The importance of matching in foster care
Finding the best possible match for a looked-after child is fundamental for ensuring a positive outcome from foster care.
We often find an ideal match staring us right in the face, but we still have to be careful to ensure there is little chance a breakdown in the relationship, between foster carer and child, could occur.
We recently received a referral for an eight-year old child whose placement with another agency’s foster carer had done just that, broken down. We were told the child, who I will call James for the purposes of this blog, had developed behaviour issues such as shouting, damaging furniture and lashing out.
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If we failed to find the right match here, and another breakdown occurred, it would have been disastrous for the child.
To ensure these incidents are extremely unlikely, we always carefully look into a child’s background before identifying a match. For instance, we looked at James’ previous foster carer placement and examined what circumstances may have caused his behaviour. We then looked at many other factors, such as whether he could live with other children or if he needed a solo placement.
After assessing the overall picture we identified a potential match for James. This was slightly complicated by the fact that the foster carer already had a 15 year-old foster child, who I will refer to as David, living in the home. It was very important that we did not disrupt David, who had been in the home for two years, so the foster carer also sought his views.
It was decided that it would be possible if the foster carer was still able to spend one-on-one time with David every week. This would be achieved by Perpetual Fostering’s social worker going out to the home each week to spend time with James in a structured activity.
The whole process was very carefully planned out and handled in an open and honest way. Because of this, and the fact the foster carer knew help was just a telephone call away, the placement was made.
We knew this would be a difficult placement to get off the ground but in just eight weeks the results have been staggering.
James’ social worker is delighted with the way he has settled into his placement – in fact she said that it is the happiest she has ever seen James. His school have also remarked on how chatty he has become and that he has become less confrontational and more comfortable talking about his feelings.
His social worker has also said the relationships with his foster carer and David, who has taken a protective role towards James, are the strongest he has ever developed. James has said himself he loves being there.
This was all made possible by careful planning at the matching stage of the foster carer placement.