Long term fostering breakdowns
It is becoming increasingly common that children’s long term foster care placements are breaking down because their needs are not being met by Social Services. As a result, in some cases children have had to leave their long term placements to go into residential care.
In July 2017 Cliodhna Russell reported about this in Irish News Website thejournal.ie. She tells the story of a nine year old boy who had been placed with ‘loving and caring’ foster parents and had otherwise been doing well. He had an excellent attendance record at school and had joined a local football club. Although things had been settled in the foster care placement, his past had not been dealt with.
His chaotic start to life was due to having parents who were drug abusers, and when is father went to prison, the boy was placed in foster care. The foster parents fought for counselling and psychological support for months for their foster son. With no support forthcoming the placement was unfortunately doomed to fail.
The Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said she would follow up on the case but added that most foster carers have a link social worker who provides a support to them. It is true to day that most social workers have caseloads that they cannot manage and they themselves are not getting the support they need.
Unfortunately these are not isolated cases. We see the same stories reported across the United Kingdom. In our own experience we too have seen a complete lack of support from social services. Foster Carers do not have parental responsibility for the children placed in their care. Although they receive delegated authority, it does not give the same power of Kudos as parental responsibility.
Their fight to access services for their foster children is limited by their lack of authority and by how much time and support they receive from their local authority social worker. It also comes down to how hard the local authority social worker is willing to fight for that child to receive the services they need. It is all too common to find social workers who promise that they will get things done, only to find they have not had the time or resources to fulfil their promises. Meanwhile, children are left without the help they need and Foster Carers are bearing the brunt of the fall out to this.
The cost on the care system will only escalate when such support is not put in place for these children and young people. There is a huge cost both financially and emotionally when placements break down. The cost is huge to re-home a child, particularly when they are placed in a residential setting.
According to the Department for Education and Skills “the standard unit cost for maintaining a child for a week in residential care is eight times that of the cost of foster care, 9.5 times that of a placement with relatives or friends and 12.5 times that of a placement with own parents.” Furthermore, breakdown in placement often it leads to Foster Carer’s resigning their position, which in turn means there are less foster carers available.
Breakdown of one placement for a child often leads to further breakdowns. “Frequent changes in placement have a knock-on effect on the costs of other processes. The process of finding a new placement for a child who is considered to be difficult to place takes, on average, between eighteen and twenty-four extra working hours. This more than doubles the level of activity for the process.” The system needs overhauling and it needs to happen soon.