where I worked, was that they were a very influential group. All new carers were invited and their activities were both formal an informal. Coffee mornings (where fcs could moan about the sws!) christmas party for the kids, summer picnics etc., but they also met formally and discussed between themselves what was going well and what wasn't. They also got in touch with foster carers within the same LA but in a different geographical area, and the whole of the County Council fcs also met as a very large group every quarter. By banding together in this way, they were able to see if there were inconsistencies between different areas about how carers were treated (and there always was of course). If the local group wanted a sw or tm mgr at one of their meetings then we would attend and be made aware of any problems that were arising.

The fcs in the entire CC group elected a chair, minute taker, rep from each area in the CC etc and the director of SSs would be asked to attend on occasions (which he did) and this meant that the director would be made aware of any problems and we would be called to account. Proper thing too.

IF there is no such group, how about starting one in your local area and maybe get things moving - "united we stand - divided we fall"

scarlet5tyger Fri 19-Oct-12 22:20:51

We've just started a group to try and tackle some of the issues we're facing and thanks to some much more vocal FCs than me have made some, small, headway. It's hard at the moment when we know lots of people in our LA have lost their jobs, and know that money really is tight, but we also know tha now is probably the best time to fight...

Lots of carers have voted to refuse to transport to contact unless we are paid mileage but I'm so soft that I'd hate to think how upsetting it would be for my LO and his birth mother if this happened.

NanaNina Fri 19-Oct-12 22:24:14

Fishwife you are quite right about no amount of govt money is going to be able to deal with this issue of difficulties over contact in a LA like yours that still uses contact supervisors.

I know exactly what you mean about sws not wanting to stop contact if the bp doesn't attend etc. I think the important things you mention in your post is the Courts and the Judge, and this IS a problem.

You may or may not know that sws are not really able to stop contact with parents who don't turn up etc though they do I hope keep a note of it as evidence in court of the disinterests of the bps. The reason they have to tread carefully because of the law which states (Children Act 89) that the duty of the social worker is to work in partnership with birthparents and to promote contact between parents and child. Whoever drafted the legislation didn't realise that most bps don't want to work in partnership with the LA!!

IF a sw stops contact or refuses to pay the travelling costs for instance to a bm to see her child, the lawyer representing the birthparents will "hang her/him out to dry" and do their best to discredit the sw. Lawyers for bps often don't have a lot to go on for their clients, so anything they can get hold of is squeezed "till the pips drop out" IFYSWIM. The trouble is the Children Act doesn't have anything to say about working with foster carers in partnership in the best interests of the child. So it does look like the sws are scared of the bps and this may be true in some cases, but they are also scared of being harangued in court by the lawyer for the bps and know that this will compromise the evidence that they can give in their request for a Care Order or Placement Order etc.

However I can absolutely agree with you about the wasted time and the effects on your own family life. Scarlet mentions that the govt have reduced the contact times for a baby from daily to x 3 per week, but I haven't heard anything about this. Can you give more info Scarlet. If so this is a step in the right direction.

However the rationale about daily contact with a baby is because of course the bps must remain as familiar figures in the baby's life, in case the baby is returned to them. Bit like being innocent until proved guilty.

scarlet5tyger Mon 22-Oct-12 15:52:17

The reduction in contact was proposed in a consultation paper earlier this year. There is a transcript about it here and my own LA have recently started offering just 3 sessions per week contact for babies. The courts aren't happy though so who knows how long it will last.

It's made my latest placement much easier to get into a routine though.

NanaNina Mon 22-Oct-12 19:37:42

Hi Scarlet glad to hear that carers in your LA are getting together in a group, and the more who join in the better. It doesn't mean that you only need to discuss what's going wrong but it an be used for anything that is relevant really. I am in absolute agreement that foster carers should be paid at the very least a mileage allowances, especially with the rising cost of fuel.

Everyone is SSD who are "essential car users" (more or less everyone other than admin staff and anyone who is office based) are paid a mileage allowance and also a lump sum for the wear and tear of the car. Yet they are expecting you to do it for nothing - NOT ON! It's bad enough having to disrupt your lives by all this contact, and carers are leaving LA foster care because of this, which is unsurprising.

Scarlet you must "grow a second skin!" Your fuel is the same price as the social workers and your time is just as important.

Thank you very much for the interesting "conversation" with Martin Narey and a journalist. I think Narey is demonstrating how out of touch he was with the day to day running of children's services on a national basis. As the chief Exec of Barnardoes, he would have been shielded from some of the issues he raises, which any senior manager in SSD would have at the front of their mind. Nonethless he is now learning - think he needs to get the name of the legislation right - it is the Children Act 1989 not Children's Act - I know this sounds nit picky but I would expect someone at his level to get it right.

Catherine Macaskill's research is interesting and she is a competent professional, but I do wonder quite how exact her figures can be about whether contact is positive, as I would have thought there were too many variables for such exact figures.

I think one of the problems that I have seen again and again about contact is social workers start jumping to thinking of frequency, without asking the first question - "What is contact meant to achieve" - I know it is difficult to answer that because when a child comes into care, it will not be known whether the LA can safely return the child until comprehensive assessments have been undertaken and if the case does go to court, the of course the Judge makes the final decision.

I think in an ideal world the "child's sense of time" should be taken into consideration regarding contact (meaning that the younger the child) the more frequent contact he/she will need, to ensures that the parents remain familiar, whereas an older child will remember their parents if they are only seen on an infrequent basis.

However I think it's crunch time. Parliament makes the legislation, SSDs have to follow it and courts apply it. It is encouraging that the govt are starting to ask questions about this issue, but in the meantime social workers will feel duty bound to follow the legislation in the Children Act - they can't do otherwise. I think MartinNarey's view is going to be influential but a great deal of it seems to be anecdotal. Why don't the govt ask the social workers and foster carers what this daily contact (in some cases) means for the child and the carers. They know more than Martin Narey.

Re the sibling group issue - well Hurray, Narey has realised that it is a very difficult thing to place sibling groups, something most social workers have known for a very long time. It isn't any good talking about recruiting families specifically for sibling groups because no prospective carer will know how their family is going to be affected by the placement of a sibling group and how each child's needs are going to be met in all respects.

Yes I agree that more consideration needs to be given to splitting sibling groups. Sadly I think there are many inexperienced social workers who have little idea of how to do this. Usualy it is done on the basis of age - say 2 little ones together and 2 older ones together. There is a need to understand the relationships between the sibs and consider their particular behavioural issues which will be relevant when trying to recruit sibling groups. When I was working on an independent basis, I was often asked by the social worker or tm mgr with case responsibility, how to split the sibs. My response that the sw needed to understand the relationships between the sibs, the behaviours etc were met with "oh we haven't got time for that" - probably true, but they also lacked the expertise.

Sorry I must stop...................

Uggshugsandbugs Wed 14-Nov-12 15:03:03

My current situation is that I'm a single unemployed mother of three children living in accommodation in witch has three bed rooms based in slough i have extensive experience working with in many different areas of the community national and international community regeneration developing strategic traing and development for children and young adults in need my kids are a boy8 a girl7 and boy tod of 2 I currently occupy just two of the three bed rooms as I have never ever used my room I sleep in the open plan living room as it has a bed seat every thing is tidy and put away by 6.30 am for the use of the living room I really want to foster I no I'm suited to challenging and changing environments and most of all I love children I need to no if the la will class my unused bed room as a spare due to the fact I have never even put a bed n their and if they don't will I have a chance to put my point and will to foster to a pannal help tomes running out these private school fees won't pay them selves so I need to no were I stand I wish they would just see how good a career I actually am the amount of time love effort I put into my children's development and children in general has to be recognised I truly believe I can do this I have to help and all the negative still hasn't differed my will to do so at 31 I'm a stable consistent foundation for any child and having raised my own independently I'm even more determined to help others please some one get back to me got to go now the school run begins

DecAndAnt Wed 14-Nov-12 20:58:57

Uggs I doubt they would consider you as 4 people living in a 3 bed house, doesn't add up. Also you put that private school fees don't pay themselves. The income from fostering certainly won't pay for private school fees.
I would concentrate on getting a job outside the home or what about childminding?

tryingtofoster Wed 28-Nov-12 02:03:36

Well to answer the OP question again, i put the blame firmly on the SW.
i posted on the 11th oct about how long it has taken so far and it is now the 28th of nov and we still have not heard a thing from the useless excuse for a SW that is supposed to be doing our approval process.
The SW said we were excellent candidates and with 3 spare rooms a big garden and a stay at home mum we were pretty close to ideal in our situation and circumstance.
we were led to believe we would be through the process and have a placement by the summer so we did not book or take any holidays this year because we were told we would be fostering by then.
A job offer was also turned down because we were told we would have a placement "very soon" so we are still living on one salary instead of two,
all because of the lies and deciet of the useless lazy incompetant SW.
Over two years to get approved in an area that is so short of FC that they regularly advertise for more FC and then ignore the applications, unreal, and no we do not vote ukip if you were wondering.
All levity aside i am absolutly discusted by the way we have been treated and i have grave concerns for the poor children who are the victims of this pitiful excuse for a SW.
I despair i really do

lechatnoir Sun 09-Dec-12 21:12:35

9 months into our application to foster (initial assessment, CRB, references, skills to foster all completed) I was made redundant from my PT job & registered as a childminder. Despite telling my LA that I would only be CMing the same PT hours as my previous job they stopped our application dead & told me to 'come back in a year or so but don't be surprised if we say no as CMing & fostering aren't compatible'! Phone down.confused

I get that having FC alongside mindees would be tricky but they were happy with me working 3 days a week (we were applying for respite care not full time) so I don't really see how this should differ but they weren't interested hmm I'm gutted but we can't afford me to be a SAHM/ ft foster carer.

Fosterangel Mon 10-Dec-12 17:10:10

Lechatnoir - I took this from Devon County Council's webiste on Fostering:

"Devon Foster Care Service’s experience is that complex childminding arrangements do not fit well with fostering, particularly where there are many children involved or children minded over long periods of time. Also, risks to childminded children need to be considered during the assessment to ensure that Foster children who may be a risk to others are properly matched. This may, for example, determine the age group for which a Carer is approved to Foster."

I expect Devon;s stance is pretty general and I am really surprised - are LA's saying that Foster children are a risk to childminded children? Piffle! It is more likely to be the other way around as fostered children are very vulnerable and in need of love and nurture from carers who are child focused.

In a child-centred, safe and caring environment all children would flourish so really it is the LA's loss. Another good potential foster home bites the dust! What a shame.

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