Frequently asked questions about Safer Caring: a new approach.
Our three short videos on Safer Caring: a new approach include footage from the conference, where the new approach was explored by a variety of speakers throughout the day.
In each film young people, foster carers and other professionals talk about what Safer caring: a new approach means to them. The films provide a focus on each of the three key themes:
The videos were produced by Catch 21, a charitable production company which produces videos and other new media content to help engage young people with politics and their communities.
1. What is Safer Caring: a new approach?
Safer Caring: a new approach equips foster carers, fostering services and public authorities with an approach that will help to manage risk. Safer caring is not about ticking the right box, it is about the quality of thinking and the decision making about risks and responsibilities by local authorities, fostering services and individual foster carers. Instead of blanket bans and inflexible policies, Safer Caring: a new approach, invites foster carers, fostering services and public authorities to consider why children and young people need individual safer caring plans that are reviewed and revised to take into account their development and relationships with the foster carers.
Safer Caring: a new approach has three significant themes running through it:
- The role and status of foster cares: the relevance for safer caring of the foster carer’s position in the team around the child or young person
- Risk sensible, not risk adverse: the need for a realistic and proportionate approach to risk so children and young people can grow and learn
- Delegated authority: whenever appropriate, foster carers with everyday responsibility for children and young people should be able to make day-to-day decisions for them
Safer Caring: a new approach is based on consultations with foster carers and fostering services. The Fostering Network developed this approach based on 20 years of expertise and it is backed up by legislation and guidance.
Safer Caring: a new approach challenges foster carers and children’s services to share responsibility for safer caring and crucially to move away from blanket bans and prohibitive policies towards a focus on the ever changing needs and circumstances of individual children and young people. This approach is presented as a book, Safer Caring: a new approach, authored by Jacky Slade.
Training resources are available to support your learning and development around Safer Caring: a new approach.
2. Why a new approach?
UK governments are committed to making foster care a better experience for all children and young people. Their aim is to reduce bureaucracy and to normalise the experiences of fostered children and young people by enabling foster carers to make day-to-day decisions within a nurturing family environment.
In England, Professor Eileen Munro has added impetus to these developments. Her review of the child protection system found too much focus on compliance with procedures and insufficient focus on the needs and lives of individual children. The recommendations are far-reaching and radical. Attitudes to risk and decision-making in relation to looked-after young people are now being re-thought.
So, how will we balance fostered children and young people’s rights to live normal lives with the need to keep them as safe as possible? How can foster carers be empowered to take appropriate decisions? How can we enable children and young people to take some risks as part of learning and growing up? And where do parents stand? How can foster carers build meaningful relationships and show affection and, where appropriate, physical comfort to the children and young people they care for? This is the complicated but exciting, context to Safer Caring: a new approach. The approach requires some changes in practice, but these changes depend on a different vision for foster care.
3. Who is it for?
Safer Caring: a new approach will be of interest to a wide range of people who work with looked-after children and young people. The book has been written primarily for foster carers, but it will also be useful to prospective special guardians, prospective adopters and other fostering professionals. It is crucial reading for supervising social workers as well for children’s social workers.
Safer Caring: a new approach is for foster carers across the United Kingdom. While the legislation concerning safeguarding children and young people in foster care is formulated differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is all underpinned by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Act 1999. These bind the member countries of the United Nations into a shared and coherent approach to safeguarding children and protecting their rights to standards of care and respect.
4. How does this fit with other training?
Safer Caring: a new approach complements the other titles in the Fostering Network’s Pathways through Fostering series, a unique post-approval development programme for foster carers created by the UK’s voice of foster care.
Safer Caring: a new approach builds on The Skills to Foster preparation training by considering the topic of safer caring in a family setting. It also introduces some new ways of thinking about topics covered in The Skills to Foster training. For example, the importance of good attachment is explained in the training in terms of its importance for a young person’s emotional wellbeing. In Safer Caring: a new approach we consider its significance for keeping young people safe.
This supplementary guidance has been produced to help trainers to integrate the new approach to safer caring into their delivery of The Skills to Foster pre-approval training.
5. What is new?
The Fostering Network has a long history of leading best practice and innovation in safer caring. The original book – then called Safe Caring – was written by Sheila Bray, a foster carer, and was published in 1994 by the Fostering Network (then the National Foster Care Association). The second edition, re-titled Safer Caring, was published in 2006.
Safer Caring: a new approach is not an update to the earlier books; this new approach represents a policy shift. Safer Caring: a new approach includes practical guidance, real life case studies and thought-provoking discussion to help foster carers navigate this new safer caring landscape. Key concepts are explored, including delegated authority and attachment, as well as the role of the wider fostering team. New challenges are considered in the chapter on the internet and digital technologies written by Sangeet Bhullar and Maria Boffey.
6. What does it mean for children’s social workers and fostering services?
Improved practice in delegating authority and proportionate approaches to managing risk will enable children and young people to lead lives less encumbered by bureaucracy. Over-reliance on policies and procedures can lead to a rigid and inflexible approach which disempowers foster carers and is not in children’s best interests. Foster carers must be given clear and comprehensive information about the children they foster in order to make informed decisions about their care. Fostering services and children’s social care services should offer training and support to staff and foster carers to work within safer caring policies. In light of the new approach, it may be necessary to refresh policies on safer care and delegated authority.
In house training:
7. What does it mean for me as a foster carer?
When we asked foster carers what safer caring means to them, we got a mixed range of responses, including getting the family caravan checked before the summer holidays, monitoring online activity, dictating what nightclothes everyone has to wear and whether or not fostered children can be hugged - the list is endless. Safer Caring: a new approach aims to give a good, solid base and there are more resources and information available from the Fostering Network and others so that you can build on what you read in the book, following your areas of interest and experience in more depth.
We would like to encourage you to attend safer caring training – where possible, this should be undertaken jointly with social workers to enhance partnership working and mutual respect
Safer Caring: a new approach is also available as online training, offering you the flexibility to learn when and where it suits you – all you need is a computer with access to the internet.
8 What does it mean for fostered children and young person?
Children and young people need to explore the world and learn about themselves, including the safe management of risk. Foster carers have a key role in enabling this to happen and they need to feel that the fostering service supports them appropriately when they do so.
9. How can I find out more?
If you would like to know more about the Fostering Network, Safer Caring: a new approach or relevant training and resources, contact us on
- Tel: 020 7620 6445
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. How can I share my views on Safer Caring: a new approach?
As a member of the Fostering Network, you can share your views on Safer Caring: a new approach using our online community. Register today to chat with other foster carers and fostering services from across the UK about anything and everything to do with fostering.
Views on Safer Caring: a new approach
Brid Featherstone, professor of social care at the Open University
- Safer Caring: a new approach is packed with affirming and wise advice that will be of value to all of us as we attempt to make sense of the current policy context.
- It draws from carers’ experiences to illustrate the dilemmas that emerge at all ages and in a variety of situations.
- It highlights different possibilities for managing dilemmas.
- The section on recording is particularly helpful, offering concrete indicators of what risk sensible practice looks like.
- There are useful reminders throughout of the work that has always gone on to manage risks sensibly even in very hostile climates.
- Safer Caring: a new approach is a very helpful resource for all those concerned with helping children and young people grow and develop in such a landscape.
Caroline Bengo, Fostering Changes Training Centre
Living in a family environment has so many benefits for children in care but comes with complex systems for both children and foster carers alike to navigate. Safer Caring is important in that it puts sensitive and responsive caregiving to the forefront. In doing so the advice and clear guidelines on delegated authority enable foster carers and professionals to provide many of the advantages of being in a family that formerly have been delayed by a risk averse and complex decision making culture. This is a wonderful tool for all foster carers and professionals at whatever stage of their career. We at Fostering Changes will be highlighting this as a valuable and practical tool that must be at the heart of fostering services.
If you'd like to read more about it, Caroline has written a blog for us with a full review of Safer Caring: a new approach.