Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

This is part 2 of my blog on the needs of deaf children who are fostered or in local authority care. It outlines a recent project that NDCS has started to identify and support deaf children and young people in this area.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and raise their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities’ planning services. We also needed to include independent fostering agencies who are a significant provider of services used by local authorities to indentify and provide placements for children who require care.

We therefore undertook a project to identify and consult with foster carers of deaf children and deaf children who are in, or have experienced, care.

What foster carers told us

Too often foster carers spoke about a lack of information in preparation of caring for a deaf child by children’s social care and them having to seek out information as they went along. Often social workers, although supportive, were felt to lack an understanding of the child’s needs related to their deafness and how this may impact on their care giving role.

What deaf children and young people told us

In our consultation with deaf children and young people they highlighted the difficulties of having to move from their family and home and the importance of social workers and their carers being able to communicate with them.

New resources

As a first response to our consultation we felt that there was a clear need to provide quick and accessible basic information to foster carers; children’s home workers and fostering social workers around the potential needs of deaf children and young people. Such information is vital to support those crucial first hours and days when a child becomes fostered or goes into alternative placements.

We have therefore produced two new short resources which are available to download from our website and cover the range of topics including communication; hearing aids; sounds and how we hear; and links to further help within NDCS resources.

These are being sent to all UK local authorities and independent fostering agencies and have been welcomed by our consulting foster carers who have said that they wished such information as presented in these resources had been available to them before their placements had started.

Future plans for the project

We hope to follow this up later this year with a resource, produced by deaf young people who are in care, for deaf children when they come into care. We will also continue to encourage local authorities and independent fostering agencies to better plan services to meet the needs of deaf children. One local authority has already recognised their need to improve services and is working with NDCS to provide training on the needs of deaf children to their short and long term foster carers.

I hope to inform you in future blogs as to how this project develops. At NDCS we will continue to campaign for the recognition of deaf children’s needs within social care provision at a local and national level.

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor

Our new resources can be downloaded at

http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/fostering_deaf_children/

For more information on fostering go to

http://www.baaf.org.uk/info/fostering

Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

In this first part of a two part blog I will discuss the needs of deaf children and young people who become ‘looked after’ or go into local authority care.

When alternative care is necessary

In very extreme circumstances when it is felt that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm due to the care given by their parents or carers a child may require the local authority to place them in alternative care. This could be with extended family or relatives; foster carers or in children’s homes.

In the UK there are 92,000 children in care and the majority of these children are in foster placements.

Such arrangements can be temporary where it’s felt that parents/carers will be able to meet their children’s needs, or it could be longer term. For very young children where it is felt that they clearly cannot return home the adoption route must be considered.

 The experience for the child

Leaving home, where a child may have experienced long term abuse or neglect will still be a traumatic experience for any child. They will have to break routines and disrupt attachments to parents or carers, family members and friends. In some instances a child may have to move away from a school they attended and the community they live in.

A child will inevitably try to give meaning to such events and for a deaf child who may have limited language and or access to communication this will likely increase the stress they experience. In such situations the need for a social worker who can communicate effectively with the child and ensure their language needs and potentially deaf cultural needs are fully considered in the placements sought is crucial. If not, further damage is likely to the child’s emotional health and well-being.

The challenge of meeting deaf children’s needs in care

There are a number of factors which make it difficult to recognise and plan for the needs of deaf children when they come into care. These include;

  •  the statistical data requirements on local authorities in most UK countries does not require the types of disability to be specified and therefore total numbers of deaf children in care are unknown
  • there are very few specialist social work teams and social work posts for deaf children. An NDCS soon to be published survey of social care provision in English local authorities confirms this
  • many local authorities do not recognise the possible social care needs of deaf children and that they are ‘children in need’ within UK law.
  • deafness is a low incidence disability and being deaf does not necessarily mean every child must require social care support to meet their needs. This will be dependent on the resources within the family; other children’s services.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and highlight their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities planning services.

In the next blog I will explain about our NDCS project to raise awareness of deaf children in care.

For more information on fostering go to:

http://www.baaf.org.uk/info/fostering

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor