One of the most important responsibilities of a foster carer is to keep child and young people safe. At the same time, foster carers must keep themselves and their families safe from any harm that could arise through fostering, including the risk of complaints or allegations.
Foster carers constantly have to balance risks in the everyday decisions they take for themselves, their own children and fostered children. The difference with a fostered child is that foster carers are caring for them on behalf of the state, and so are accountable for the day-to-day decisions they take. They will be asked by their fostering service to do some things differently than they might with their own children, to keep everyone safe.
Children and young people in care are often particularly vulnerable due to their previous life experiences, so foster carers need to understand and manage the particular risks they may face, while helping children to have as normal a childhood as they can.
Not only can we not eliminate risk from everyday life, but trying to do so can have negative side effects, and can prevent children from learning and developing their own awareness of risk and how to stay safe. So the key to good, safer caring is about foster carers being aware of the risks involved for particular children in different situations, and making well thought through decisions, in partnership with the child’s social worker and the fostering service.
Safer caring is all about being “risk sensible”, not risk averse. It is about foster carers working in partnership with children and young people, their parents wherever possible, and the key social workers to develop the right safer caring plan for that child; and day-to-day, understanding and balancing the risks involved in a particular activity or decision, rather than applying a set of rules in all circumstances.
How we can help foster carers
Our publication – Safer Caring: A New Approach
Our publication, Safer Caring: A New Approach, written by sector expert, Jacky Slade, has three significant themes running through it:
- The role and status of foster carers: the relevance for safer caring of the foster carer’s position in the team around the child or young person.
- Risk sensible, not risk adverse: the need for a realistic and proportionate approach to risk so children and young people can grow and learn.
- Delegated authority: whenever appropriate, foster carers with everyday responsibility for children and young people should be able to make day-to-day decisions for them.
The Safer Caring: A New Approach publication addresses these themes across 12 chapters, with a series of resources to support and embed learning. It is The Fostering Network’s most popular publication and is available to purchase online.
The Fostering Network’s in-service Safer Caring: A New Approach training course has been designed for both foster carers and social workers. It examines the tensions that arise between safer caring practice and achieving a normal everyday life for fostered children, and allows participants to consider their own service’s support and guidance in relation to safer caring and the mechanisms for flagging specific issues.
Our member helplines provide confidential and impartial advice for foster carers in the UK.
Our online community
Our members also have exclusive access to our online community where you can log in to share your experience and get advice from other foster carers. The community is a safe and secure area to discuss topics including being a foster carer and looking after a child, as well as advice on finances.