Improving Mental Health of Foster Children


Annie Shafi

We’re talking about OUR children

The social care institute of excellence has published a report which aims to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health support for children and young people who cannot be looked after by their birth families. this report specifically benefits people who work with these young people. the plan is to offer these people high-quality services that cater to their needs in the future.

The defining part of the report for me comes in the title, the word ‘our’ really stands out for me as from the get-go it shows inclusion rather than exclusion. The looked after children and young people are the responsibility of the local authority or their foster parents.

we must do all that we can to ensure the well being of these children as they are our children. Like a good parent would do whatever it takes for the good of their children as foster parents we should be no different. The report also has key messages and recommendations for Local Authorities to seriously consider because quite literally the mental health and wellbeing of our foster children depends on it.

the report also recommends the introduction of a virtual mental health lead. This role will see the post holder to oversee the mental health of looked after children in their area. This will also help ensure that there is consistency in the quality of assessment and support children in care receive to meet their mental health needs and emotional wellbeing. This role is more health-based and will appeal for healthcare professionals,  and an individual who can work across all organisation especially local authorities. Apart from helping looked after children get consistent access to mental health services, the VMHL must play a strategic role in monitoring outcomes for the children and sharing the data on a local authority level.

Supporting carers to care for themselves

The VMHL role is also an extremely useful resource for foster carers as three-quarters of vulnerable or looked after children live with foster families. If we are to see an improvement in mental health for looked after children we have to invest and support our foster carers as they are the first line of support for the child.

The report also highlights the mental health and wellbeing of foster carers. the mental health of foster carers is often overlooked by the fostering services as well as the foster carers themselves in their focus on the wellbeing of the children in their care.

Foster carers are positive role model for children they look after  so they should be leading example on how to care for your own wellbeing. Foster carers do experience secondary trauma and must be supported and encouraged to prioritise their own mental health and overall well being.

Foster carers are key members of the team

Foster carers are key members of the well-being team for the child and are often the one who knows and understands them best. But we find they are not sought out to be members of the team and are excluded from important meetings. they should be welcomed into the meetings and their views should be taken on as they have first hand experience looking after the child. their perspective can really help the social workers as well as the local authorities and give them a first hand narrative on improving care as well as mental health for the children.

You can read the full report here.

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