Foster care survey: a short feasability study.

This study has shown that it is feasible to collect reliable data from local authorities in England to describe and partially quantify the foster care services they provide, and the households which supply foster care places. In order to provide this data, however, most local authorities will have to modify both the way they record and the way they store and retrieve information. The former will require changes in practice, the latter modifications to their information systems software. It may take a number of years to build up the staff experience and expertise, as well as the consistency of recording and information retrieval required to achieve full and reliable data at national level. Participating local authorities were unanimous in their concern to be given time to prepare for the introduction of any new data collection. They placed particular emphasis on the need for a clear understanding of the purpose of such a collection, of the use to which the data collected would be put by government, and of how they themselves could use and benefit from it. At the same time, however, staff interviewed during the fieldwork expressed keen interest in the details of the study, especially the attempt to codify the complexities of foster care services, and emphasized the usefulness of this work for their own planning, commissioning and monitoring. At present, most information is recorded on the fostering household and it is difficult to gather data on the characteristics of the individuals who comprise the foster carer workforce. Much of this data is recorded only manually during the approval process and is not included in the register of approved foster carers held, usually in electronic form, by all authorities. Collection of detailed financial information on the costs of foster care provision and remuneration of foster carers was considered to be beyond the scope of this study. The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) is at present conducting a comprehensive review of its procedures for inspection of foster care services and the data it collects from local authorities. This provides an excellent opportunity to harmonise the data collection requirements of DfES and CSCI and to minimise any duplication of work by local authorities. The principal output from this study is a set of two questionnaires, the Foster Care Baseline Survey and the Foster Care Questionnaire, and a document containing Guidance Notes1. Together, the questionnaires and guidance constitute a tool designed to be used for collecting data from local authorities. This report describes the background to the study and the methodology adopted. However, the main part of the report needs to be read in close conjunction with the questionnaires and the guidance, for which it supplies the context and a detailed commentary.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0