The Fostering Stocktake is a big deal. A ‘taking of the pulse’ of our sector, and we were all invited to contribute.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services - the guys ultimately responsible for our fostered children - chipped in, via President Alison Michalska, then kindly published their contribution.
We read it with anticipation. Then with bewilderment. Then consternation set in.
So then we wrote a response and sent it to them, and to the Stocktake, and to Isabelle Trowler - who is responsible for leading and challenging social work in the UK.
We got a little bit feisty.
A few excerpts:
They said: Foster carers are not, nor do they need to be, social workers.
We said: Agreed - the SW qualification is not adequate or appropriate for fostering.
They said: They do not need to be full time carers
We said: We do not agree and consider that this reflects a lack of insight to the task
They went on: ...nor do they need specific qualifications.
We think: Agreed, although we would advocate for good, fostering-specific qualifications at a range of levels.
They, head smackingly, said: Foster carers need to offer good quality ‘ordinary’ parenting
Oh boy! Really?!
...we said, as have so many others: This is a fundamental error - there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about the parenting skills required in fostering children with the complex needs so many have.
We continued: There is a critical reference here to the notion that foster parents ‘cannot’ be professionals, nor need be. We concur that children need familial experiences, not clinical experiences within a home. Yet modern foster parents provide that familial experience within a professional framework, which speaks to their sophistication and skill to be able to achieve both. There is great evidence over forty years of the benefits to young people of recognising the professionalism of their foster families - social work, represented here by the ADCS - has forgotten or dismissed it.
They think: The concept of partnership parenting, where health, schools, colleges and other partners understand and accept the part they play in contributing to the corporate parenting role of the local authority is key.
It is also essential that these partners include foster carers, like they would any other parent.
We declared: This is a fundamental and fatal error. Foster parents cannot be included within a professional network only to the degree that ‘any other parent’ would be. They are undertaking regulated, scrutinised, high risk, low supervision work. Although social workers retain a pivotal role and hold legal responsibility, the foster parent is in fact the lead professional as they spend so many hours every week with their fostered children. In our view the failure to recognise this leads to all the other concerns raised in this report.
But then, when we were already struggling, they said:
ADCS members would not support the creation of a national register of foster carers [because] children should be placed near to their family and friendship networks.
Huh?? How would a national register make it more likely children will be placed further away?
We retorted: ...clearly ALL the options close to home would also be easier to identify. In fact we would argue that almost any question raised in concern about fostering could be answered by use of a well conceived and well built National Database.
There’s so much more!
They had an old, old complaint about the morals of people making money from vulnerable children...oh my! If local authorities didn’t need independents - who know how to do the work - some of whom are profit making; they wouldn’t exist. To get rid of them - get better!
We also wondered: ….is there not a hypocrisy in drawing a salary and criticising others for essentially doing the same? How much is too much? Do Directors of Children’s Services need, morally, £100k+? (https://www.islington.gov.uk//~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/democracy/information/guidance/20112012/20120303chiefofficerpay)
I have worked for Local Authority and seen enormous waste. I have worked for charity and seen disregard for money, leading to disarray and failure. I have seen corruption in both. I have also worked in for-profit companies and seen funding of great, innovative services and environments for families and children. There is a moral issue about use of public money, but not the one the ADCS have framed.
We concluded: It is abundantly clear that the ADCS are unaware of the benefits to children of perceiving and respecting foster parents to be professionals. It is such a mistake and undermines everything they are saying they wish to achieve.
Good foster parents are already professionals, and have been for decades. We note Michalska wants foster parents to be trained, and to act in a professional manner, without imbuing them with other benefits of being professional. These views indicate a very stuck and conflicted perception of fostering, at a time when outcomes for fostered children are nationally unacceptable, whilst some organisations operate in such a way as to generate excellent chances for the future.
We pointed out - excuse us for a moment, ahem - our Ofsted report from June 2017 includes: the word ‘exceptional’ 11 times; ‘excellent’ 23 times; ‘effective’ 20 times; and ‘outstanding’ 15 times.
And that: Our fundamental values are decades old, and have been tested thoroughly to produce consistent results throughout that time. This has been lost from the social work world that dominates the control of fostering.
We offered to meet and chat... haven’t heard back yet...
If this is the sort of thinking you enjoy, and you wanna hear what Isabelle T thinks about it all, you’ll love Fostering Transformed:
Image credit: Unsplash
Last modified on Thursday, 17 August 2017 13:59