By R. A. Parker
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Extra info for Caring for Separated Children: Plans, procedures and priorities
The fact that the chances of restoring a child to his family decIine with the increasing duration of the separation also points to the need to prevent short stays in substitute care becoming long. LogicaIly, our priority should be tc stop circumstances arising in which children can no longer be cared for by parents. Indeed, this has been stated unequivocally by the DHSS in its 1976 priorities document: 'It is a key objective of the personal social services', they say, 'to support the family. 'l The proviso reflects an important dilemma.
A year's daily (and nightly) care is qualitatively different from a year's so ci al work on a oncemonthly basis. The time dimensions are different. Likewise a year spent with a foster family cannot pass unnoticed by a child; whereas four visits by the social worker during the same period may weIl be hard to recall. To the child the most important person is the one he sees daily. In this respect turnover amongst residential staff or the breakdown of foster placements are matters of great concern.
The DHSS working party on Manpower and Training Jor the Social Services 5 advocated more research on this whole issue. As it is, their report only deals with the limited concept of 'wastage' , showing that in 1973 the rate stood at 9 per cent for both qualified local authority fieldwork staff and for the residential child care sector. By wastage, however, the report means the movement of staff out of all forms of social service employment. This is a key consideratior. for the manpower planners but with respect to the acquisition of special experience and continuity of contact with children the crucial issue is the level of crude turnover.