Creating job satisfaction for foster carers - ideas from practice
- BRADFORD provides a part-time, flexible fostering service called SUPPORT CARE, set up in 1996. It aims to prevent family breakdown by offering families support from foster carers for planned, time limited periods. It was developed as a response to a shortfall in provision identified by field social workers. Traditional foster placements risk the long-term full-time removal of young people from their families. Such placements can be insufficiently flexible to meet the needs of families, especially single mothers struggling alone to cope with their adolescent, where there are difficulties related to family conflict, school problems, behavioural difficulties, mental health, drugs and alcohol. The aim of this scheme is to meet the needs of children and their families in a flexible way, and in so doing it provides opportunities for foster carers to gain job satisfaction by widening their skills and expertise.
- SUPPORT CARE has given a new role to foster carers who can offer befriending, advocacy and family support as well as caring. The scheme has been widely publicised through training events led by a team comprising the scheme co-ordinator, foster carer and parent as well as by publications (see for example, Howard, J. (2000)).
- CAMBRIDGESHIRE has developed the role of Fostering Service Family Worker, which was set up with the aims of maintaining placement stability, preventing fostering breakdowns and assisting in planned moves for young people. The family workers, some of whom are experienced foster carers, help carers to manage challenging behaviour and support young people with their education, often through providing one to one work with them. This scheme, which was funded from a local public service agreement, has been positively evaluated by young people and foster carers as well as by social workers.
- KINGSTON UPON HULL has a short break fostering scheme, which has developed the role of carers by encouraging them to be family group conference organisers and convenors, as well as advocates and 'buddies’ for young people.
- REDBRIDGE operates a Flexi-Carers Scheme informed by the need to encourage recruitment and retention, provide support and facilitate training, and to widen the opportunities for carers’ job satisfaction. Those with spare capacity are paid by the hour to relieve other foster carers attending training sessions, and to provide respite. Two carers also staff an evening help and recruitment line for foster carers. This provides advice and support, and information about fostering. It was reviewed in light of experience, and the operating hours have been reduced to exclude weekends, because the key period of use is from 7pm to 11pm, Mondays to Fridays.