lid has been lifted this week on private fostering – ignored, misunderstood and
only minimally regulated.
many times have we seen in the media the white carers of a black child,
complaining that they have given the child a “better” home, but that suddenly
the family want to “steal” the child back to Africa.
we know that people who wish to exploit children seek out those who are
separated from their parents, whether the parents have given them up
voluntarily – to boarding schools, voluntary care, or private fostering; or
involuntarily. The element of parental choice is irrelevant to the need to
protect the child.
the government sees further legislative change as intrusion into a private,
family arrangement – like the smacking of children.
perception of the sanctity of parental authority must be challenged, whether it
affects smacking or private fostering. Otherwise, neither our legal system nor
our public discourse, while highly exercised about the family, will ever centre
by social services should be seen – and presented – as potentially flexible,
supportive and, where appropriate, light of touch. As the small amount of best
practice on private fostering demonstrates, the adequate private foster carer
can be improved, the best can be supported, and the malicious, incompetent and
abusive can be stopped.
can only wish for greater protection for their children. The government and
social services departments need to heed the warning issued by Sir William
Utting in his report People Like Us in 1997, that private fostering is “a honey
pot for abusers”.
registration of the service is not only a means of protecting children – allied
with other measures – but also of discovering how many there are, who they are,
and where they are.
government must act, in the recognition that it will not only protect children
but also underpin and improve a service which some parents, for a variety of
reasons, will always wish to use.
See news, page 6
There must be respect
This week’s proceedings at the Climbie inquiry
raised the crucial issue of how social care professionals work alongside health
The inquiry heard how social workers at the
London Borough of Haringey stopped attending crucial information-sharing
meetings because they felt ignored by their health colleagues.
In multi-disciplinary settings, social workers
can be seen as the poor relation; often senior health professionals attend
initial child protection meetings, whereas they are not seen as the remit of
social services directors or their assistants. Therefore seniority
discrepancies occur and junior staff feel intimidated.
But it is not just seniority which impacts on
the influence health professionals can have in multi-agency settings – it is
Respect is crucial and no amount of talk about
seamless services will alter the fact that attitudes must change. Social care
is not the servant to a health service master – it is crucial to the protection
of vulnerable people. Social workers’ views, opinions and professional
judgement must be heard loud and clear in multi-agency settings. If they are
silenced, the protection system will fail.
– See news, page 6