When I first started working for a fostering organisation some fifteen years ago now, (where does the time go?), people were still faxing sensitive documents like form F’s. It was time consuming and insecure. Local Authorities would call around the usual suspects (independent fostering providers) and hunt for a family for the child they were searching for. Teams of referrals officers up and down the country would do nothing other than phone and phone and phone. Clearly this was a very imprecise process. And by no means could the child’s social worker be sure that the best family had been found for their child by the time a placement decision was reached.
By 2007 more than half the homes in the UK had the internet and we finally had a viable alternative to the clunky old fax machines. Referrals were e-mailed and at (give or take) the speed of light, family information would be zapped back. Significantly increasing the efficiency of the operation. This still left social workers with piles of form F’s (between 45 and 75 pages long) to trawl through to see if they could find a family good enough to care for their child. You see, the world of independent fostering is a competitive one. We all want our families full of children. So that they can show us how amazing they are; so that children will benefit from living with a great family and so that the taxpayer will benefit from not having to pay more than £4,000 per week for a residential placement. So we all offer families to the refering Local Authorities, whether or not they meet all of the criteria indicated on a referral. The chances of finding the best available match was based on the social worker’s stamina and time constraints.
It is now 2015, technology has progressed to the point where it is possible for us to communicate securely (using cloud based technology) and that we can now be sure that we will find the best available family every time in under a second. Firstly we need to create a database of Foster Parents (not a difficult task). Secondly a very simple app could be created that would allow Local Authorities to search a Foster Parent database by geography, ethnicity, approval status or any number of other search criteria that the social worker may think relevant to ensure the best match is found. There are already many websites that will find you your dream car or holiday or even your life partner by asking a few astute questions. This same technology is obviously available to the Department for Education. The results could be prioritised by relevance and therefore the final piece of the puzzle has been found. You will be sure that you have searched all available families and only the ones that match your criteria will be considered.
If this nirvana is ever reached we will have achieved many goals: Foster Parents will achieve the professional credibility that they deserve; children will be placed more appropriately the first time of searching (reducing breakdowns, improving the life chances of the child and extending the careers of Foster Parents); the taxpayer will save money as some children who are currently in residential homes (because a good match could not be found) may now find a home. And finally we will be making maximum use of our most valuable resource: foster parent vacancies. I think we can all accept that finding the right family first time, every time will be beneficial to the children we look after.
So, now that we know that this technology is available, cheap and functional; and knowing that by not creating a searchable National Database of Foster Parents the Children’s Minister has accepted the practice as described in Plan B: I ask again, ‘Is the Children’s Minister Deliberately Harming Children’?
Please take the time to reply using Facebook (below), as I would welcome all of your thoughts on this.
Last modified on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:25