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