Another recenttem coming to our attention shows that our transatlantic cousins are facing many similar problems that we face in the UK in relation to the provision of foster care. As usual, many of the problems revolve around finance and getting money through to carers in a timely and efficient way so that they can take on an additional placement. In California, the current crop of statistics shows that there are more infants and toddlers now in the state foster care system.
Care providers need to receive money quickly.
The current issue is that there are experienced foster carers with children already in placement who would accept another child but they cannot afford to. And they are either not willing, or not in a position to wait for the additional money to come through. The lawmakers in California are now considering creating an emergency fund so that any gap between a foster carer receiving a child and getting the financial support is bridged. This has been proposed by Richmond democrat and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond. The exact proposal is to create a short-term assistance programme which would make available immediately vouchers that could be used for child care or pre-school costs the day a new placement arrived. These vouchers could be used for a period of up to six months, allowing foster parents to then apply for other subsidies or to even reorganise their work patterns. The essential point is that they would make it possible straightaway for a child to be found a home. Interestingly, this programme would also have some wider objectives, including providing help to foster carers in navigating the welfare system; it would also seek to give training to foster carers, enabling them to detect and respond to any signs of psychological, physical or emotional trauma a child might present with. Tony Thurmond said:
“Kids need to be supported by nurturing families, whether that’s their relative caregiver or foster parent, and this is an important resource in helping them make that match and that connection happen.”
A similar proposal was mooted last year, but failed as other priorities took precedent. The situation has changed now with increasing numbers of toddlers and infants entering the child welfare system. So far, there has not been a single vote against the bill, which is now before the Senate.
Cheri Schroeder is responsible for directing the Foster and Kinship Care Education programme: it aims to recruit and offer classes for foster parents who provide foster care. She said –
“When we first started surveying caregivers 11 years ago and asked them what can we do to better support foster parents, child care came right up to the top of the list,”
Because there has been such a delay this is viewed as contributing significantly to the statewide shortage of people wanting to foster. The state Department of Social Services makes the point that in California every foster child is placed within some type of care provision: of the roughly 61,000 children and young people in the system, over 70 percent have been placed in individual homes – with thousands more living in institutional facilities.
The picture is a complex one: looking past the financial issues, the shortage of foster families may be an unintended result of success in other areas. In recent years, California’s foster care system has experienced many changes intended to place children and young people permanently with their relatives, other families as opposed to group homes. Frank Mecca leads the County Welfare Directors Association of California says there is strain within the system but that it is –
“a function of good news, because for the past decade we’ve been doing a better job of getting kids adopted, but it’s also the product of low reimbursement rates and inadequate supports.”
Fostering ‘over the pond’ is subject to many of the strains and pressures that we experience in the UK. What has happened in California testifies to the operation of the law of unintended consequences. Of course the state did a great job in getting more children and young people adopted, but there was always going to be a need to keep in place a supply of foster families. It has at least been recognised that in order for them to help take up the strain and offer homes to children coming into care, they need immediate financial support.
If you want to care for a child – it’s worthwhile considering…
Would you be able to love a ‘looked after child’ as your own?
Would you have both the time and resources to care for a challenging child?
Do you have the emotional resilience and strength to look after a child?
Do you possess a sense of humour – you will need one – if you decide to foster?
Could you keep up to date records regarding the foster child in your care?
Being able to ask some crucial questions before you make a decision to foster.
Are you able to be a team player?
For anyone, whatever their background, life experiences or ethnicity, the decision to care for a child or young person can be life changing. It brings all sorts of different pressures, but these are almost certainly outweighed by the very unique rewards that fostering can bring. Careful thought is always required if you do decide to foster. You may already have your own children; so think what effect might it have on them if you foster? This is just one of the many things that we are here to provide guidance on. So please feel free to can contact our helpful Recruitment Team on
020 8427 3355. They will provide advice on all the aspects of providing care: these might include – fostering allowance and benefits, foster care pay rates, fostering children and fostering babies.
For general information on fostering; or transferring to Rainbow if you are already an approved foster carer: visit http://bit.ly/2pc8SEc