How to support foster carers of young people who have shown harmful sexual behaviour

Social workers must focus on the broader support system around children showing signs of harmful sexual behaviour, says clinician Stephen Barry,

Photo: Rex Features (posed by model)

A principal clinician has spoken about how “really important” involving foster carers is when tackling the issue of children and young people showing signs of harmful sexual behaviour (HSB).

Stephen Barry, who is a principal clinician at the the NHS-run Be Safe project in Bristol, said foster carers were a significant resource in supporting young people with a history of harmful sexual behaviour.

He was speaking ahead of his session at the Community Care conference Overcoming challenges to support children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour”, where he will address the issue of how social workers can support foster carers looking after children engaging in, or showing signs of, HSB.

“I’ll be looking at some key messages around the importance of including foster carers in the child’s network of work, I’ll be looking at the importance of information sharing with carers, how we can work as a support network around the child or young person,” explained Barry.

He said one of the goals in practice for social workers should be “so we’re not just focusing on them [the child] but on the broader system and with foster carers as part of that.”

The conference, which is being held on the 22 October in London, will look at issues including evidence-based interventions, risk management and multi-agency working with children engaging in HSB.

Barry’s speech will look at how services can best train foster parents to support young people with a history of harmful sexual behaviour, he says: “Social workers need to be aware that you need a holistic, multi-agency approach that is supportive of foster carers and seeing foster carers as a significant resource in that process.”

He will outline how social workers can get alongside and work with the networks available to them, such as the foster carer, fostering agency, fostering support worker and schools, all of which can be vital improving outcomes for the child and carer.

Barry reiterated the importance of supporting foster carers “and giving them really important information about harmful sexual behaviours and some of the factors that might be behind that behaviour.”

Stephen Barry will be speaking about harmful sexual behaviour in children and young people, with a focus on foster care at our eighth annual conference on:

Overcoming challenges to support children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour: Driving practice and strategy solutions,  on 22 October 2014, in central London.

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