In part 1 of this brief series on how allegations affect foster carers, we looked at the general background to the subject. Here we look in more detail at related areas because one of the best measures foster carers can take in relation to the subject of allegations is to inform themselves about the issue. From this will arise the understanding that this is a complex area, and there are steps foster carers can take to protect themselves.
Why foster children make allegations
There are different reasons that can give rise to an allegation. It is a fact that some foster children will make up allegations and there are common reasons for this. This occurs most often due to the belief a child has that if they report being mistreated, it will result in them being returned to their parents. If a foster child has been unfortunate enough to have experienced frequent placement moves, it can affect their self-esteem. This can trigger an allegation because the child feels it is a way of discovering if they are really cared for. Attention seeking can be another reason – when an allegation is made it results in a focus being placed on the child and they can see that as a consequence of their allegation, adults quickly become involved in their situation. A child or young person might simply see this as the best way of ending a placement they do not like. Sometimes making an allegation can be a ‘spur of the moment’ action. A child may be looking to excuse some behaviour of their own or are angry or resentful about something that has happened or been said.
It is quite common for a child to retract an allegation when they have calmed themselves. It is unfortunate but often this is too late and the placement will have broken down. Another reason a child may make an allegation is simply to do with the fact they feel they are being treated differently for other members of the family.
A more complex set of factors is involved when a child makes an allegation against their carers so they can disclose experiences of past abuse. These children who have suffered abuse before coming into care can be liable to misinterpret the actions of a foster carer. Being given a cuddle or a goodnight kiss – indeed any kind of innocent physical contact such as a pat on the back – might trigger memories of behaviour that led to past abuse.
All foster carers should understand that in some very rare instances, allegations made against foster carers are discovered to be true. Though a sad fact, this should provide some reassurance for foster carers undergoing the experience of having an allegation made against them. This is because they can understand that when allegations are made, they have to be thoroughly investigated because the safety and well being of children will always be paramount. And this would be something all foster carers would wish to be so. The fact that some foster carers do endure the stress of an allegation means that there is a procedure in place that will; in those rare instances, root out those who have abused.
Steps can be taken to minimise the risk of investigations. As in most instances these rely upon sticking to procedures and following strategies recommended by fostering service providers.
It is important that where a child has bruising or other physical marks immediate consideration as to how these have come about is given. Sadly, many children in foster care do self-harm, so cuts and scratches on the wrists and arms may indicate self-abuse. Of course childhood is a time where there is ‘rough and tumble’ – and that is a normal part of growing up: bruises can be caused by playing sports for example. But a foster carer should always be diligent and note the appearance of any bruises, scratches or marks and ask how they were caused. The information should then be entered into the child’s daily record and reported to their social worker.
The Placement Plan: it is very important that this should be established right from the start of a foster child’s placement. It is necessary because it will address such questions as –
When all relevant information has been recorded in detail within the placement plan, potential risks will have been recorded. Most importantly an awareness of the history and background of a child entering a foster care placement will have been established. This then leads into the Safe Caring Plan. this is something that all foster care service providers should ensure a foster home has in place. It sets out exactly what foster carers are required to do.
It is particularly important that foster carers attend all safe caring courses offered by their fostering service provider. In the case of joint carers, it is crucial both partners attend as male foster carers can be particularly vulnerable to allegations being made. It is a good idea to create a written agreement about general living arrangements. This should include sleeping arrangements; respecting people’s personal space; clothing, wearing pyjamas and bedtime routines – closing bathroom/toilet doors. The Safe Care Plan should be discussed and amended if necessary with the child or young person’s supervising social worker.
Make sure you are always available for a foster child. To understand the worries they may have and to know what is going on in their day to day life. Understanding their concerns is part of anticipating later problems they may have. The internet: foster carers should monitor a child’s use of the internet and engagement with social media sites. A simple step can be to have computer equipment downstairs so their time can be monitored. It is not a good idea to allow children endless time in their own rooms on computers or smartphones. This can make them susceptible to cyberbullying or grooming. There is plenty of advice and guidance for parents about online safety at https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/
In the final analysis, there is no ultimate protection against an allegation being made against a foster carer. But where a carer can be seen to have behaved in a consistently diligent and professional way, this counts enormously. Especially in relation to the detailed keeping of records and maintaining close contact with the supervising social worker. This means that the day to day life and experience of a foster child can be seen to be being monitored. There are no gaps or unexplained, unrecorded incidents. More children today come into foster care having experienced various forms of abuse. Many need therapeutic foster care to help them overcome their experiences. The role of the foster carer is becoming more that of a professional within a team. This means that in the area of allegations, foster carers are not alone and can be expected to be supported through the process of an allegation made against them.
Fostering opportunities with Team Rainbow
Team Rainbow is a dedicated group of professionals committed to delivering the best outcomes for the vulnerable children and young people we care for. We are special because the children and young people we look after are all special. The agency has been established for twenty-one years. We have a wealth of experience covering all types of foster care. Rainbow is an inspiring place to be a foster carer as we set high standards for training and support. This means our foster carers experience the joys and rewards of providing care – every day. People join our community from all walks of life. And now we are looking to expand our team of carers in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Rainbow telephone contact numbers are 020 8427 3355 and our National line – 0330 311 2845. If you call us, there is no obligation. Our aim is to give you the information to decide whether fostering is for you and your family.
News articles at https://bit.ly/2kJHpsO
The blog is written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing