Government accepts major foster care recommendations
Minister for Children, Ms. Mary Hanafin T.D., was today (Tuesday, June 12th, 2001) presented with the Report of the Working Group on Foster Care, ´Foster Care – A Child-Centred Partnership´.
Foster care is the main form of alternative care provided by the health boards for children in need of care and protection who cannot remain in their own homes.
“At the end of 1999, there were 3,289 children in foster care, an increase of 66%, compared with 1989. As a result of this rapid development, there were a number of pressures on the service which were leading to difficulties. The Working Group was established in November 1998 to address these issues. It was made up of representatives from the Department of Health and Children, the health boards, the Irish Foster Care Association and a foster carer,” explained Minister Hanafin.
The new report highlights a number of problems in the existing services and makes a wide range of recommendations to strengthen and further develop the service. The key recommendation of the Report is that the standards of practice applied in looking after children in care and in supervising and supporting foster carers should be of the highest level. The Working Group recommended that National Standards on Practice and Procedure in foster care be drawn up.
“I have already asked the Social Services Inspectorate to draw up national standards for the care and protection of children in foster care,” the Minister said.
Another key recommendation of the Foster Care Report is the restructuring and enhancement of the Foster Care Allowance. The Report recommends that Discretionary Payments to foster carers be abolished, and that current allowances be increased from£75.55 to £200 per week per child under twelve, and from £85.75 to £220 per week per child of twelve and over. The Government has agreed to implement this new allowance.
The Report also makes recommendations on education for foster children, provision of an emergency out of hours service, the establishment of guidelines for dealing with accusations of abuse, the establishment of a complaints procedure for foster carers, care planning, aftercare, foster care for children with additional needs, training and support issues for foster carers and social workers, the keeping and management of records, shared rearing of traveller children, and the provision of a wider spectrum of counseling, psychological, social work and guidance services.
Speaking at the presentation, Minister Hanafin underlined the Government’s commitment to addressing the difficulties experienced by those involved in foster care: “In an ideal situation, a child should be able to live in his or her own family, but in situations where this cannot continue, the best place for a child is within another family setting. It is the Government’s priority to ensure that these children can enjoy family life in a safe and secure environment,” added the Minister.
In thanking the Working Groups for the work undertaken, Minister Hanafin concluded: “The Government has accepted this Report and is committed to further strengthening the child welfare and protection and family support services. This Report will point the way forward to strengthening the foster care service, so that the necessary services and supports are provided to meet the needs of foster children, their families and their foster carers.”