Join us from midday until 2pm Wednesday 16 May to explore what more can be done to ensure there are enough foster homes for children who need them.
Three out of five fostering services are desperately seeking foster carers to ensure that young people can be found the homes they need, according to a recent survey by the Fostering Network.
It says at least 8,750 new foster families must be found across the UK in the next 12 months to avoid a crisis in foster care.
To mark Foster Care Fortnight, a nationwide campaign to encourage more people to foster, we discuss what can be done to establish more much need foster homes, and also how we can best support those who take on this important role.
How can more people be attracted to foster? Is enough being done to campaign for more foster homes? Should foster carers be paid more? Do you know any examples of good practice? Join us from noon until 2pm Wednesday 16 May to discuss all this and more.
Follow the debate on Twitter via @GdnSocialCare, or post your comments below ahead of the discussion.
Jackie Sanders is head of media and campaigns at the Fostering Network
Richard Cork is a care leaver from Nottingham and a full-time dance student in London
Peter Watt is a dad, a foster carer for eight years and is the director of child protection and awareness at the NSPCC
Rebekah Pearson is a founder member of Fostering Through Social Enterprise, and the chief executive of Community Foster Care
Matt Dunkley is director of children's services at East Sussex county council, and is immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services
Brenda Farrell is Barnardos' UK assistant director for fostering and adoption
Jane Butler is strategy development manager for children in care with Action for Children
Colin Bent is a trainer consultant at the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF)
Harvey Gallagher is chief executive of the National Association of Fostering Providers
Paul Corner is assistant director of fostering at Nexus Fostering
Rachael Suthurst is project lead in the establishment and delivery of the You Can Foster recruitment campaign, and marketing officer at Rochdale borough council
FtSE Member News: Foster Care Fortnight Press Release - Meet Sue Johnson, a carer with Community Foster Care
Here we meet foster carer Sue Johnson from Crosby Villa who has been fostering for more than 30 years – and her daughter Kirstin who is hoping to become a foster carer this year.
A few years ago, a strapping lad of 26 strode up the path to Sue Johnson’s door in Crosby Villa in West Cumbria. The last time Sue had seen him, he was just nine years old – one of many children she and husband Iain have fostered over the years.
“He came to tell me he had never forgotten me. I really worried about him when he left us, but my support worker told me he wouldn’t forget me, and sure enough, he came back 17 years later to tell me just that,” she recalls. “It was so lovely to see him and to hear his news. He’s a dad himself now.”
After fostering babies and children for more than 30 years, Sue has many positive stories to tell of the youngsters who have been in her care, some for just a few weeks, and others she has looked after for several years. That’s on top of bringing up the couple’s own three children and adopted son.
“Fostering doesn’t make for a quiet life, but I love the work even though it can be very demanding emotionally,” says Sue, who has no plans to retire, even though she is now 61.
“What is really important is that you get the support and training from a good agency; I have worked for Community Foster Care, a charity, for many years now and they are first class.
“They organise days out for the foster families, the foster children and their birth children, so everyone gets to know everyone else. There is regular training and someone at the other end of the phone 24-7. Even though I have fostered for many years, there are still times when you need help.
“Looking after children is a huge responsibility, but you can make such a big difference to a child’s outlook and long term wellbeing by giving them a lot of love and support in a solid family environment.
“For many children, coming into a foster home is their first experience of a regular routine. Most of them bloom while they are here. I see them grow physically with good, regular and wholesome food, and emotionally knowing they can trust us to be there for them.
“I am so proud to be able to help them grow and develop to the stage where they can go back to their own families in many cases. Not every story is a happy one, but if you can just plant a seed in a child who may have given up hope, that’s something very powerful.”
Sue and Iain gave up counting the number of children they have opened their home and hearts to, after reaching 100.
“I call them my ‘borrowed children’,” says Sue. “We know none of them will be with us forever, but that doesn’t stop you loving them to bits while they are here. I see our job as putting rungs in a ladder to help the children move on.”
Growing up with foster children as part of the family hasn’t put off Sue’s eldest daughter Kirstin and her husband Rob who are hoping to become foster carers this year.
Kirstin and Rob are already very involved as volunteers with Community Foster Care, through Sue’s work, so the next step was applying to become foster carers themselves.
“We want to foster long term because the only downside of growing up with lots of foster children in the family was saying so many goodbyes,” adds Kirstin. “We’ve discussed it all with our daughter, and she’s really looking forward to it!”
Click here to visit our Foster Care Fortnight 2012 information page.
FtSE Member News: Foster Care Fortnight - Community Foster Care's 'three sisters' interviewed by Anna King on BBC Radio Gloucestershire
On Thursday 10 May 2012, Wendy, Angela and Carol, three sisters that foster care with Community Foster Care, were interviewed by Anna King on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
Anna King asked the sisters a number of questions, including how they became foster carers, how old their own children were at the time and what is the best thing about being a foster carer.
Becky Pearson, Community Foster Care's Chief Executive, who accompanied the three sisters, also touched on CFC's approach to foster care and how it differs from other agencies.
Here's a link to the interview on BBC iPlayer:
If you want to skip straight to their interview, it starts at 14:30 into the recording.
Click here to visit the Foster Care Fortnight 2012 information page.
Following coverage in today's Times newspaper about local authorities being told to'Accelerate adoptions or lose control', TACT has sent a letter to the paper outlining concerns about the method in which local authorities will be judged.
The Government’s desire to speed up adoption processes is commendable. Their approach to doing so is a concern.
It is not the use of scorecards themselves that is mistaken. It is their excessive emphasis on speed that creates problems. Scorecards should be no more than an indicator of where there might be concerns, not a benchmark by which the whole system is judged. As an adoption agency, TACT is aware that children who have multiple and complex needs almost by definition are likely to take longer to place. We hope that councils will not become averse to placing these children for adoption for fear of delays this might cause.
TACT also fears that the driver for speed might have unfortunate long term repercussions. It takes time to get the right match for a child and family to ensure the best chance of success. Adoption breakdown rates are already worryingly high. Too much on speed runs the risk of poor matching with potentially catastrophic results. There is no doubt that the adoption process can be improved and made more efficient for the benefit of children and their new families. We hope that the Government’s desire to achieve this does not have unintended and unfortunate consequences
Executive Director of External Affairs
Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo’s chief executive, answers questions about fostering on Mumsnet Talk...
Barnardo’s chief exec Anne Marie Carrie talks about the current risks to sexually exploited children and how we are trying to reduce those by offering specialist care.
Barnardo’s pilot foster care scheme
Barnardo’s is piloting a unique scheme with the Department for Education to offer alternative, safe accommodation for victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, with specially trained and highly supported foster carers.
It is a project with a lot of young lives riding on it and its success could help transform the future of society’s most vulnerable.
What are the current risks
If a society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable then we are truly failing when it comes to some of our youngest.
In the 17 years Barnardo’s has been working to stop child sexual exploitation it has become clear that victims have been preyed upon because of their vulnerability and their sadly low opinions of themselves.
Our report Not A World Away found that in a study sample of 1,102 children known to social services, 70 per cent of whom were in care, social workers identified a staggering one in five that were at significant risk of sexual exploitation.
How the abusers target these victims
And it gets worse, sexual exploitation was found to be an issue of concern for almost two thirds of girls in residential care. And for half of these children it became a concern after they entered into care.
Our services have heard countless stories of men waiting outside care homes to befriend these unwitting children, some as young as 12, desperate for love. Men attract them with flashy cars, gifts and feigned kindness, waiting for the child to fall in love with them before abusing them on a scale which is incomprehensible to most, but sadly very real.
Rates of sexual exploitation of those in care varies depending on the type of care placement they are in, with the risks being far higher for those in residential care compared to foster care.
And for those young people who are placed by their local authority, often due to financial constraints, in bed and breakfast accommodation with other vulnerable adults and ex-prisoners the risks can be extraordinarily high.
Last week, when I was with a Barnardo’s outreach team, I met two such children; a 16-year-old boy who is known to have been targeted by unscrupulous sexually exploitative adults in the past and a runaway 15-year-old girl who was befriended by several undesirable, much older people. The bed and breakfast ‘home’ these children had been given was so dangerous that the risk to their safety increased tenfold the minute they walked through the door. It is truly heartbreaking.
These young people, who have already been seriously harmed, need extra special care. They need to be protected from these insidious criminals, but apart from locking them up in secure accommodation and effectively punishing the victim rather than the perpetrator, how do we stop it from happening?
Could you foster a vulnerable child?
Barnardo’s is looking for a number of exceptional people to take on an equally exceptional role, to provide high-quality foster care for children and young people who have been sexually exploited.
They have been exposed to abusive situations and need foster carers who can offer a secure and caring environment.
Working as part of a team, Barnardo’s will provide specialist training, advice and support from its experienced staff.
You need to be someone who has an understanding of those who are vulnerable and be able to provide them with a welcoming, safe and secure home environment.
Anyone interested in the role should contact Barnardo’s on 0800 0277 280.
Charities warn of impending crisis after new research shows a dramatic rise in vulnerable youngsters needing placements.
Britain is teetering on the brink of a fostering crisis, charities warn today.
New research shows a dramatic increase in the number of children and young people taken into care each year following the Baby P case, which has put unprecedented pressure on the existing network of carers.
It is estimated that a new foster place for a child is needed in the UK every 22 minutes, after a 17 per cent rise in the number of care cases since 2008.
The increase means that unless a further 8,750 new carers can be found next year, the system, which is already struggling to maintain and recruit sufficient numbers, could start to fail.
This would result in more cared-for children – who are already more likely to fail at school, commit crime or go on to have their own children taken into care – being forced to live in residential care, move away or be separated from siblings, it was claimed.
Last year alone 24,000 children who came into care were fostered, said Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, which is launching a nationwide recruitment drive for carers this week.
"The figures highlight the overwhelming need for more people to come forward to foster. With more foster families, children in care will have a better chance of finding the stability and security they need to go on and achieve their potential," he said.
Last month it emerged that the number of children being taken into care via the courts has doubled in just four years, largely as a result of the publicity surrounding the death of 17-month-old Peter Connolly – known as Baby P – who died in 2007 after months of abuse, despite being seen 60 times by doctors and social workers.
The true number of care cases annually, including those that voluntarily agree to be looked after, is more than two and a half times that figure. But money available to local authorities that look after children is being cut by an average of 27 per cent over four years from 2010.
Labour's Shadow Minister for Children and Families, Catherine McKinnell MP, said that in the face of these cuts, the Government had to make sure that vulnerable children did not lose out on placements.
"We're in a tough economic climate, with local authorities seeing their budgets slashed," she said, "yet those that are facing the deepest cuts are also seeing the highest increase in the number of children being taken into care.
"Foster carers do a difficult and emotionally challenging job, 24 hours a day seven days a week. They need to be incentivised to come forward in the first place, and then supported in their role so that they can get on with supporting our most vulnerable children."
Media worries over the rising figure has been divided between concerns that vulnerable children are being taken away from their families unnecessarily and anger over what is regarded as the stagnation of the adoption system in which children receive permanent homes.
David Cameron promised to intervene to speed up the process following the announcement that just 60 babies were adopted in 2010. But many agree adoption is not always the right answer.
Charities believe an equally pressing crisis is brewing in the shortage of foster places, as social workers become more confident in removing children from dysfunctional or abusive parents.
The long hours, poor financial rewards and stress of dealing with youngsters who may be suffering extreme emotional problems means 14 per cent of carers leave the service each year.
Jonathan Ewen, director of family placement at Barnardo's, one of Britain's biggest independent fostering providers, said more could be done to make the current system work better.
"The fact that more children are coming into care is almost certainly a good thing because it means social workers are being more proactive," he said. "But what needs to happen on the back of that is that we need to be much quicker about making decisions because they are being damaged the longer they are not in a situation of care and love."
Half of all children rehabilitated with their natural parents see the arrangement break down again, often requiring them to go back into care.
"The research tells us there has been insufficient work on the specific issues which led to the child coming into care in the first place," said Mr Ewen.
The Department for Education said it would be announcing new measures to enable more people to become foster carers, and would cut the red tape that can stop people coming forward.
FtSE Member News: Fostering New Routes is holding an Information Meeting for people who want to foster
This year's National Foster Care Fortnight runs from the 14th May until the 27th May.
We are hoping that many more people will consider becoming foster carers. A challenging, but hugely rewarding activity, fostering changes the lives of children and young people for the better.
Fostering New Routes is holding an Information Meeting for people who want to foster for our small, friendly charitable organisation.
The Information Meeting will be on the 15th May 2012.
If you want to attend, contact us on 01675 434000, and book your place.
Foster carers and the children they care for are our concern - make it yours too.
During Foster Care Fortnight we will be holding three Recruitment Events in England. May 18th/19, come and meet us at TELFORD Shopping Centre, May 24th we'll be as Asda Bedminster (BRISTOL) and, for those of you who live in the East, we will be at Asda SWAFFHAM. Our Social Workers look forward to seeing you at any of the events and you will have the opportunity to learn all about fostering with The Foster Care Co-operative.
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