I was interested in the recent advertising campaign by Surrey County Council that targeted registered childminders to recruit them as foster carers.
Finding ways to fill gaps in care provision can mean thinking outside the box. Childminders are often registered by Ofsted for overnight care and, with extra training and support, can successfully combine foster care and childminding work.
I know there are many registered childminders, particularly those on community childminding networks, who provide an overnight service or respite care as part of a package of services for children in need or disabled children. Each childminder who does this makes a decision with the whole of their family whether to commit to taking on the additional role of fostering a child. The childminder will also work closely with social services and other agencies taking a co-ordinated role in creating a team around the child. A recent report by Ofsted, 'Children in need in childcare', found this close liaison ensured that the response to children's needs was coherent and co-ordinated.
Many registered childminders wrestle with the safeguarding issues that may arise from fostering a child in need. Those that do make a set of judgements for each child to ensure that they are still providing a safe home environment for every child in the childminding setting.
What this highlights to me is the commitment registered childminders are making to help every child reach their full potential. Working with registered childminders has a number of benefits for the children. For example, if the care is provided by a local registered childminder, it may allow them to maintain local connections, including attendance at the same school as well as family and friend links.
Mixing childminding and fostering can produce emotive responses, but if the care provided is of high quality and meets the needs of the child, then this is an encouraging outcome.