THE FOSTERING SERVICE - PARTS VI, VII, VIII AND XIII
References to local authorities and their duties in the guidance for Parts VI,VIIandVIIIinclude references to registered fostering providers, unless the reference relates directly to those local authorities' looked after duties which cannot be delegated.Regulation 48(2)lists the functions which local authorities may delegate to registered fostering services.
Regulations governing the fostering service are in Parts VI, VII and VIII and XIII, with Schedules 3,4,6 and 7. These cover the fostering panel, the approval, review and placement with foster carers; fostering allowances; and arrangements with registered fostering services. Other regulations are also relevant. These are all in the context of the recognition of the role of foster care in the provision of services to looked after children who require to be placed by local authorities, and the need to ensure an active programme to recruit and sustain sufficient foster care resources.
Fostering is one of the services which local authorities provide directly or commission from a registered fostering service, to provide for children who are looked after and placed by them. The number and range of children who are fostered in Scotland has grown steadily. It is the primary means of care for children under 12 who are placed away from home; and also provides care for adolescents who have either remained long-term in foster care or for whom it is the first choice when separation from their parents and kinship network is necessary. Specialist carers also provide short breaks for children with disabilities. Fostering therefore requires a range of well prepared and supported skilled carers for a diverse group of children.
Children's Services Plans should clearly state the role of foster care within each local authority area, the patterns of use and demand for such services and how the local authority intends to meet that demand. This should include any planned use of registered fostering services, the arrangements with whom are covered in Part XIII of the regulations.
Recruitment of Foster Carers
The planned development of fostering services should identify the numbers and range of placements likely to be needed, and publicity campaigns should target the full range of people who may be able to provide these placements. Whilst some prospective foster carers will approach an agency directly to offer their services, publicity will be required to attract others. Particular groups may be under-represented amongst foster carers and this could indicate that they are not aware they are eligible to foster or not aware there may be a need for their services. This may be because of their family structure, background or some perception of agency barriers. Efforts have been made to encourage groups such as single carers, those on low incomes and potential carers from different religious and ethnic origins to apply. This needs to be backed up by informed and welcoming procedures and careful consideration of how to make best use of such resources.
Previous regulations required the local authority could only make a foster placement place with "(a) a man and a woman living and acting jointly together; or (b) a man or a woman living and acting alone". This has been removed from the regulations, and there is now no such restriction on foster placements. This means that an assessment may be carried out on any applicants, regardless of their family structure, and so includes single applicants, married or cohabiting couples and same-sex couples. This is subject to applicants' understanding of the tasks, any particular requirements relating to these, such as the need for a full time home based carer for certain specialist schemes, and awareness of the full assessment, preparation and checking procedures.
Publicity should provide a clear picture of the characteristics of children needing foster homes, what the fostering task will entail for the prospective carers, and an indication of the payment, support and training they will receive. Recruitment should be planned and regular. It is most likely to be effective when it draws on the three levels of:-
- general educative information across the UK and Scotland, through country-wide bodies such as BAAF and tFN, government initiatives and the use of national media;
- coordinated efforts across groups of agencies with compatible needs and aims, for example, through local consortia;
- focused recruitment by individual agencies.
All inquirers should receive a speedy, informative and welcoming response so that their interest is maintained. Even where the inquirer's preferences do not meet the immediate needs or requirements of the service, some may be prepared to consider a different kind of fostering, or adoption, or an alternative to fostering such as befriending schemes, youth clubs or out of school schemes. Making an enquiry to a neighbouring local authority or registered fostering service should be encouraged if it seems possible that the inquirer's preferences may meet a need of that agency.
Further information can be found in Moving Forward in Kinship and Foster Care, 2009.