We must pay and support our foster carers

The Fostering Network has called for foster carers across the UK to be treated and paid as professional members of the team to enable them to look after children effectively, following the release of our State of the Nation’s Foster Care survey.

The State of the Nation’s Foster Care, based on a survey of over 1,000 foster carers, found that:
• Fewer than half (47 per cent) were paid a fee for fostering;
• Two-thirds of foster carers did not have other employment in addition to fostering, so their only income from work is from fostering.
The percentage of foster carers receiving a fee has not changed from a previous survey in 2007. Meanwhile, fostering services continue to struggle to recruit enough foster carers with the skills and experience to look after teenagers, disabled children and sibling groups.
Jackie Sanders, The Fostering Network’s director of public affairs, said: “To help fostered children achieve the very best they can, we need foster carers to be properly paid, supported and enabled to carry out their caring responsibilities. 
“No other profession is expected to work for free. Social workers, teachers, nurses and childminders are all paid, why not foster carers?
“In order to recruit and retain sufficient foster carers with the skills and experience to meet children’s needs, we need governments across the four nations to take action to ensure that they are paid for the vital work that they do. This will require significant additional investment over a period of time, but this is an investment in children in care that will help to transform their lives.” 
The report also found that more than half (52 per cent) of foster carers said they were not treated as a member of the child care team. Foster carers also raised the fact that they were not always given authority to make everyday decisions about the care of their fostered children, and that there needed to be improvements in access to and consistency of social workers.
Sanders continued: “The survey results also quite clearly show that foster carers feel like second class citizens when it comes to being part of the child care team.
“We need a cultural shift across the UK to ensure foster carers are recognised, respected and treated as full members of this team. 
“In recent years governments have dedicated time and money to improving adoption and residential care. The Fostering Network believes that it is now time for an undiluted focus on foster care, to tackle these issues and ensure that foster families can offer the best possible care to children.” 
You can download the full report from The Fostering Network's website.