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The impact of unfounded allegations on foster carers

FosterTalk has a long history of providing independent support to foster carers facing allegations or concerns about standards of care and has seen at first hand the devastating impact having an allegation made against them has on them and their families. FosterTalk is committed to providing not only the best possible support to foster carers, but also to informing government policy and improving practice by fostering services in supporting foster carers at this difficult time. We have therefore funded two independent studies into this important issue.

In 2014, FosterTalk commissioned the Rees Centre to undertake a pilot study (Dyson and Sebba 2014) on the impact of allegations in cases that had been closed as unproven. Thirty-seven anonymised records from 2013 were provided by FosterTalk from their membership and seven of these foster carers were interviewed.

The pilot found that at the point of being informed about the allegation, carers lacked knowledge about both the way that the enquiry would be conducted and its progress.

They stated that the training (safeguarding courses) they had attended focused on allegations of abuse by somebody outside of the carer household, with little discussion of what to do if they were the subject of an allegation.

Devastating effects of allegations on foster families emerged including breakup of families, income loss and subsequent deterioration of health. Most of the carers in the pilot, even though these cases were closed as unproven, gave up fostering immediately or within the following year.

It was clear from this small scale study that further, more, in depth research was required, and in 2015 FosterTalk commissioned a further study and co-funded it with the Sir Halley Stewart Trust a charitable foundation. The findings from that study have now been published.

A pdf of the pilot study can be found here.

 

Research into the impact of unproven allegations on foster carers (2016)

This was commissioned by FosterTalk and co funded with the Sir Halley Stewart trust. It was carried out by the Rees Centre for Research into Fostering and Education at Oxford University and published on 7th July 2016.

This examined almost 200 case records from a range of fostering services and interviewed a representative sample of foster carers, their supervising social workers, and managers.

Among the key findings were

The main impact on carers and their families of allegations closed as unproven was emotional and financial. Interviews suggested that emotional distress, which was often linked with subsequent health and relationship issues, partly related to the severity of the allegation, ……. but equally by the ensuing treatment. Lack of information about the allegation itself, the investigation process and the support to which they were entitled led to confusion, destruction of confidence and dismay.(G. Plumridge and J.Sebba, July 2016)

The report makes a number of key recommendations for the Department of Education, Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Ofsted, Fostering Providers, social workers and their managers.

These include the need for a clearer definition of what constitutes “an allegation”; revised statutory guidance on supporting foster carers during allegations, specific training for foster carers on allegations and closer monitoring by Ofsted of how well National Minimum Standards are being met with regard to supporting foster carers.

Recommendations to fostering services include the need for closer working with the police and LADO to minimise delays, the provision of an independent investigator to ensure impartiality, and independent support, including face to face support during the process.

The key messages of the report can be viewed here. A pdf of the research in full can be found here.

FosterTalk would like to say a big “thank you” to everyone who agreed to take part in this vital research; your experiences will help other people get through this very difficult and traumatic time.

Webinar on the impact of unproven allegations on foster carers

Click here, to listen to the webinar where findings and recommendations from the Rees Centre study on the Impact of Unproven Allegations on Foster Carers was discussed.

Next steps

FosterTalk will use the research to raise awareness of the need for better, high quality independent support for foster carers, with the DfE and with fostering services throughout the UK. We have also developed training for foster carers and staff on supporting foster carers through allegations and concerns about standards of care.

Please click here for more information on FosterTalk’s training courses.