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County pilots new approach to fostering

[Thursday 20 April 2006]

NEW carers are being recruited across North Yorkshire as the County is hand picked by the government to pilot an innovative new fostering programme.

The County Council has recently become one of only a handful of authorities in the UK to pilot the 'Treatment Foster Care' programme, which aims to improve the lives of children with complicated needs.

Heather Fingerson: Working with North Yorkshire's fostering team
Heather Fingerson: Working with North Yorkshire's
fostering team

The programme was first developed in the US state of Oregon and is currently being trialled by 18 local authorities across the UK.

Initially centring on the Scarborough and Ryedale area, the project has now been rolled out into the York, Thirsk and Selby areas.

The scheme offers young people an intensive and individually tailored programme of care from specially selected foster carers. Youngsters taking part in the programme receive 24 hour support from a team incorporating a number of disciplines, including social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and educationalists.

"It's exciting to be part of this project for many reasons," said Heather Fingerson, a clinical social worker from San Francisco, who joined the North Yorkshire team in February.

"It provides services for a group of young people who are often marginalized and gives them a sense of hope for their future.

"It's a strengths-based programme which emphasises self-worth, pride and a feeling of value in children."

"For me personally, it has created an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could change the way local authorities work with young people throughout the country."

Heather has worked with young people for the last 11 years, the majority of whom were teenagers with behavioural difficulties. She came to North Yorkshire from The Laradon Hall School in Colorado, which provides day treatment for young people who had been excluded from mainstream education because of their behaviour.

Working there, she found that these young people responded best to a 'structured behaviour modification programme' that uses a reward system to encourage strengths and successes.

Heather said "In effect the kids earned points for good behaviour - like being respectful to staff and peers or not being disruptive - and then exchanged these for privileges, such as time in front of the television, a one-on-one with a staff member to go out to a library or an activity on their own with the staff member."

When the programme was accompanied by intensive clinical and therapeutic support, it proved even more likely to result in a successful outcome for the young person, such as them re-entering mainstream schooling.

Caroline Patmore, North Yorkshire's executive member for young people's service, said: "There are so many reasons why I would urge you to take part in this programme.

"Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something that will benefit a young person who may have given up hope of help but you will also be at the forefront of a drive that could change the way authorities provide care for children for years to come. "

If you think you may be interested in applying to become a treatment foster carer, call 0800 0286 599 or visit the Fostering North Yorkshire website

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