Supporting safer caring

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Safer caring is not about ticking the right box, it is about the quality of thinking and decision making about risks and responsibilities by public authorities, fostering services and individual foster carers.

The Fostering Network encourages public authorities and fostering services to move away from blanket bans and inflexible policies, and instead to help foster carers to implement individual safer caring plans for children and young people that are reviewed and revised to take into account their development and relationships with foster carers.

UK governments are committed to making foster care a better experience for all children and young people. Their aim is to reduce bureaucracy and to normalise the experiences of fostered children and young people by enabling foster carers to make day-to-day decisions within a nurturing family environment.

Professor Eileen Munro added impetus to these developments through her review of the child protection system in England. The review found too much focus on compliance with procedures and insufficient focus on the needs and lives of individual children. The recommendations were far-reaching and radical, and as a result attitudes to risk and decision making in relation to children in care are now being reconsidered.

Improved practice in delegating authority and proportionate approaches to managing risk will enable children and young people to lead lives less encumbered by bureaucracy. Over-reliance on policies and procedures can lead to a rigid and inflexible approach which disempowers foster carers and is not in children’s best interests.

Balancing the rights of fostered children and young people to live normal lives, and to learn to take and manage risks, with the need to keep them as safe as possible is a difficult task for foster carers, public authorities and fostering services. Supporting foster carers to build meaningful relationships and show affection and, where appropriate, physical comfort to the children and young people they care for can also be challenging. This is the complicated but exciting context to The Fostering Network’s new approach to safer caring.

Safer Caring: A New Approach

Whereas in the past identified risks may have resulted in blanket bans or prohibitive policies, Safer Caring: A New Approach challenges services to share responsibility for safer caring, adopting a risk-sensible, not risk-averse, approach. It equips foster carers, fostering services and public authorities with an approach that will help to manage risk.

Our publication – Safer Caring: A New Approach

The Safer Caring: A New Approach publication, 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-averse: 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.

To support the continued implementation of the Safer Caring: A New Approach within the current context of foster care, The Fostering Network has made available an extensive collection of supplementary resources.

Training

The Fostering Network has produced a training course to support foster carers’ understanding of safer caring.

The Fostering Network’s in-house 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. For more information, contact our training team

Foster care is continuously evolving, with children and young people coming into care with ever-changing needs and circumstances. By facilitating a more flexible and considered approach to decision making, young people in foster care will be more able to experience life like their peers.

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