The Fostering Network is calling on local authorities in England to disclose to foster carers all information available about the children coming into their care, following a survey of foster carers.
Foster carers were asked: Are you given all the information you need about a fostered child before they move in, to look after them and others in the household safely? Of the 1,000 who replied, 23 per cent said they were ‘rarely’ given the information they needed, with six per cent saying that information sharing ‘never’ happened.
Only nine per cent said they were always given the information they needed, with 32 per cent saying this ‘mostly’ happened and 31 per cent saying they were ‘sometimes’ given this information.
Jackie Sanders, director of communications and public affairs at The Fostering Network, says: “This survey makes clear that information is not shared as a matter of course with foster carers, and we know how damaging this can be to their families and fostered children. When children come into care in an emergency situation little, if any, information may be available. If this is the case then it should be a priority to find out as much information as possible and to share it immediately with the people caring for the child.
“Whether by failure to inform, or a limited availability, a lack of information inhibits the abilities of the foster carers to meet the needs of, and to provide appropriate care for, a child. This puts the foster carers, their families and the children in their care are being put at risk.”
Full disclosure of information is of benefit to the foster carer, their family and the children in care who are living with them. Foster carers are more able to meet the needs of a child if they know what those needs are, allowing them to make a full assessment of whether they can properly care for the child and to access extra support or advice where necessary.
To create positive change, we believe that children’s services must provide foster carers with full information in order that they can care safely for the child and help them to achieve their potential, and fostering services should ensure that this happens. Children’s social workers’ training must also involve a clearer understanding of the role of foster carers and their key place in the team around a fostered child.
Foster carers must take action too by ensuring that they have all the information they need in order to care safely for a child and ensure the safety of their own family. Where it is difficult to obtain information they should ask to see child’s file, or request that their supervising social worker sees it.
Regulations and standards make clear the information that local authorities in England must provide to foster carers before a child is placed with them. Court rulings such as the Essex judgments in 1998 and 2000 reinforce the legal responsibility that local authorities have to fully inform foster carers about the children in their care.
If you’re a member of The Fostering Network and need support or advice around this issue, or any other, then you can contact our advice and support services across the UK.