Foster care is the main out-of-home framework for preschool children on the continuum of risk. Foster families offer a response to children at risk or in danger from deficient parenting. Foster care lasts until a permanent home is found for a child – whether return to one's birth family or adoption – or until the age of 18. The recommendation to remove a child from home, especially a preschooler, poses no few dilemmas and difficulties for social workers and entails complex decision-making. Recommendations are made by the Committees for Planning Treatment and Evaluation (PTE), at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services (MSAS). These committees have a key role in decision-making and the formulation of intervention programs to address the needs of the children and their families. Committee deliberations are held by a multidisciplinary team in conjunction with parents.
In recent years, the question of out-of-home placement and related policy has come up at various MSAS forums and was the focus of discussions by the MSAS-appointed Silman Committee (2014), and of internal MSAS self-check initiatives (the Outcomes Project). This study sought ways to strengthen existing policy and help improve interventions on the ground.
The study was conducted in 2013-14 and examined the characteristics of preschoolers in foster care and the processes of intervention addressing them and their families. The focus of the study was the work of the PTE Committees. It follow[JL1]s two previous surveys of preschoolers in foster care. It is based on a representative national sample of 237 children whose cases were reviewed by the PTE Committees (two deliberations were chosen per child, a total of some 450). The data on the children's characteristics and the interventions were collected in questionnaires completed by family social workers and their supervisors.
The findings have a number of implications for:
Parental participation in the committees and in formulating recommendations
The participation in committee of professionals not employed by social service departments
The orderly transmission of information between services
The regulation of planning in anticipation of a permanent arrangement for preschoolers, including the development of rehabilitation programs for parents.
The findings were presented to the steering committee of the study and at various professional forums. They will provide input into the process of implementation of the recommendations of the Silman Committee.
The study was conducted at the initiative of the MSAS Division of Research, Planning and Training in cooperation with the Service for Children and Youth at the Division of Personal and Social Services.