Exploring foster care in the UK

8 Dec, 2014

Family member Partnership for Every Child Russia (P4EC) and two partner organisations have visited London to gain an insight into alternative care services in the UK.

Senior staff from the Timchenko and Klyuch Foundations joined P4EC in visiting a range of services in quite different settings. These included one urban (Croydon) and one rural (Staffordshire) local authority to learn about foster care services, meet foster carers and visit a specialist residential unit.

They also had opportunities to visit meet staff and carers at two highly experienced independent foster care providers, ISP Child Care in West Sussex and the Core Assets Group, based in the Midlands. The week was further enriched by meetings with British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), and young people and staff of the Rees Foundation, which works with care leavers.

“My vision is that we work to give each child in Russia a chance to be raised and live in a family that understands, loves, respects them.” Elvira Garifulina, Programme Director at Timchenko

The visitors hope to gain an understanding of different models of foster care and residential care in the UK which are either well-established or viewed as effective innovative practice.

Irina Zinchenko, P4EC, explains: “The Timchenko Foundation and the Klyuch Foundation contacted us in order to create a [foster carer] training programme together and we asked for help from Family as our alliance.

“This is an opportunity to share knowledge with organisations that need it in Russia, to create training programmes and exchange visits, opportunities to work on educational programmes and joint research, as well as to increase awareness of specialists worldwide about what is going on.”

P4EC has worked in the field of family separation for over 20 years and has recently focused on developing emergency and respite foster care as preventative measures to support children and families in crisis. These forms of care both involve providing short-term foster placements where a child can be cared for while their family of origin receives support to address their problems [link to blog to follow]. In the case of emergency care this is in response to an immediate crisis, and in respite care it is more a means to relieve the long term pressure on parents of children with disabilities by providing them with short breaks.

Meanwhile Klyuch and Timchenko Foundations are committed to providing support to partners and experts in addressing the most pressing social problems facing families in Russia, including supporting the development of foster care and other forms of family-based care.

Elvira Garifulina, Programme Director at Timchenko, said: “Previously we constructed cottages and created small villages where families would live with foster children.

“However we realised that this was not an effective model and it could only help a limited number of children. The decision was made to develop services that would train parents, accompany and help foster families and work towards solving the problem of orphanhood on a wider scale in the Russian Federation.

“We try to visit countries that have extensive experience in relation to this and we know that in the UK there is excellent training for adoptive and foster parents. Great Britain is a country that understands the importance of family care for a child and maintaining a family for a child.

“My vision is that we work to give each child in Russia a chance to be raised and live in a family that understands, loves, respects them. I have this optimistic idea that it will be done in the next 10 years. And children who for whatever reason will not be able to find a family or return to their biological family will stay in placements where conditions will be similar to a family environment.”

Marina Nesterova, Project Coordinator at Klyuch, added: “It is really important for us to see methods and techniques used for work with families so that we can understand and we can use them for the development of our own specialists and foster parents.

“We can organise cooperation between organisations and associations so that the experience acquired over centuries… could be shared with us.

“I hope that in the next five to ten years we will have a big breakthrough in Russia; few children will be expected to stay in institutions, there will be professional [foster] families and it will be accepted by society.”

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