BUT - it’s a short word with so much power. It can change the tone of a sentence, a conversation, a meeting. It can suck the wind from your sails. And I’m fed up with hearing it in relation to fostering.
Depending on which foster carer or social worker you speak to and what sort of week they’re having you might hear something like:
- ‘I want to make a difference in the lives of my foster children, but the support I get from my fostering service isn’t always good enough.’
- ‘I know the children I look after probably better than anyone else, but I have to battle to get my voice heard.’
- ‘I know that my foster carers need as much support as possible, but my case load makes that so difficult.’
- ‘I would bend over backwards for the children in my care, but the money I get to look after them simply isn’t enough.’
- ‘I want to know what I can and can’t make decisions on, but at the moment my children end up missing out on things because it’s so unclear.’
‘I wish we could offer more young people the opportunity to stay living with their foster carers when they are 18, but we just don’t have enough foster carers.’
You get the point.
For the good of the tens of thousands of children living in foster care, and the families caring for them, surely now is the time for foster carers, fostering services and placing authorities to work together to get rid of the ‘buts’.
This week The Fostering Network is launching our revamped Foster Carers’ Charter. We believe that, if implemented properly by every fostering service, the charter could make significant inroads into ridding us of the ‘buts’ – and especially in addressing many of the practice issues highlighted in our recent State of the Nation’s Foster Care report.
Imagine those sentences above reworked:
- ‘I want to make a difference in the lives of the children in my care, and the support I get from my fostering service, especially when things are challenging, helps me through the tricky times.’
- ‘I know the children I look after probably better than anyone else, and my opinions are valued as a co-professional.
- ‘I know that my foster carers needs as much support as possible, and my case load means I can be there for them when they need me.’
- 'I would bend over backwards for my foster children, and the money I get to look after them enables me to give the what they need.
- 'I want to know what I can and can’t make decisions on, and the fact that I am clear on that means my children can lead as normal a childhood as possible.’
‘It’s so important to offer more young people the opportunity to stay living with their foster carers when they are 18, and our growing pool of motivated foster carers means we can do that going forward.'
Our charter, which has been amended in consultation with a range of organisations including ADCS, CoramBAAF, DfE, FosterTalk, NAFPand TACT, represents a commitment on behalf of the placing authority in their role as the corporate parent (this is a new element of the revamped charter), the fostering service and the foster carer to work in partnership in the best interests of the children for whom they care. It is a promise, with rights and responsibilities for all parties, to strive for best practice at all times.
I would urge every fostering service to work with all those involved to introduce and implement a charter in 2019 – it will be an important step to making foster care the very best it can be for children and young people and the foster families caring for them.