The Meandering Social Worker

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Archive for the tag “fostering”

Book Review: The Secure Base Model

Bringing together currently available material and resources, since the development of the Model by the authors in 2000, “The Secure Base Model” begins with an introduction to the underpinning theoretical concepts of attachment and resilience. The five dimensions of the model itself: availability, sensitivity, acceptance, co-operation and family membership, are each explored from the perspective of the needs of the child and the approach of the carer, as a ‘positive framework for therapeutic caregiving’.

The authors go on to show how the model can be used in working with applicant foster carers and adopters, assessing the capacity of existing carers, including an interview format for use with carers to assess their capacity to provide a secure base for a child in their care, and more general guidelines on using the secure base model in guiding and supporting carers. A final chapter on assessing and reviewing the progress of children in placement includes a valuable, well laid out, checklist of how a secure base looks throughout childhood, from birth to 18.

The accompanying guide for foster carers and adopters (Promoting Attachment and Resilience) comprises the three introductory chapters on the background to the model and the chapter on assessing and reviewing the development of the children in placement, together with a format for a suggested progress record carers can use for children in placement.

Both books come with a DVD that illustrates the different aspects of the model through interviews with carers about issues they faced and how these were dealt with.

Although rooted in established theory these are primarily workbooks rather than textbooks, as suggested by their A4 format, with clear layouts and written in easily accessible language. Published by BAAF and central to the new BAAF Form F, The Secure Base Model’s place in the toolkit of the fostering social worker is already secured, however anyone involved in children’s social work will find this a useful reference and tool. Fostering and adoption departments/agencies may well want to have copies available of the shorter version intended for foster carers.

The Secure Base Model: Promoting attachment and resilience in foster care and adoption, Gillian Schofield & Mary Beek, BAAF Adoption & Fostering, A4 size Paperback £16.95, ISBN 9 781907 585838

Promoting Attachment and Resilience: a guide for foster carers and adopters on using the Secure Base Model, Gillian Schofield & Mary Beek, BAAF Adoption & Fostering, A4 size Paperback £12.95, ISBN 9 781910 039021


Faith, fostering and social work – a discussion

It’s a difficult question in today’s social work.  In a diverse society where people of many faiths mix, how representative are the caring professions of this mix?  I don’t yet have the statistical answers to that question but it seems that the climate is not in favour of persons of faith when it comes to employment in fostering. One relatively recent case highlights the discussion.

In a landmark ruling in 2011, as reported by BBC News, religious affairs correspondent, Roger Pigott, said, “the court said that while there was a right not to face discrimination on the basis on either religion or sexual orientation, equality of sexual orientation took precedence”. As of 2013 the Christian Legal Centre was still following up their case (Christians in the Firing Line by Dr Richard Scott).

The nub of the problem in this case appears to be the Johns’ position that they would be unable to tell a young person that being homosexual was OK as it would counter their spiritual beliefs. In all other respects there is no direct suggestion in the publicly available information that they would not have made good carers. However since they had previously fostered in the 1990’s, new legislation had been introduced and the world of fostering and social work had moved on.

Needless to say their case attracted a range of responses, from other Christians supporting the Johns’ position to those calling them bigots, highlighting the diversity of opinion in modern Britain.

If the Johns’ were suitable carers in all other respects it seems unfortunate they were not allowed to return to a profession they had previously enjoyed.  All the more so in an environment where more foster carers are to be welcomed. Of course, how they handle expressing their faith-based views should not be ignored and a part of their assessment and training should have included elements of going beyond stating their own beliefs, to understanding if they were able to acknowledge and express that others hold different beliefs, and how well they could work alongside other professionals who come from different religious persuasions and viewpoints.

Unfortunate though in that the fostering profession is wanting to encourage diversity; it would make for a very unequal and unrepresentative workforce if everyone has to fit the same narrow mould.  There are places for more carers from different ethnic, religious, social (an often overlooked element) and even political backgrounds, regardless of different opinions.

In court for the Johns’ the Christian Legal Centre argued that “all the major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) teach against homosexual conduct” and that “all hold to the orthodox view that any sexual union outside of marriage between one man and one woman is morally undesireable”.  The court responded that whilst homosexuality is a capital offence under Sharia law in some places, the Church of England allows for same sex partnerships for its clergy as long as they remain celibate within that relationship (!) (Scott), and that there is no place in British law for Christian beliefs.

Clearly then, the ruling against the Johns’ has wider implications for both British society and adherents of all faiths in the caring professions.

If parents of children in public care are to stand a chance in having their religious preferences for their children honoured then this diversity is essential.  In ruling that equality of sexuality takes precedence over the right to religious belief, the door to fostering will have been closed to many who might otherwise have made suitable and good foster carers and narrowed down the options for diversity.

A good fostering agency (private or statutory) will be able to manage these differences through the placement matching process, which already takes into account ethnicity, cultural and religious preferences of parents where expressed, age ranges and the child’s presenting behaviours; try as we might there is no such thing as the 100% perfect match.

In the wider picture this seems to have been an unfortunate ruling and that in going to court on this case all parties might just have shot themselves in the foot!

[This blog is not advocating that the Johns should have been approved as foster carers.  This is not possible without further detailed information than is available in the public domain. The purpose is to look at issues affecting the fostering profession, particularly as I prepare to return to my role as a Form F Assessor.]


Christians in the Firing Line, Dr Richard Scott, 2013, Wilberforce Publications, London, ISBN 978-0-9575725-1-5

Johns’ case news reporting:

BBC News online –

Daily Mail News online –

Guardian News online –

Telegraph online – and

Responses to the news reports:

National Secular Society –

David Cameron as reported in the Daily Telegraph –



Fostering and Adoption in 18th Century England

Fostering in the 21st Century is an often difficult job: the pay not always commensurate with the commitment required.  But while recently reading Daniel Defoe’s classic novel Moll Flanders I was reminded at how much we have moved on.

Moll, in the novel, finds herself ‘with child’ and debates her prospects facing a future as a single mother.  Moll wanted the best for her child but her dilemma was very real: a single mother could expect no help or encouragement from society and a future of extreme poverty, prostitution or crime faced her in that choice, each one carrying risks of starvation or imprisonment to both her and the child.  At best, a difficult option.

In contrast giving up her child to be cared for ‘professionally’ by another woman would not guarantee her child freedom from such poverty or shame and might actually be a death sentence for the child.  These were very real concerns.

The OUP edition of the novel provides an explanatory note (p.373): a parliamentary committee investigating the problem [of children being killed by their nurse carers] in 1716 reported that “a great many parish infants, and exposed bastard children, are inhumanely suffered to die by the barbarity of nurses, who are a sort of people void of commiseration or religion, hired by the Church wardens to take off a burden from the Parish at the cheapest and easiest rates they can; and these know the manner of doing it effectively as by the burial books may evidently appear.”  House of Commons Journals XVIII 396 (8 Mar 1716)…. and goes on to give an example (p.374) of one Eleanor Gallimore, a Parish Nurse, who in 1718 was twice acquitted of the murder of an infant in her care – in February of that year she was acquitted of murder by starvation of an infant of two months old, and in September of that year for the murder of a child by beating it with a mop-stick around the head and stamping on it.

Moll’s dilemma was compounded by an offer of marriage which would have been withdrawn had her suitor known of the existence of the child.  Eventually she was persuaded that a suitable carer could be found, Moll would pay a sum of £5 per year to the woman towards the upkeep of her child in return for the right to see the child once or twice a year, although the child would never know she was his true mother.  Or, open adoption as we might call it in the 21st Century.

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, Oxford University Press World’s Classics series in paperback

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