English councils will face enhanced requirements to supply information to foster carers on placements, after the government warned that carers have been denied sufficient details in a “small minority of cases”.
Revised national minimum standards on fostering, published today for consultation, stress that full background information should be available to carers prior to placements.
All information should be provided in a “clear, written and comprehensive form”, including which responsibilities are placed on the carer and which on the fostering service.
Goes beyond current standards
This goes beyond the current NMS, which state that carers should be provided with full information about the child to enable them to protect the child, their own children and any other children for whom they have responsibility.
The proposals follow concerns raised by the Fostering Network, after a survey it carried out in May had found more than half of carers had looked after a child in the past three years for whom they were not given sufficient information to care for them safely.
In a letter to children’s services directors, published today, junior children’s minister Baroness Morgan said that in a “number of high profile cases”, foster carers had not been given sufficient information, putting children at risk.
She said carers should be provided with information about the child’s needs and relevant information on their previous history, behaviour and experiences and on the level of support available to the foster carers and the child.
She added: “The objective in all cases must be to meet the needs of the child but to do so in a way that enables foster carers to keep the child, others they are responsible for, and themselves safe from harm. This is essential in order to avoid disruption in placements.”
In emergency placements, she said foster carers should be provided with as much information as possible prior to the placement and all further relevant information as soon as practicable afterwards.
Fostering Network chief executive Robert Tapsfield said: “We are also delighted at the immediate response from the minister to our recent report highlighting the lack of information provided to foster carers about the children they look after. Foster carers should be treated as child care experts and equal members of the child care workforce.”
The network is due to launch a campaign next Thursday to ensure foster carers receive sufficient recognition.
Children’s homes and adoption standards
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the three sets of standards focused on the importance of listening to children, promoting stable placements and preventing breakdowns and carrying out regular reviews of placements.
Positive impact of stability
The DCSF also published research today showing the positive impact of stability for children in the care system, by demonstrating the better outcomes enjoyed by adopted children or those in long-term foster placements, compared with those who had suffered placement breakdown.
Other research published today looked at the relative costs of adoption in services run by local authorities or voluntary adoption agencies respectively.
Fostering information gap puts families at risk