The shortage of Foster carers at the present time is well documented: over 9,000 new foster families are still needed this year. The number of ‘looked after youngsters’ reached a new high of 72,670. A thought provoking milestone that was reached in the twelve months leading up to March 2017. This was in fact the biggest annual rise of young people caught up in the care system in seven years. This equates to ninety youngsters ending up in care every day.
We need, very obviously, to draw upon all groups in society to meet the need for more Foster Carers. It has been well documented for some time that gay people can make outstanding foster carers. Because many have had a tough time, they often have high levels of resilience and can readily identify with the sense of being an outcast which afflicts children coming into care. This is particularly important as it means placements can be more stable. Consequently, most agencies and local authorities are redoubling their efforts to attract gay people.
It is important we reach out to all members of our LGBT communities: evidence has emerged from a recent report indicating social workers may be exhibiting signs of prejudice in relation to Transgender adopters and foster carers. The report was commissioned by the Department for Education. It focused on transgender awareness as being “an area in need of development” throughout the social work profession. A new publication has been produced by CoramBAAF which has been conceived to help and support social workers to understand issues associated with transgender foster care. Four particular areas of practice are examined. These are recruitment and preparation, assessment, panel and post approval support.
Social workers: general guidance for recruiting transgender foster carers
Firstly, it is important to ensure the agency has solid policies and procedures in place to work effectively with transgender foster carers.
- Respecting privacy and confidentiality. These issues should be covered at the outset. An applicant should understand and consent to, the sharing of information.
- In all communications, use ‘gender neutral’ language. Applicants should be asked about the way they would like to be addressed.
- Recruitment communications should avoid gender stereotyping. An example would be “our agency welcomes applications from all people irrespective of their gender”. This would be used in preference to specifically refer to men and women applicants.
- When screening an applicant use language that indicates you accept and value – as opposed to tolerating an individual’s transgender status.
- Try not to make assumptions regarding what might be ‘normal’ for transgender people.
- Attempt to monitor and challenge your own thinking. What biases might you have?
- Any assessment demands level of curiosity. Do not avoid difficult conversations but always respect privacy – particularly in relation to details that are not relevant to an application.
- Rigorous checks should be made; as is the norm for all applications, but ensure privacy, confidentiality and consent at all times.
- It is important that the members of Panel have the training and support to be able to make sound and fair judgements when considering a transgender applicant.
- Always ensure that plenty of support is available for transgender foster carers post approval.
- Understanding should be demonstrated of the affects of oppression on transgender applicants and how this may have impacted on their lives. Such experiences could, for example, mean an applicant might be estranged from parents. Their support network could be very small and focused around LGBT communities.
- If you need guidance always be prepared to seek assistance from your supervisor.
Finally, keep in mind that what is most important in relation to prospective foster carers is their potential and ability to parent.
Explore what a career in foster care could be like?
At Rainbow we accept applications whatever your race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. If you are a transgender person, we would like to hear from you and explain the process of making an application to foster and the support you will receive from us. We would like to welcome you as a valued member of our Team Rainbow.
Rainbow Fostering Services are now actively recruiting across London, Manchester and Birmingham. You can call us for an exploratory chat on 020 8427 3355 or 0330 311 2845 (Rainbow National Line).
Please consider exploring our website. There is plenty of general information about being a foster carer. We even have our own foster care news page to visit: https://bit.ly/2kJHpsO
All blogs written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing
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