Children's Minister launches a charter for children in foster care

Published on Friday, 18 March 2011 12:18
Posted by Scott Buckler

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton will today(March 18th) put an end to the persistent myths and red tape around fostering that have undermined foster carers for too long, in a new Foster Carers’ Charter published today


Currently, many foster carers and children in care are facing obstacles to everyday activities, like going for haircuts and sleepovers, which can make children’s lives more difficult and put off those wanting to foster. The new Charter sets out clear principles on how foster carers should be treated, recognises their invaluable work and aims to encourage more people to sign up to be foster carers.

In particular, the Charter is designed to:

  • make it clear that a foster child should be treated as part of the family and their views should be listened to and taken on board
  • help tackle myths that foster carers cannot let their foster children do everyday activities like sleepovers and holidays without facing excessive restrictions and barriers
  • set out how foster carers should be supported in their role, so they know what to expect from their fostering service and local authority – this includes being provided with full information about the child they are fostering
  • help local authorities recruit and retain foster carers and can be used as a tool and guide for what foster carers can expect.

The Charter is backed up by new slimmed-down fostering regulations and guidance, published last week, which make clear to local authority fostering services what their statutory duties are and reduces unnecessary burdens placed on them.

The number of children coming into care has risen in recent years. There are currently 64,400 being looked after in England – over 70 per cent of these children are looked after by foster families. With a shortage of suitable foster families, the Government is clear that the status and experience of fostering needs to improve so more people will come forward to foster and will carry on doing so.

The Charter has been jointly produced by Government, fostering organisations, charities and young children. It is part of the Government’s wider programme of reform to improve the entire care system – including reducing barriers and delays to adoption and improving the quality of children’s homes. The overall aim is to make sure that all children in care have greater stability, less upheaval and a better chance at a stable family life.

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said:

Foster carers are the unsung heroes of our care system. They do a fantastic, selfless job helping often vulnerable children build stable relationships that can endure into adulthood. Too often I hear stories about foster parents feeling isolated, unsupported, and facing endless red tape when all they are trying to do is enjoy everyday activities with their foster child – like taking them on holiday or even for a haircut.

The new Charter will help to change that. It underlines the huge value we place on foster carers. Not only as role models to the children who look up to them, but also as pushy parents who put those children first. The Charter sets out clear principles of what support should be available and what foster carers can expect.

I hope every local authority and fostering agency will sign up to the Charter. I particularly want local areas to sign up to the spirit of the Charter and build on and develop it in their own way to reflect the needs of the local community.

Listening to young people’s views is central to this Government’s vision for improving the care system. To help support this, the Department is also today launching a new web tool, Tell Tim, where young people in care, those who have left care or those working in the care system, can send their thoughts, ideas and experiences direct to Children’s Minister Tim Loughton.

Both the Charter and Tell Tim represent a new approach to inclusive, responsive Government. The Minister wants to hear about what works and what doesn’t and what changes the Government should be considering to make the system better. The Minister will also continue to hold regular quarterly meetings with groups of children in care and separately with care leavers.

The revised fostering guidance published last week:

  • clarifies delegation of authority to foster carers – so the default position should be that foster carers can take children for haircuts etc, unless it does not fit with the child’s care/placement plan
  • states clearly that CRB checks should never normally be undertaken as a prerequisite for a child to stay over at a friends house and that the default should be foster carers can make such decisions as any good parent would for there own child (taking into account any restrictions in the child’s care plan)
  • addresses confusion about who needs to be approved as a foster carer – for example, currently many providers wrongly believe that other people the child may spend time with (e.g. foster carer’s grandparent for a holiday for a couple of weeks) need to be approved as foster carers before the child can stay with them
  • exempts foster carers from requirements to register as a childminder if they are caring for another foster carer’s foster child
  • removes prescriptions on the use of foster carers by fostering services, e.g. to allow foster carers to act as mentors, train other carers.

In addition, the Government has invited local authorities to bid for funding to provide intensive support to looked after children with complex needs – including those on the edge of care. LAs are invited to bid for between £50,000 and £200,000 to run the following programmes: Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC), Keeping Foster and Kinship Carers Safe and Supported (KEEP) for looked after children, Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) for children on the edge of care or custody and Functional Family Therapy (FFT) for young people with conduct and offending behaviour.

Source: DFE

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