Leeds & West Yorkshire

Calderdale Council recruit single foster parent in 2011

A West Yorkshire council is urgently reviewing its fostering system after it recruited only one parent this year.

More than 130 people applied to become foster parents in Calderdale but only one went through the entire process.

Meanwhile the council, which covers towns including Halifax and Elland, is paying agencies thousands of pounds to provide homes for children in its care.

A report to councillors says action must be taken to improve and speed up the recruitment process.

The council's head of children's social care, Fiona Fitzpatrick, said the number of children in the authority's care had increased over the past two years and was now 375.

At the same time, she said, the numbers of foster carers has remained "more or less static".

'Costly' placements

In a report to the council's children and young people scrutiny panel, Ms Fitzpatrick said a lack of "in house" foster care provision meant the council had to buy placements from independent fostering agencies.

She said such placements were "costly, often out of the authority and at a distance from the child's own home".

The average cost of placing a child with a council-recruited foster parent is £343 per week. The average cost of foster placements purchased from agencies is £803 per week.

Ms Fitzpatrick also said the council's recruitment process was too slow and meant many potential carers went "off the boil" while they were waiting for their application to be processed and applied elsewhere.

She said: "It would be true to say that Calderdale's approach to foster carer recruitment has been ad hoc. We have not had a themed or targeted recruitment campaign.

"There is no specific brand and our publicity materials are amateur compared to our competitors. Our web site is in need of an urgent update."

Council bosses are planning a recruitment campaign, which will be launched in January, and an overhaul of the recruitment process.

Ms Fitzpatrick said the timing of the campaign was important as many prospective foster carers considering fostering at the start of a new year.

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