Here is the article written by our chair Jane Wright that appeared in the Herald on the 8th February 2019
Agenda: We need a new governing body for foster care
By Jane Wright, Chair of the Scotland Foster Care Workers Branch of IWGB
THE Fostering Network’s State of the Nation survey, released this week, painted a picture of a demoralised, under resourced, and underappreciated workforce. We foster because we want to do the best for the children in our care. However, this hard work and the altruism of foster care workers has been exploited for too long and it’s time we are given the dignity of a properly regulated workforce.
The survey aimed to uncover information about foster care workers, including what are we being paid, support we receive, and how we feel about our role. Remarkably, there is no national body that collects this data and regulates our practice. As the Foster Care Workers Branches of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, we have established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foster Care Work to fix this.
You might well be asking why is this necessary? Surely foster carers are just parents for children who cannot be looked after by their own families? On a very basic level, yes, that is our role, but it is so much more complicated than that. In most situations, foster carers do not hold parental rights for the children in their care, meaning that even the simplest decisions around school trips or sleepovers have to be agreed by the child’s social worker.
The majority of children who are accommodated by the state have a parent with addiction issues, leaving them at risk of neglect or abuse. These early life experiences often impact on a child’s development, leading to social, emotional, and mental health problems which can take years of therapeutic care to overcome. This recovery needs foster carers who are skilled and trained. Add to that the need to input into children’s hearings, looked after children meetings, educational plans and other forums and it becomes apparent that this is much more than just “parenting”.
In this context, issues can arise that question a carer’s fitness to foster, which are currently dealt with with little or no external scrutiny. We urgently need a fair, transparent, and independent way to determine whether a foster carer is fit for the role. This is why we are proposing a Foster Care Workers Council to be the governing body of the profession with the aim of maintaining, improving and, ultimately, enforcing professional standards and ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, universal best practices.
This new governing body will prevent the useless duplication of processes that happens across Scotland. All of the 32 local authorities and 22 Independent Fostering Agencies have their own teams who recruit, assess, approve, train, and deregister foster care workers. Not only is this expensive, but it also means that foster carers are “owned” by their assessing fostering service. Moving to another involves repeating the assessment process which takes at least six months to complete.
Last year, Glasgow City Council had 40 fostering families with empty beds, as fewer children needed care. Many of these families live in South Lanarkshire, yet worked for Glasgow council. At the same time, the council in South Lanarkshire needed to find spaces for fostering, but due to the current situation, they could not be matched with these families even though they lived in the same town. The Foster Care Worker’s Council would address this, giving foster carers the option to work for different local authorities or fostering providers, standardising approval and training.
Despite these problems, we continue to work around the clock to do our best for the children we have taken into our families. To carry on that work, we need the support of an independent regulatory body.