Foster carers argue for more freedom to switch agencies

A group of foster carers are calling on the Fostering Network to
ballot its members on whether to withdraw from an agreement that
restricts their working practices.

The foster carers claim the agreement, which most councils and
independent fostering agencies include in their foster carer
contracts, hinders their freedom to move between different
fostering services.

At the Fostering Network AGM last week, a resolution that called
for the agreement to be scrapped was defeated by just one vote. The
network’s trustees board also rejected an application for a poll of
its 20,000 members, on whether to withdraw from the agreement,
because it would cost about £8,000 and councils and
independent agencies were considered unlikely to scrap it.

The Movement of Carers Between Agencies Protocol, which
was introduced in 1998, prevents carers from joining another
council or independent fostering service in England and Wales while
they have children in placement, unless arrangements for the
continuing management of such placements are made to the
satisfaction of both the placing authority and receiving fostering

Where such arrangements cannot be reached, the carer is obliged to
remain with the existing fostering service until the placement
reaches its “natural” end, or faces having to resign completely.

Despite national minimum standards stating that alternative
arrangements should be organised within 28 days, the protocol does
not stipulate any time limit.

Foster carers argue that some services fail to act quick enough,
forcing many to stay put – sometimes for as long as 18 months –
because resigning would create problems for the child and be
frowned upon by future employers.

A Fostering Network spokesperson said:”Some carers get trapped by
councils because they haven’t found an alternative placement for a
child, and the board and trustees are to look again at the protocol
and what is happening in practice.”

However, she added that even if the Fostering Network had voted
against the protocol, foster carers’ movements would still be
restricted to some degree by the 28-day notice period for
rearranging placements set out in the national minimum standards.

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