Jim Richards studies an account of foster carers in Scotland;
Ged Smith looks at the effects on children of having alcoholic
parents; and Terry Bamford recommends an essential guide to changes
in social care.
John Triseliotis, Moira Borland and Malcolm Hill
British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering
ISBN 1 873868 80 4
This survey of foster care in Scotland is highly relevant to
those working in this area of work wherever they may be in the UK.
Its findings are based on data from some 800 foster carers and are
linked to those of Waterhouse in his recent work on the
organisation of fostering in England.
There is much here for the specialist, whether as a practitioner
or manager. Concentrating on how best to deliver a wide range of
fostering services, from planning recruitment strategies, all the
way through to mechanisms to support and therefore retain foster
carers, it is a welcome addition to our knowledge base.
There are timely warnings in it as well as nuggets of useful
information. It is clear that listening to children in an organised
group way was, with notable exceptions, rudimentary. We need to
take note of this given that two thirds of children are now in
foster care. There is also criticism of the "episodic and
unsystematic" way recruitment of carers is organised together with
the finding that the greater problem is not so much the loss of
carers but rather the huge problems in recruiting them.
As for the nuggets, something that has been found in previous
studies is shown once again, that foster carers are the best
recruiting officers. Therefore, how vigorously they advocate their
calling will depend on how well they are looked after. We are also
asked to bring carers firmly into the management of the system, not
as tokens, but as valued partners.
The survey showed clearly that foster carers want more training
after selection, especially in birth parent contact. Also, needless
disruption too often takes place when children are placed with
carers where the age gap between their own children and those
placed is too short.
One thing that is missing is comment on the impact of
independent fostering schemes. This is because, interestingly, this
is not a feature in Scotland. This seems to suggest that despite
the problems faced by Scottish local authorities, there is still a
greater value paid and more support given to the public section
solutions to social problems north of the border.