Responding to the article in Community Care Children’s services directors wary of moves to ‘professionalise’ foster carers, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘To debate whether or not using the term professional would be appropriate for foster carers is a redundant argument. Foster carers are professionals, bringing the training, skills and experience that they have to the vitally important role of caring for children. The problem is that, despite the reality, foster carers are too often not being treated as professionals, with a lack of support, respect, remuneration and training. Many of the key messages from foster carers as part of our 2016 State of the Nation’ Foster Care survey revolved around not feeling respected as an equal member of the team around the child.
The article quotes the ADCS submission to the fostering stocktake as saying: “Foster carers are not, nor do they need to be, social workers.” We could not agree more. But this is also irrelevant to the discussion. Foster carers need the skills and experience to be able to bring stability, security and safety to the children in their care. Foster carers have to be able to provide these things to children who may well have experienced significant trauma and abuse, and they need to be able to relate to a wide range of other co-professionals. Foster carers play an important parental role in the lives of fostered children, but being a foster carer is not simply parenting or “parenting plus”. The needs of most fostered children and the system within which foster carers work require them to be child care experts at the heart of the team. To call foster carers professionals is not “disenfranchising” as ADCS president Alison Michalska suggests, it’s simply recognising what they already are…and The Fostering Network is here to ensure that they are also treated as such.