Foster children in Wales still being failed by the system warns charity
Foster children in Wales are still being failed by the system – despite improvements in the last decade, a charity is warning.
The fostering system needs an overhaul to prevent children being unnecessarily moved around the system, the Fostering Network Wales (FNW) said.
It follows a call by the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services for local authorities to act sooner to find “permanency” for children waiting to be adopted.
Gwenda Thomas said there should be a “step change” in the way adoption services are delivered, and that more needs to be done to promote adoptions and increase the pool of adopters.
The report from the Fostering Network was published as a reflection of the last decade of fostering and ahead of a conference in Cardiff this morning, revealing that nearly a quarter of fostering placements had broken down in the last year.
The organisation said such breakdowns could be “extremely damaging” on children – saying that around one in 10 children had moved home three or more times a year.
Wales is experiencing a shortage of foster carers this year, with 550 more foster carers needed in the next year alone “for the system to be able to cope”.
Only around half of foster carers receive a fee for their work, with less than a quarter (13%) getting at least the minimum wage for a 40-hour week, FNW said.
Freda Lewis, director of FNW, said that the organisation was keen to increase respect among foster carers.
She said: “There are thousands of children across Wales who know the value of good quality foster care. However, despite the improvements over the last 10 years the system is still failing too many children.
“Most children who come into care will have already had traumatic experiences, and they will suffer even more every time a fostering relationship breaks down and they are moved on. This makes it harder for them to form meaningful relationships, to trust people and to do well in school and later life.”
She said that there were concerns around the clarity of “delegated authority”, with foster carers in some local authorities unable to allow basic everyday decisions such as allowing haircuts and permitting school trips.
“If we really want to provide these children with the care they need, fostering in Wales needs an overhaul,” Ms Lewis said.
“Rather than preventing foster carers from doing their job, let’s give them the recognition and support they deserve as a core part of team working with a child.
“We also need the Welsh Government to make foster care a real priority. With the system coming under increasing pressure as the number of children coming into care continues to rise, it is essential the Government addresses the key challenges as a matter of urgency.”
The report also said that only a third of foster carers said there was a proper plan in place when a child moved in, with nearly two-thirds (63%) not getting all the information needed about a child.
Ken Skates, the Labour AM for Clwyd South, said there were still problems with the system, despite coming “a long way” in the last 10 years.
Ms Thomas, said the Welsh Government was committed to supporting foster carers.
She said: “We have taken a number of measures to promote placement stability and support to foster carers, such as introduced a national minimum allowance for all foster carers in Wales, developed induction standards for foster carers and guidance for local authorities to delegate authority for everyday decisions to carers where appropriate.”
She also said, in a written statement to Assembly Members, that a proposed single National Adoption Service would address concerns over delays in the adoption system and the potential lasting harm this can have on children.
She said: “We need a step change in the way adoption services are delivered, through the establishment of a National Service, which has the power to deliver services across Wales.
“The new service will address current concerns without losing the undeniable strengths of the existing system, achieving change without detriment.
“Local authorities have a duty to provide a diversity of quality placements and carers with skills to meet the needs of their local looked-after children. Good planning and commissioning of quality placements is key to achieving better outcomes for looked after children and young people in Wales and we will continue to work with local authorities to improve this.”