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Comment: We've promised change. Now it's time to deliver

Posted 11 Aug, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A recent report has highlighted the unmet needs of young people in foster care, as well as the lack of support for foster carers. Something needs to change, writes Jacqueline Cassidy (pictured)

Foster care provides children with stability and security and offers some children their first positive experience of family life. It can help to improve children's mental wellbeing and educational outcomes. However, children's needs can't fully be met if the support they need from other services isn’t readily available to them.

The Fostering Network’s latest report (click here to read) shows that we are still failing to meet some of our children and young people’s most basic needs and uphold their rights, particularly when it comes to their health, education and cultural identity.

State of the Nation's Foster Care

The report is based on results from the State of the Nation’s Foster Care 2021 survey, which provides the most comprehensive insight into fostering in Scotland and across the UK. It gathers the views of foster carers who are providing support and care to thousands of children and young people. Their view strongly indicates that both local and national government are failing to meet their responsibility as a parent to these children.

Key findings are:

  • A quarter of foster carers were looking after at least one child who they felt needed mental health support but was not getting it.
  • Fifty-four per cent of foster carers were looking after at least one child who receives additional support to assist their learning. Of these foster carers, a quarter felt that the additional support was not sufficient.
  • Thirteen per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with suspected Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  • Nine per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with a diagnosis of FASD, however, only a third received follow-up support post-diagnosis.
  • Fifty-five per cent of foster carers had not received any support or advice around supporting a child’s cultural and/or religious needs.
  • Scotland continues to have no minimum allowances for children’s needs despite multiple commitments from the Scottish Government.

Responsibilities of the state

Foster carers are dedicated to transforming children’s lives – but they cannot do this alone.

We are calling on national and local government across Scotland to ensure that children living in foster care are able to access all the services they are entitled to, and so desperately need; and that they are listened to by all agencies working with them.

Awareness-raising, training and support

We need to invest in awareness-raising, training and therapeutic approaches. This is so practitioners across all public sector organisations that support children have the understanding and skills they need to best support children with care experience.

Furthermore, we want to see a learning and development framework for foster carers introduced, such as that already in place in Wales, so foster carers can access the learning and development they feel they need to ensure the children in their care can thrive.

Working for change

So what are we doing? We continue to lobby the Scottish Government to introduce minimum allowances for children that are at least as good as the best allowances available in Scotland.

We are raising awareness and providing support to our members to positively engage with The Promise. Internally, we’ve committed to a review of our organisational language and framing of care so we can work towards eradicating the stigmatisation of care experience, and we’re investing in trauma training for our staff team.

The Fostering Network also continue to develop our participation opportunities for children and young people so we can protect and uphold their right to express their views and be heard. Most recently, we’ve launched a recruitment campaign to establish an advisory board of young people with experience of foster care or as a child of a foster carer, who will guide and inform some of our work.

In addition, we provide training and support to foster carers, and services and all those in the fostering community. We want to nurture and support those adults who care for our children and young people so that foster care is a positive, loving and supportive  experience that meets children and young people’s needs, and helps them thrive.

Foster carers provide children who can no longer live with their birth families with stability, security and a positive and supportive home environment. They help young people recover from trauma and encourage them to believe in and fulfil their potential. But they need to be supported by other services and with adequate funding.

We have committed to change, now we owe it to them to deliver.

Jacqueline Cassidy is Director of Practice and Scotland at The Fostering Network
Click here to find out more 


News: Evidence shows poor planning for care leavers

Posted 19 January, 2022 by Catherine Bromley

Against the backdrop of stark statistics from Public Health Scotland on significant waiting lists for treatment from specialist child and adolescent mental health services, Holyrood's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee heard evidence on the current health and wellbeing of care experienced young people.

At the meeting held yesterday (Tuesday 18 January), key points raised focused on the lack of support for young people transitioning from care – the critical moment when they might leave school and their foster families.

Gillian Martin, MSP and Convenor of the Committee took evidence from a panel including Jackie Brock, Chief Operations Officer (Interim), The Promise Scotland; Helen Happer, Chief Inspector, Care Inspectorate; Lucy Hughes, Policy Development Coordinator, Who Cares? Scotland; and Kate MacKinnon, Policy Associate, CELCIS.

Pathway planning out of date

Helen Harper of the Care Inspectorate said that the pathway planning process for care leavers was out of date (it hasn’t been reviewed since 2003).

“[The pathway planning ] isn’t linked to the GIRFEC approach that has proved to help staff work together across different services.” Helen Harper, Care Inspectorate

Jackie Brock of The Promise and Kate MacKinnon of CELCIS argued that while the legal rights and the policy framework were in place to support transitions, there was a real gap between the commitment and the delivery of support to care experienced young people leaving the scaffolding of school.

The opportunity of the National Care Service review

Panel members agreed that although disruptive, the current review of Scotland’s National Care Service presented an opportunity to rethink the pathway planning process, to develop links between child and adult services and ultimately achieve a more cohesive approach.

Calls for improved data and a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing

Lucy Hughes of Who Cares? Scotland, in response to a question from Sue Webber, MSP on the health statistics and mortality rates of care experienced young people, said they have been recording data since 2014 of their own members to drive an acknowledgement of “an inequality in terms of the experience of health for looked after children, compared to the experience of health by Scotland’s wider population of children and young people”.

A call for improved data to support this experience of inequality came from Jackie Brock, who said: “We cannot achieve sustainable progress until we have reliable data to measure what’s important”.

To address capacity across services in the face of Scotland and the UK’s developing mental health crisis, all those giving evidence at yesterday’s hearing said that a proactive approach was needed to support the mental health and wellbeing of looked after children from an early age, rather than waiting until young people are leaving care or at crisis point.

Click here to watch the Committee meeting on Scottish Parliament TV