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Foster scheme puts new focus on care

Former bankers and other professionals are signing up to become foster carers, thanks to a new scheme which will earn them the equivalent of over pound;40,000 a year.

Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care is being introduced in Glasgow as an alternative to residential and secure accommodation for youngsters in care. It is aimed at 11 to 17-year-olds with complex emotional and behavioural problems. "What you focus on will grow" is the mantra.

"The assumption is that children are influenced by families and, where families have broken down and no longer live together, a family environment is created to influence and change their behaviour," said forensic clinical psychologist, John Marshall, head of the programme.

The foster parents, who look after one child at a time, are just one element: behind them is a support network involving a skills coach and an individual therapist who works with the young person, a family therapist who works with the biological family, and Dr Marshall, who co-ordinates the programme and acts as the point of contact for carers. The team meets weekly.

"The model tries to start creating success on day one," said Dr Marshall, a keynote speaker at the annual conference of educational psychologists in Scotland. "Perhaps the young person does not clean his teeth daily. We know he can do that and, if he does it, we create rewards."

MTFC will cost around pound;2,000 per child per week, while a residential or secure placement can cost anything from pound;3,500 to pound;6,500.

"There is no formal discussion about problems, only targets and solutions," he said. "We don't talk about ADHD; instead, we talk about adding a minute each day or week to their homework or study task."

Ultimately, it is hoped that the programme will allow the young person to be returned to their biological parents or parent. However, they might also live with a relative, enter an adoptive home or live independently if they are over 16.

They will not be "cured", stressed Dr Marshall. But the hope is that, after roughly nine months, they will have been set on a more positive trajectory.

www.mtfc.com; www.mtfce.org.uk.

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