Foster care and residential care have indeed been seen as competitors, whereas the National Foster Care Association has always maintained that informed choices should be made for children following proper assessment of their needs. This assessment could be carried out while the child is living at home or in a short-term foster or residential setting, depending on individual circumstances.
We too believe that the time is right for a reappraisal of the services that are offered to children who come into the care of local authorities - and in particular a fresh look should be taken at how those who work with the children are helped and supported.
The majority of children being cared for are still placed with volunteers. Most do a wonderful job, sticking with children no matter what. But if a child-centred service is what is needed, it will necessarily make greater demands of carers; in these circumstances, can they continue to be wholly voluntary?
Isn't it time that we were in a position to require carers not to give up on placements, for the sake of the children? If that is the case, what rewards should they be offered?
We also believe that it is time to look at the role of social workers and family placement workers, to see how they can provide children with a better service. If a child is placed in foster care, one way to help avoid placement breakdown is to give the placement worker responsibility for ensuring that carers are providing a quality service.
Any assessment and improvement of services for children will require adequate resourcing. Without a commitment from central government, the local authorities charged with providing these services will be unable to address what are clearly pressing needs.
National Foster Care Association
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