Continuing on from our last post about the extraordinary way in which foster carer agencies conduct themselves, we have some replies from Foster Care Agent, kindly seeking to clarify for us why they feel justified in using financial incentives to entice carers. They are taking a little time to answer our tweets, which would indicate that they are thinking carefully about how to answer. We thank them for taking the time to do so.

As you might remember, foster carer agencies on Twitter and perhaps elsewhere, seem to have no problem with encouraging interest in caring for children through the use of financial sweeteners, which include explicit information (which may or may not be misleading) about the amount the foster family can claim in expenses, all tax-free, as well as holidays and other ‘benefits’. Their argument, as you will see below, is that children need homes to go to and so a home, which may not be perfect, is better than no home at all.

The grey areas for us, are the ways in which families are ‘recruited’ and the kinds of treatment children in these homes can expect. Because whilst the reality may be that thousands of children need homes, the long term problems of getting the wrong homes in the first instance, are far greater than our family justice system can comprehend.

We began a series of exchanges with one particular agency, who are using social media site Twitter, to drum up interest from families looking to foster and who are doing so, largely by tweeting the financial ‘rewards’ involved. They also refer to fostering as a ‘job’ which we find particularly distasteful.

Here are the latest exchanges; we’ll update these as and when responses come in (SobukiRa is Researching Reform’s name on Twitter)

@sobukira just asking for loving families to apply as carers does not bring in the 10000 new fc’s needed year on year. Sad but true.

@FindFosterCarer Are you not at all concerned with whether these families are fostering for the right reasons? Nor the quality of care?

@sobukira I have faith in the comprehensive assessment process that the registered agencies carry out with potential foster carer applicants

@FindFosterCarer Yet there is a harmful moral diaspora between that assessment process and the motivation for fostering you encourage.

@sobukira The assessment process and ongoing training ensures that fc’s do provide the expected level of care and best possible outcomes.

@FindFosterCarer If you don’t mind my asking, how does the process ensure that families will love these children like their own?

@sobukira After spending 6 months assessing,training, referencing from all family members etc, the assessor should have a good idea….

@sobukira of how the family functions and if they have the ability to care for a child as their own.

@FindFosterCarer Thank you for answering all these questions. Do you happen to know how many families apply and how many you turn away?

@sobukira our experience is 3% of applicants who apply to become foster carers are successful.

@FindFosterCarer Thank you.

It was an interesting conversation and Foster Care Agent remained polite and professional, throughout. But we can’t help wondering whether the low rate they mention in their last tweet is partly compounded in no small measure by the recruiting tac tics themselves.  Clearly, money can’t buy love.