Teenagers better staying at home rather than foster care

Troubled teens should stay with parents wherever possible rather than going into foster care – because mums and dads can do just as good a job, says a council chief.

By Lucy Ashton
Thursday, 17th October 2019, 2:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 4:16 pm
Paul Dempsey, assistant director of provider services, at Sheffield Council
Paul Dempsey, assistant director of provider services, at Sheffield Council

Last year there were six placement disruptions of children in foster care in Sheffield – four of the young people moved onto other fostering families within the service.

Research suggests that disruptions are much less likely in younger children but teenage placements have a 50 per cent chance of breaking down.

This appears to be the case within Sheffield’s fostering service with all of the children being aged from 11 years to 16.

Paul Dempsey, assistant director of provider services, told a council meeting: “If adolescents are at home we try to prevent them from coming into care a lot of the time and help families in the community.

“Research shows if you bring teenagers into care it is very difficult to turn their lives around and with a really good support package, parents may be able to do just as good a job.”

The council says it thoroughly explores all family members as potential carers for children but it can be difficult tracing the dad’s relatives.

Mr Dempsey added: “We often know much more about a mother’s family. Sometimes they don’t know who the father is, don’t tell us or the mother says it could one of two people so we are working really hard to find the birth father and look at his extended family members, such as grandparents.”

In Sheffield with short term stability, just under 10 per cent of looked after children had three or more placement moves in a year, which is around the national average.

On long term stability, 71 per cent of children in care for at least two and a half years had been in the same placement for the last two years.

While the number of disruptions is low, the council says the loss of the relationship and connection can have a detrimental impact on children.

Mr Dempsey added: “We do try our best to match teenagers with the right carers and try to inform and support the young person about where they are going and who is going to care for them with a programme of introduction and wraparound support.

“If the placement is fragile we have meetings with teams best able to support children to maintain stability. Schools can often play an important role and it really helps to have a young person in school.”

The council has invested in a clinical psychologist so foster carers can understand the impact of trauma and abuse on children and the importance of building healthy attachment relationships.