An Analysis of the Services Provided to Foster Careers in the UK by Public and Private Sector Agencies
While some might argue that the essentials of being a foster parent exist in a realm wholly separate from the bureaucracy of the foster care system, the current trend in the United Kingdom of increasing private sector foster services makes the need to compare and contrast the two systems of extreme importance. For such an inquiry to be of the widest possible value in both in the sphere of bureaucracy and as it impacts the lives of individual foster carers and the children with whom they work its scope must include an examination of how the services provided to foster carers from local authorities compare with those provided by the private sector. This analysis should then focus specifically on three key issues: training, professional support, and financial matters. In undertaking this research the primary aim then is to determine how the two models differ in terms of these issues.
To maximize the clarity of this study, the first chapter briefly outlines the development of the formal foster care system in the UK from its 20th century inception through the present, focusing particularly on the concurrent development of public and private sector systems and services. After establishing this background, the next necessary element in laying the groundwork for analysis is an overview of the current state of each system. For the purposes of this first chapter, the overview is simply that: a broad generalized account of the two sectors. The more in-depth analysis of the range of services provided by each sector and even the range that exists within each sector is more appropriately presented in subsequent chapters.
That said, the following three chapters take up the issues of training, professional support, and financial matters. In each, the services provided by the local authorities are compared and contrasted with those offered by private sector agencies. It is important to note that even within each sector, though somewhat less so in the pubic than the private, the services provided can vary greatly. Thus, for the purpose of this study, so as not to be consumed by minute differences, the analysis in these chapters draws from information available about the services offered by many individual agencies and looks for overarching trends while still making note of the differences and specifically highlight anomalies as such.
Finally, the “Conclusions and Recommendations” section seeks to take the information from the previous chapters and offer a usable analysis of the differences between public and private sector services from the standpoint of the foster carer. To do this, the conclusion attempts to present a notion of how the respective strengths and weakness of each sector can provide lessons for its counterpart and for the foster system as a whole. This then forms the most critical portion of this study as it puts the information into action, seeking to develop an analysis whose benefits are twofold. First, potential foster careers can use the information provided in the chapters to determine which system might best meet their individual needs, but further the analysis offered can provide a guide for potential foster carers to develop their over expectations of what service might be available and possible for them to utilize above and beyond what their chosen agency may offer. Second, the recommendations presented can serve to inform policy makers, both public and private, of key areas on which they might focus to effect positive changes to the foster system, and thus to the individual experiences of foster carers and the children they take into their lives.