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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?

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.

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.

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

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?

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

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...................

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 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 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 22:05:50

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"

Fishwife1949 Fri 19-Oct-12 15:50:01

Sorry nanna but i dont agree about the goverment bit it nought to do with them

In our LA we have excellect conatct service they pick the fc up and drop them off but even if they didnt it would still effect our family time as sw are to scared to tell parents who continually fail to show for contact that its off until some true comitment is shown

even with parents who are good and do show we have BEEN TOLD WE ARE TO BE NO MORE THAN 30 minutes away just in case which means all you can do is nip to tesco or go home

There is no amount of goverment money that can fix the fact that some parents wont show for contact hence (us) foster carers having to be on standby and are own familes missing out on days out ect.

In my view this is sqaurely laid and the feet of judges and sw who in my view allow parents to take the piss for to long


For me thats the real issue its very jarring to have to turndown trips out to facilitate a conatct you know wont happen then once you haul the gc up to the conatct you are then faced with a deverstaed fotser child as well as missing out on a family trip this is not how anyone should have to spend there weekends

Nanna i am usually with yu but on this i just think the courts and sw need to be a lot toughter and that way the fc are not left dissapointed and the foster carers time is not wasted waiting for a parent that never comes

scarlet5tyger Fri 19-Oct-12 14:52:35

Nananina - we're expected to transport without mileage allowance! I haven't once been paid for transporting.

On the other hand, one (very small) improvement the government have recently made is to reduce contact for babies from daily to no more than 3 times per week. This is supposed to help with implementing routines which was impossible with daily contact. The new rule isn't always adhered to (my current LO has 4 days per week) but its slowly being used more as departments realise it saves them money and contact time!

NanaNina Fri 19-Oct-12 12:31:30

Well I think they can see it. The real villian of the piece is the govt because they are slashing through budgets of all public services with a samuri sword. Then of course the LA has to make decisions about how they are going to make the savings needed to comply with the govt, and we're talking big bucks here as I'm sure you know. At the same time Cameron is wanting improved public services, for less money. Impossible. Wherever the cuts are made by LAs there is an outcry eg day centres for people with LDs closed, luncheon clubs for the elderly closed, etc etc.

I do however agree with you that it is extremely short sighted to cut the contact supervisors on the basis that foster carers can do their job too for nothing really, as carers are not paid any extra for doing all the contact, apart from mileage allowance. This is inevitably going to mean fcs will be leaving, and the LA will have to pay massive amounts of their depleted budgets to IFAs. It also has a feel of passing on the cuts that will affect foster carers as they are not that important and won't make a fuss. That is conjecture of course.

The LA where I worked in SSD for many years (a shire county) is cutting all jobs other than social workers and team managers, so all the other management tiers above that are going, and the line management structure will be sw, tm mgr, director. Job done! And there will be big savings as middle and senior managers will be on relatively high salaries. How it will work in practice, no-one knows but at least they are not cutting contact supervisors.

Fosterangel Fri 19-Oct-12 11:01:27

Purpleloosestrife - I was out shopping with my mum this week and we bumped into a lovely lady that I did the Skills to Foster with almost 3 years ago now. She and husband went on to foster newborns/babies and we went on to do teens.

We have kept in touch (and will continue to do so). I liked the way she cared for her lo's with so much love and care and total commitment. She gave up fostering a few weeks ago for exactly the same reason. Her own bs was suffering with the daily contact that fell to her to do. She had a lovely SSW but whenever she asked for anything, like respite for a wedding out of area, or help with transport when bs was in hospital one time, it was refused.

There are many things that are really not right and are driving good carers away. I cannot believe that Social Services cannot see this!

NanaNina Thu 18-Oct-12 23:32:06

Another example of how appallingly foster carers are being treated. This whole thing about contact has changed so much over the years. Back in the 80's birthparents almost always had contact at the home of the foster carer, and needless to say some carers really didn't like this, as the bp would bring piles of sweets, or criticise the fc or just them being there was an intrusion, or the bps wouldn't turn up at all. However others were very good at it, and ended up often befriending the young mother (as a lot of birthmothers are little more than children themselves)

Then things began to change about 10 years ago (or possibly longer) where all contact took place at contact centres, and children were picked up by a contact worker, driven to the centre and the contact was supervised by the contact worker. Not a great idea for the children, as they were often driven miles (sometimes on a daily basis) to have contact with the bps. The younger the child the greater frequency contact has to be, so that the baby/child does not lose any recall of the birthparents.

However I gather that now fcs are being expected to do all this contact because of lack of funding for contact workers because this govt is slashing the budgets of all public services, but it looks like many LAs are just wanting fcs to take over the work of the contact supervisors. I have heard that some LAs won't approve carers unless they agree to do the contact too.

They just don't deserve carers to be honest. I am just hearing so many horror stories of the appalling ways in which foster carers are being treated

purpleloosestrife Thu 18-Oct-12 23:02:56

nana I'm sorry I have only scanned this post and not read all in detail - so sorry if any duplication. ... and sorry as this is long. ( a lot to get off my chest!)

I am a new foster carer. I have got the most lovely social workers - who (I truly believe ) should be nominated for some sort of medal/pay rise/statue in their honour..... as they are DEDICATED beyond belief.

Fostering itself is amazing- as for all it is horrific in moments (screaming ,frightened 6mo baby, teething -and unused to physical contact that doesn't hurt - let me tell you how little sleep we got in the beginning!) but it is also very rewarding (when the same baby "allows" you to cuddle him for the first time....)

it is not the social workers that will stop me fostering - they have been awesome. What is a problem, is that I have a DD of my own and the relentless "contact" is something I wasn't prepared for. I cannot go anywhere, or do anything. My life is ruled.

I want to take my family ( FS incl, obviously) on a day trip - I can't. There isn't a day free.

I hate the fact that my daughter now has to miss out on family days out as we have to hang around in case the mother doesn't turn up to contact ( as Social workers are sooo stretched ....there would be no-one to look after FS if we didn't.)

We will probably not foster again.

NanaNina Wed 17-Oct-12 15:31:33

O.M.G. - I am getting more and more shocked at some of these posts, and angry and frustrated on your behalf Afewquestions and others who are being treated appallingly by social workers. In fact I think some posts raise my blood pressure!!

What happened to you AFQ is totally horrendous and you must must make a formal complaint. An offer like yours (which should be perceived as gold dust) is turned down on the phone - UNBELIEVABLE. Ask the LA for a copy of their complaints procedure and follow it. The first stage is usually to complain to the sw's team manager, and if matters aren't resolved , there is usually an independent assessor and if still not resolved, you can have a meeting with membersof the social services committee (might be called cabinets now).

The other way which is quicker is to complain to your local councillor or ask for the name of the chair of the SS Committee and make written complaint to him/her althought your local councillor should pass it on. Then the councillor will pass it to the Director or Chief Exec and it will get passed down the line to the relevant tm mgr and believe me they have to reply very promptly as the Director will want to get back to the councillor asap.

You must complain, not only for yourselves but for others who may have the misfortune to get this incompetent social worker. Applicants should never be turned down on the phone, unless it is someone who is clearly unable to foster (I once had an 86 year old woman in a one bedroomed flat who aplied to foster as her son thought it would be a god idea!)

Keep us posted.

Thank you for your kind words Fosterangel - I just wish I could get my hands on some of these social workers who can behave so unprofessionally.

Fosterangel Wed 17-Oct-12 10:09:10

I am really annoyed for you at reading your post Afewquestions! How dare they ask about your contraception. I would have given that enquiry short change and a furious glare. I know that the process is intrusive (it has to be as it is child protection) but that it a step too far imho.

Have you tried other agencies or fostering organisations? We are with the Local Authority (LA). You can apply to foster through Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA's) or through charities (Barnardos). Try some more to see if it was just one very rude SW. It will only cost you the phone call enquiry and I hope put your mind at rest.

I am sure NanaNina will enter the discussion as she is the font of knowledge to us foster carers.

Afewquestions Wed 17-Oct-12 03:08:00

I am a qualified nursery nurse and children's nurse but gave up work after having a baby. I applied with DH to foster children with special needs/ sibling groups... we have 2 spare rooms and a big garden but were turned down as couldnt say for definite whether we might have more children in the future (hadn't decided at that point). Social worker was so rude, asked over the phone what method of contraception I was using as they didnt want to waste their time if I was going to get pregnant soon! When I said I felt that was an inappropriate question she said they would not take my application further.

childatheart Sat 13-Oct-12 21:10:23

Totally concur Fishwife1949

You should not be allowed to become a SW unless you have life skills and have demonstrated also your parenting skills.

Too many young somethings with a degree who really don't have a clue about children, families or parenting but yet are the "experts".

Fishwife1949 Fri 12-Oct-12 19:56:43

Well this is my last placement and i am hoping to adopt as i want to help children but dont want the stupidity of the sw any more

I cant be arrsed being told how to raise a child by some 23 year old who lives with there mum and only seen the child twice

The rule apply when they want u to do somthing but dont when its there turn

They ask to little of the birth parents and to much from us

I once was asked by a sw how i was i replied i was a bit tired

That triggered a 2 hour meeting between my link worker , the sw i sopke to and the line manger


Incomptance of that level would not be tolrated in any other relhm and meetings about meeting are a luxury only sw have because the rest of the working world is busy

Fosterangel Thu 11-Oct-12 15:24:16

I must admit that it took us over a year from start to finish to go through the fostering process.

The most telling thing to us is how our friends and family view fostering. Most say that the children are lovely but they do not know how we put up with the social workers!

None would ever consider fostering (and some were actually thinking about it whilst we were qualifying!).

tryingtofoster Thu 11-Oct-12 12:16:08

could it also be the 2 year+ approval process, with your life scrutinsed under a microscope but with virtually no communication from the SW, and no idea of or if any progress has been made with your application,

This is how it has gone for us:

all paperwork from our side done almost two years ago.

all interviews and attendance on intro courses done 18mts+ ago

medicals ect done 1 year ago

references done 1 year ago and referees finally interviewed 6 mts plus ago

just SW paperwork to be completed and submitted for approval and then to panel

all through this we were told yes we were great candidates and she would try to get everything done as quickly as possible and she had two "kids" in mind for us over a year ago, but that the last carers she had processed had taken over two years to go through the process but promised that she would do better this time!

SW has sat on this paperwork for over 6 mts and done nothing,
the original snails pace of progress that we were able to prompt out of the SW with calls and emails has now ground to a halt,

she refuses to do paperwork and trys to get her colleuges to do it for her
(she quite proudly told us in one of our first of many interviews that she hated paperwork and particularly the new forms and would not use them at all but got some one else to copy her stuff from the old forms that she would grudgingly use onto the new ones)

Obviously this has approach has failed but she will not hand off our application to anyone else to complete,
all we get are just occasional very flimsy excuses as to why nothing has been done.

and yes in my area they are so desperate for carers that they regularly advertise for them in the press, but then just dont process the applications confused

We are now at the point of giving up and telling SW department to stuff it

If this is how incompetant SW are at this stage i shudder to think what they will be like when we are actually carers and may need their help or advise.

ripeoldage Wed 10-Oct-12 12:00:18

i became a fc a few years ago, i love it . it was never about the money .. im a single parent and i work .. had constant battles with this one social worker lack of information etc .. they have now left as sw team an moved into foster team so they have now became my link worker .. i had asked for respite once a month as the child i have is hard work only to be told that i can have respite once every 4 months many carers on here i dont get a wage, wish i did for the 172 week i have put in ... i should be able to take a break when i ask ... as for this i thought i was helping the children my only opition is to give up working with the la .. go private ..

gallivantsaregood Tue 04-Sep-12 10:28:34

childatheart : Hear Hear!! You got it in one

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