Advocacy for children and young people in foster care

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Every child or young person in foster care has the right to advocacy from someone independent to help them express their views or make a complaint.  Foster carers speaking to our fostering advisors are often worried that they will get into trouble if they help to find an advocate for a young person in their care. This is not the case, and the following information is provided to help you to identify the best source of support for your foster child.

Each child or young person in foster care has an allocated social worker and an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who is responsible for chairing reviews of their care plans at regular intervals. The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the child or young person’s views are taken into account at reviews and in every decision made about them. The IRO is also responsible for providing information about advocacy services that the young person can contact if they wish to do so.

Local Authorities are expected to publicise their arrangements for advocacy services in their area  and to provide information about children’s rights to every child or young person they look after. Some local authorities provide Children’s Rights services “in house” and some contract with other organisations to provide these for them.  Since April 2013, the government has provided funding to support two independent children’s rights organisations, National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) www.nyas.net/  and Voice http://www.anationalvoice.org/about/about-anv provide advocacy and advice for looked-after children and care leavers.

What can an advocate do?
An advocate can help a child or young person make a complaint or any other representation about their care for example issues around contact with birth families or placement moves.  They can accompany them to reviews or other meetings and ensure that their voice is heard in a way that the foster carer is unable to do.  Having access to a Children’s Rights officer or Advocate is the right of anyone in care and neither a foster carer nor young person should feel that they will get into trouble if they ask for an advocate to help them express their views.

If you need to find an advocate for your foster child, the first port of call should be the child’s social worker or IRO.   However, if this fails then you should contact either NYAS or VOICE who will be able to advise you which advocacy services are available in your local authority area. Wherever possible, the young person should do this themselves, but a foster carer can make contact on their behalf in the first instance. The advocacy services will always want to speak to the young person to ensure that it is their views that are being reflected.

Other children’s rights organisations:
There are a number of other advocacy and children’s rights organisation which can be found in our useful links section. They also offer telephone helplines and publish useful and advice and information for children and young people in care.

The Children’s Commissioner will also take up issues on behalf of children and young people in care. Their website can be found here: www. Rights4me.org.uk

Finally, our fostering advisors are always happy to help you explore the best options for advocating for your young people and talk through next steps.