MORE family members are stepping in to foster the children of relatives in Dorset – many of them grandparents.

In the last whole year which the service has figures for almost as many foster placements were made to ‘connected persons’ as to mainstream foster carers.

But in many of those cases there were delays because it proved impossible to meet checks, references and medicals within the set-down 16 week period.

An annual review of the work of the fostering and permanence panel says that in the year to March 2019 167 cases were heard with 21 mainstream foster carers recommended for approval and 19 connected persons.

In the same period there were 12 foster carers de-registered, three following allegations made against them; 8 who retired, 3 who resigned for other reasons and one who left after not engaging with the services.

The Dorset Council’s corporate parenting board heard that the supply of in-house foster carers continued to be less than the number of children needing fostering which results in children being placed through independent (private) fostering agencies which were, generally, more expensive.

Fran Thompson, the independent fostering panel chair, said that assessments received by the panel on prospective foster parents were generally good: “Overall the mainstream assessments were of a high standard and involved a range of people with different backgrounds. There remains a lack of prospective foster carers coming forward who are same sex couples and from diverse backgrounds.”

“The connected person assessments varied more in standard and were often complex and more challenging for panel to reach a decision to recommend approval,” she said.

Interim director for children’s services, Theresa Leavy, told the board that relatives taking on children often needed more support, especially in the early stages, and that putting in an intensive support package for a short time, usually paid dividends.

She told the board that she would try and find a solution to the short-term shortage of administrative staff for the panels caused by vacancies not being filled during the Blueprint for Change exercise which seeks to reorganise children’s social work in the county.

The committee heard that during the period the fostering panel became paperless saving staff time, postage and printing costs – amounting to £37,000 over the course of a year.