Therapeutic foster care – 6

Therapeutic foster care has developed as a direct response to the changing needs of children coming into the care system. It has also become increasingly important as a consequence of changes in the availability of specialist care: the situation has deteriorated as (CAMHS) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services has been struggling to cope with the demands placed upon its services. There are figures available from 2015 which have shown that up to two thirds of children and young people who were referred to CAMHS never received treatment. as recently as 2016, Jeremy Hunt, Health secretary said “child mental health services are NHS’s biggest failing.” Making reference to the quality of care CAMHS provides the Health secretary continued –

“I think this is possibly the biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision at the moment. There are too many tragedies because children develop eating disorders or psychosis or chronic depression, which is then very difficult to put right as they get older.”

A leading newspaper revealed in 2016 that then almost a quarter of a million children and young people  aged eighteen and below were receiving treatment for mental health problems by specialist NHS services in England every single month. Even that was a significant underestimate of the true scale of the demand for treatment, because only 60% of NHS mental health trusts supplied data to NHS Digital – responsible for collating the figures.

Therapeutic foster care: the consequences of such statistics?

There has been a dramatic impact on the way fostering provision has been affected. A rising number of children and young people are coming into care with deep seated emotional problems. Figures released in the extract from the government’s recent fostering stocktake indicate that the situation remains serious. At the 31st March 2017, ‘Category of Need’ statistics highlighted that 65% of children were in care as a consequence of abuse or neglect. Such children, depending on individual circumstances, suffer varying levels of trauma. The repercussions of what they may have been exposed to can have far reaching consequences.

There are societal changes at work that mean foster carers are now in the front line when it comes to responding to children with a whole variety of complex needs. There is now a completely new tier of care – therapeutic foster care. The recent fostering stocktake seemed not to have much to say on the subject of therapeutic foster care. As The Fostering Network concluded, this review has not resulted in much that will perturb the status quo. The importance of therapeutic foster care cannot be underestimated as it signals the status quo has in fact not been working. The review also saw no reason to reclassify the role of the foster carer in terms of professional status. One might guess at the motives underlying this, but it is clear therapeutic foster care implies significantly more training and a reworking of the role of a foster carer.

Because there are difficulties in recruiting foster carers, one of the measures the stocktake might have argued forcefully for was a nationwide public awareness campaign for fostering. The need for therapeutic foster care would have provided an excellent opportunity to focus the attention of the public on the complexities of foster care. Elevating the role of a foster carer might also have had a positive effect on recruitment – especially in terms of attracting the kind of people needed. There should be more of a sense of urgency from government as there will be experienced foster carers retiring all the time. This loss of experience is occurring at a time when experience is needed most.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that therapeutic foster care is going to become increasingly important in ensuring children with complex needs find the stability they need. It may be that in a few years time, therapeutic foster care will be the foundation of fostering service provision generally. The  ultimate goal of the system is achieving the best outcomes for children in the care system, so it is likely that to secure this objective, therapeutic foster care will become universal. If integral to a system such as the Mockingbird model of fostering, the gains could be considerable.

Investigate a career in therapeutic foster care?

We need to find people with the interest, passion and dedication to consider therapeutic foster care as a career. The role involves training to provide a supportive and stable home for children with a range of emotional and behavioural needs. This is a challenging but highly rewarding job – the training we provide is stimulating and working in therapeutic foster care means no two days are ever the same. Keep up to date with our ongoing series of blogs on issues relating to therapeutic foster care.

You can call 020 8427 3355 or our National line 0330 311 2845 for more information about therapeutic foster care and how it can offer you a challenge in life – as well as considerable rewards.

Fostering news stories:

British Columbia boosts support for children leaving foster care

26th, February 2018

The issues affecting foster care can be the same wherever you are in the world. The government in British Columbia has announced a $7.7-million funding boost for young adults leaving foster care. They will now receive (more)

Good news at the end of our Rainbow…we shall be ready to launch our Spring Newsletter at the end of next month!