Charity releases records of first to benefit from ‘boarding out’ scheme that evolved into modern-day system
Previously unseen Victorian archive records of the first fostered children in Britain have been released by Barnardo’s, showing what life was like for children when the scheme was originally launched by the charity in 1887.
They reveal a period of no social workers, no welfare state and chaotic family arrangements. Elizabeth Mouncey and her parents eked out a miserable existence marked by destitution, violence and squalor; her father, an East End docker, drank heavily and beat his wife. Today she would probably be on the child protection register and her parents enrolled on a troubled families programme.
When her parents died within a year of each other (Elizabeth was six when she was found next to her dying mother), she was taken in by neighbours. Relatives refused to give her a home, so church missionaries contacted a children’s charity, Barnardo’s, which put her on an innovative scheme called “boarding out” .
Elizabeth became the first known black foster child in the UK, in 1891. She was sent to live with “respectable foster parents of the labouring class” in the village of Headcorn, Kent, for six years, before returning to a Barnardo’s home to train as a cook. The 1911 census records that she was working as a cook in Croydon, south London.
Elizabeth’s story is one of several published on Friday from the archives of Barnardo’s, which this year celebrates its 150th birthday. Collectively they put human faces to the development of a system of care for poor and at-risk children that would evolve over time into the modern fostering system. Today, three in every four children who are taken into care are fostered.
Lilian Murray, for example, was placed in Barnardo’s custody at the age of two after a Westminster magistrate found her mother, a career petty criminal, to be guilty of neglecting and ill-treating her. Placements of girls were often made to prevent “moral danger” (sexual exploitation). Lilian was boarded out in Cambridgeshire, during which time Barnardo’s inspectors found her “greatly improved”, before going into service as a maid in Surrey.
Elizabeth Matthews was twelve when her stepfather signed an agreement for her to be cared for by Barnardo’s. Her mother had died two years earlier and she had subsequently attempted to run away from her stepfather, who is described in the archives as “a cripple [who] earns his living by hawking, begging and singing ... roaming the country with one of this two children, a boy, and lodging in the lowest lodging houses”. After nine years in Barnardo’s care she became a domestic maid.
Thomas Barnardo began his foster experiment in 1887 by dispatching 320 orphan boys of “good conduct and character” from the East End slums of London to board out with “homely folk” in rural villages who were paid five shillings a week to bring up their charges. The location was important: not just the wholesome benefits of clean air, but an upbringing free from the temptations and moral hazards of the city.
Barnardo’s initiative was in part a response to Victorian public outrage over “baby farming”, effectively deregulated fostering, whereby a string of women who took in numerous children for money were convicted for murder and neglect. The charity’s archives show the development of a pre-placement assessment and inspection system designed to ensure the children were looked after by “Christian people” in “kind homes”.
Prospective foster parents were expected to sign up to a commitment to bring up the child “as one of my family”, providing them with food, clothes, washing and schooling, as well as to “endeavour to train the said child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry”.
According to Barnardo’s archivist Martine King, it is the child-centred aspect of boarding out that is so remarkable, along with the attention paid not just to ensuring that children went to good homes, but that their progress was monitored. “It was the first time we had a system in place to make sure the parents were looking after the children properly,” she said.
In 1889, 586 boys and 124 girls were boarded out by Barnardo’s. By 1905, 4,000 children were looked after in foster care. Latest figures for 2015 show that 52,000 children in England were in foster care – a 30 year high – and Barnardo’s and other foster agencies say that with many foster carers going into retirement, there is a shortfall of families willing to take in vulnerable children.
“Much has changed over the past 130 years, but there are still vulnerable children in foster care who simply need someone who can always be there for them,” said Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan. “Just as in Victorian times, today we’re looking for people, with a genuine desire to make life better for some of the country’s most vulnerable children, to become foster carers.”
FtSE Member News: The Foster Care Co-operative - Understanding your child's digital world - August 2016
This month we have a Back to School Guide which looks at how parents and carers can support a child’s digital world with school work, homework and communicating with school.
From Apples to Apps (for teacher!)
We want to help our children and young people to do well at school, but with increasing use of technology for school work, homework and communicating with parents, it can be a challenge to keep up. Here’s my guide to your child’s digital school world.
Via a log in account: Most children from Key Stage 1 onwards are set homework which involves your child accessing this online at home, usually via the school’s account and their personal login name and password. Some of the more popular homework sites are MyMaths (where homework questions are set, marked and then fed back to school),PurpleMash (an interactive learning site for nursery and primary aged children to get to grips with basic concepts) and Babbel (for helping with learning foreign languages). Others include timetablesrockstars, jollyphonics and GCSE bitesize and revision guides.
Check with your child’s school which sites they use for homework - and that your child’s account works on your laptop or tablet. This is important for music or language homework sites, which may require a certain browser or audio player. Speak with school if you have any problems before the homework is due. It is also worth checking that your child is ‘learning’ via these sites, as some have a ‘reveal answer’ button and some are multiple choice, which children can very easily click through!
Via research online: Even from primary school, children may be set homework topics to research online and this is common from Key Stage 3 onwards. Check your ‘safe search’ settings on your search engine, and sit alongside your child if they are young or liable to misspell, or choose the ‘Google’ suggestion. I heard of a 10 year old who tried to search for pictures of Anne Boleyn for his Henry 8th homework, but misspelled it as ‘Annabel’ – the name of a popular horror movie. He screamed as the horror movie image appeared. Rather than typing, it may be an option to talk via ‘Ok Google’?
Another issue is young people believing everything they read online to be true. If children are using the internet for research, check the validity and reliability of the sites they are on. If in doubt stick to the BBC or other reputable forums. I have heard of some schools banning homework from Wikipedia - and there are also plagiarism issues for older children who may be ‘cutting and pasting’ information for an assessed piece of work. This may also apply to copyrighted images. Check your young people know how to reference information found online.
The new national curriculum now requires that schools offer Information Technology (IT) and digital literacy lessons from the age of 5 years, with the focus on how to code information and how to create their own programmes. This a change from learning how to use a computer (creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations etc), to how a computer works - with lessons in basic coding starting from Year 1.
This is where even the most social media savvy parents get left behind! But for parents who have an interest in trying to keep up with their child, some schools offer coding clubs after school which parents can attend with their child. There is also a wealth of apps which teach how to code.
The most popular app is Scratch Junior (https://www.scratchjr.org/) - but this website is a great starting point and lists many apps, not only on coding but all areas of educational support: http://www.apps4primaryschools.co.uk/apps/ks1/
There is lots of information in this article: “Coding a School: A parent’s guide to the new computing curriculum” -https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/04/coding-school-computing-children-programming
Communicating with parents
For most schools, communication with parents is online via the schools website, a parent portal or regular updates via text message and email.
Parent Portal - If your child’s school has a portal system, there will usually be a separate log in for parents and for children. Check your login works and that the portal system is supported in your browser. Have a conversation with school with regards to information sharing online via the portal system, as the child’s basic contact details are stored along with a photograph. This is especially important for children whose details may need extra security via a court order for example. Check with school who can login to your child’s account. Are these given out to all adults with parental responsibility for example? Check your child knows not to share these details.
The portal system is often used for displaying homework, attendance and behaviour - but the details are often limited. Further conversations with school may be required to support your child.
School Website - For schools who don’t have a portal system, whole school or class information may be posted on the website and online calendar. This could include whole class homework, especially for Key Stage 1 and 2, and dates for the diary such as sports day or parent evenings. Check the school website regularly and remember that a signed permission agreement is required for schools to post pictures of children on their website. A form should be given out which is usually signed by someone with parental responsibility.
School online profile - Most schools now have an online presence on social media, and many are via Facebook and Twitter. It is always worth ‘following’ your child’s school on these sites, as sometimes messages are posted there first (like snow days!). Again, you can check for information that is being shared.
Parental engagement apps - Looking to the future there could be parental engagement apps. I would be interested to hear if any schools are using these and the feedback? If you want to read more I recommend this article:https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/apr/28/five-best-apps-teachers-communicate-parents
Conference: Ensuring good transitions into adoption – preparing and supporting children, their foster carers and prospective adopters
Ensuring good transitions into adoption – preparing and supporting children, their foster carers and prospective adopters conference
Date: 20 Oct 2016
Venue: Central London
Conference time: 10.00am - 4.00pm
Closing date for booking: 10/10/2016
This conference will explore the child’s move from foster care into adoption, and the move from one carer to another. Is this being done too quickly? Is the child’s emotional experience central to this? Is better integration needed that is more sensitive to the child’s experience? What can carers, adopters and professionals do to enable the child’s move in a positive way?
We will examine the issues in preparing and supporting children, their foster carers and the prospective adopters during the transition to placement and will explore best practice in managing introductions. It will include learning from research findings on planning transitions and the role of foster carers in transitions to adoption.
Delegates will be able to attend practice based workshops looking at the preparation of children, how to make good introductions, supporting foster carers and their families and preparing adopters for transitions.
This will be of particular interest to children’s services social workers and managers, adoption social workers and managers, fostering social workers, adoption and fostering panel members, foster carers, children’s guardians and independent reviewing officers.
Full or associate CoramBAAF member rate: £185 + £37 VAT total: £222
Individual CoramBAAF member or student rate: £135 + £27 VAT total: £162
Adoptive parent or foster carer rate: £105 + £21 VAT total: £126
Non member rate: £250 + £50 VAT total: £300
*Concessions for care leavers and adopted young people available by negotiation.
Telephone: 020 7520 7520
For booking form and conference programme please click here
As foster carers we are blessed to be able to count on the support of family and friends, who routinely sweep up the children who come into our care without skipping a beat. They open their homes to all comers, celebrate random birthdays with the same enthusiasm as their own and are generous with their time and their affections. And when it is needed they lend a shoulder to cry on.
But not everyone gets it and people can be insensitive, sometimes unwittingly but sometimes through ignorance or prejudice. So here is a handy guide to things that are best not said to a foster carer.
1. You’ve really earned your money today. No, we haven’t. Because we don’t get paid. We don’t do this for money. Foster carers receive an allowance, based on the number of children we care for and their circumstances. We don’t get a salary, or sick leave or a pension. After costs, there may be something left at the end of the month. But we will almost certainly overspend during the next month. There are good days, and there are not so good days
2. You get paid plenty: I’ve heard the ads on the radio. So have I, and they drive me mad. The figures quoted are usually based on the most complex cases (say, teenaged siblings with disabilities) and throw in every possible allowance to make it sound financially attractive. These allowances cover essential funding: most months that is how much the placement will cost, including items like heating and repairs to home and car. Do the maths.
3. It must be so rewarding. I know it is well meant, but really...? Yes, being a foster carer has moments that are rewarding. But the implication is that we do this because it makes us feel good. No, we do not. We do it because the need is so great. We live for a day when children no longer come into care, or there are so many foster carers that we are no longer needed.
4. The children are lucky to have you. There are lots of words you can use to describe children in care. But ‘lucky’ isn’t one of them, under any circumstance. They have been removed from their family, probably after suffering severe hardship, and their life chances may never recover. Luck just doesn’t come into it.
5. After all you’ve done for them... Children in care are often angry, and they have every right to be. Foster carers are in the firing line when the anger and frustration spills over, a cog in a system that has almost certainly let them down. They will always find it hard to trust people. They owe us nothing. We get that. So should you.
6. How many children have you fostered? It’s a competition, right? In the public mind, the most valued foster carers are those who have fostered dozens of children. Which is hard on families who have committed their lives to say, one or two children, giving them a home for life. Foster care isn’t a numbers game, it really isn’t.
7. I could never give them up. I wish I had a fiver for every person who said they couldn’t become foster carers because saying goodbye would be too painful. So here’s a thing: it isn’t about you. And just for the record, we find saying goodbye to the children who have become part of our family simply heart breaking. It never gets any easier.
8. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to have children. People like what...? Children in care come from all walks of life. Bad things happen in the ‘best’ neighbourhoods, tragedy strikes, lives fall apart. No one sector of society has a monopoly on neglect or abuse. It can happen in a family like mine, or even like yours.
9. You need to think of yourselves. We do, more than you might expect. Like many foster carers, we probably would try to do more, if we felt we could cope. But we can’t. So we monitor the daily texts from children’s services seeking foster homes with a heavy heart. Because there is a shortage of foster carers, partly because of (See number 7).
If you have a friend who is a foster carer, and has not been in touch for a while, give them a call. For all its joy, fostering can be an isolating experience, as it often is across the whole spectrum of caring. Embrace the choices they have made, and be ready to listen, even if it means sharing the moment with a rabble of infants. But go easy with those words of advice, no matter how well-intended.
We want to hear from social workers, foster parents and carers about the aspect of your role that you worry most about and why
It’s no secret that the social care sector is under huge pressure and staff are expected to juggle never-ending caseloads.
When the most vulnerable make the news, from people living with severe mental health problems or children who suffer at the hands of violent parents, they will probably be known to the social care system.
Social care professionals, social workers and carers can’t be with service users all the time, so what measures do you put in place for when you’re not there? What do you worry might happen in your absence?
Perhaps it’s the woman with dementia who you worry will accidentally start a fire at home, or maybe it’s the mother who can’t leave her violent partner, or that child with mental health problems who can’t access the care they need to keep them safe?
We want to hear from foster parents, carers, social workers, care workers, occupational therapists and peer support workers about your biggest fears.
Share your worries by filling in the form here
Only three per cent of children in care in England are getting the independent support they may be entitled to by law, new research by Barnardo’s and the National Independent Visitor Development Project has found.
Local authorities in England have a legal obligation to provide children in care with access to such support in the form of adult mentors.
Access to mentorship provides children in care with a positive role model during the years when other aspects of their lives - such as where they are living and who is looking after them - are likely to change.
A freedom of information request sent out to 152 local authorities found that 1,000 children are currently waiting to be paired with an ‘independent visitor’.
Of these local authorities, eight are floating their legal obligations by providing no independent visitor services whatsoever.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
"Every single child needs an adult they can trust, who will be there for them and stay by their side no matter what life throws their way.
I urge Theresa May to ensure mentors are in place for young people who are at risk of dropping out of education, training or employment. Children in care already have a right to a mentor, but sadly our research shows they aren’t getting the support they need.
A key aim of the Government’s new strategy for care leavers is to support them into adult life. Providing enough mentors and signing up to the new, quality standards for independent visitors will help it achieve this.”
To make sure children get the support they are legally entitled to, Barnardo's and the National Independent Visitor Project are asking government, local authorities and voluntary sector organisations to consider signing up to a new set of quality standards.
Find out more in our National Independent Vistor Data Report.
TACT welcomes today’s BBC report about profit making fostering agencies offering cash incentives to recruit foster carers working for English local authorities – and then charging more for the service.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin says: “TACT condemns financial incentives and profiteering by commercial foster care agencies. Their profits are excessive and this is money coming directly from cash strapped local authority children’s budgets that could be spent on looked after children.”
The practice of using financial inducements, or golden hellos as the BBC describes them, to get foster carers to switch agencies, is potentially harmful to children in foster care. TACT’s experience is that moving agencies can be disruptive to carers when the new agency does not turn out to be all it was promised to be.
On the matter of profiteering from fostering, Research from Corporate Watch claims that in 2014/15, eight commercial fostering agencies made £41 million in profit between them from providing foster placements to local authorities.
This is all legal, and the commercial agencies say that if children get good foster placements and achieve good outcomes, what is the problem? This is fine to a point, but local authorities, charities such as TACT and not for profit fostering agencies are also achieving great outcomes for children without taking out profit.
Andy Elvin says: “We need to decide if we, as a sector and a society, are content to allow venture capital to profit from the care of vulnerable children. The Government is happy to exclude the private sector from the child protection system so why not the care system? There seems no logic to this demarcation.”
Watch Andy Elvin's BBC interview here
Private fostering agencies are offering foster carers large sums of money to leave councils and work for them, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has said.
The ADCS said private agencies are recruiting carers with sums as large as £3,000.
Dave Hill told the BBC: “Local authorities are very committed to recruiting, training and supporting foster carers and that costs a lot of money.
“Then these agencies come along with a golden hello, they take our foster carers and we're massively out of pocket.”
He added that this is “immoral and wrong” and believes the practice should be stopped with “immediate effect”.
Foster carers are also facing increasingly straitened financial circumstances. A recent survey from The Fostering Network found that 70% said council funding cuts had had an effect on their fees.
The ADCS also said that if a foster carer changes employers, the council may end up having to pay more to private agencies in order to ensure the placement continues.
It said one county council in south-east England had to pay £512 a week for in-house foster care for each child, which rose to £934 for a private agency. A unitary authority in the west Midlands paid £331 for in-house provision and £754 for private provision.
Edward Timpson, the minister for children and families, said: “As someone whose own family fostered for many years, I greatly value the vital contribution that foster carers make to children's lives and am committed to ensuring they receive the support they need.”
He said the government is carrying out “a national stocktake of fostering”, including fostering agencies, as part of a review of children’s residential services by Sir Martin Narey, the CEO of Barnardo’s.
Large private foster agencies are offering cash incentives to recruit foster carers working for English local authorities - and then charging more for the service, councils say.
Some agencies pay "golden hellos" of around £3,000, but then charge councils more to care for the same child.
The Association of Directors of Children's Services says the practice is immoral and should be banned.
Foster agencies question the way in which councils cost their own services.
The National Association of Foster Providers also says transfers of foster carers to agencies from local authority employment may happen for reasons to do with the needs of the child.
In-house council provision v private provision
A recent independent review of residential care by government adviser Sir Martin Narey said that in 2014-15, eight commercial fostering agencies made around £41m in profit.
Not all agencies make money, some are charities or not for profit organisations.
The president of ADCS, Dave Hill, said that companies should not be profiteering from children in care and objected very strongly to "golden hellos".
"Local authorities are very committed to recruiting, training and supporting foster carers and that costs a lot of money," he said.
"Then these agencies come along with a golden hello, they take our foster carers and we're massively out of pocket.
"We think that's immoral and wrong and we think it should be stopped with immediate effect."
'That is wrong'
Mr Hill said that it cost authorities thousands of pounds to assess and train foster carers - a cost that was wasted if the carer then transferred to an agency.
And often the council, which has responsibility for children in care, will then have to pay the agency much more for the placement to continue.
However, he said, the foster carer did not get any extra money for looking after the child.
"We think those resources ought to be spent directly on the care of children in the care system and other children in our area," he added. "This is simply just taking that money away from the needs of local children and we think that is wrong."
Jan Hester has fostered nearly 50 children during her 11 years as a foster carer for Essex County Council and has seven children of her own.
With a degree in therapeutic fostering, Jan now specialises in caring for children from the most traumatic backgrounds.
She has always taken her role as a mum very seriously and regards fostering as a vocation rather than as a means of making money - foster carers are not paid an hourly minimum wage, she says.
She has been approached by independent fostering agencies but has always turned them down though she says she understands why some carers might be tempted.
"I don't agree with it. The amount of work that goes into getting someone approved... takes months, hours and hours of social workers' time to get you through that process... and then to be poached and go to another agency."
Jan fears some agencies might not offer the same level of support to carers as local authorities.
"I also know lots of foster carers that now attend the foster carer support groups that I attend that have come from those agencies, because they felt unsupported and that they felt there was more training and more support with the local authority...
"If you're unsupported, ultimately it's the children that are going to suffer because these can be really traumatised children that need lots of support...
"If you don't get the same support you can't cope as a foster carer when those children are displaying really complex behaviours. You end up with them being moved on and being moved and moved and ultimately the child suffers."
Harvey Gallagher, the chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, said councils' calculations of their costs for fostering did not include the full total of back office and support costs.
He said the NAFP had looked in detail at the way a small number of local authorities cost their own in-house fostering services and said they were based on "seemingly arbitrary assumptions".
"Little account" is taken of the differing needs of children when looking at costs, he said, adding that those placed with independent foster providers often have greater needs and therefore looking after them is more expensive.
Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said: "As someone whose own family fostered for many years, I greatly value the vital contribution that foster carers make to children's lives and am committed to ensuring they receive the support they need.
"That's why, following the recommendation made in the independent review by Sir Martin Narey, we are launching a national stocktake of fostering to better understand current provision - including looking at the role fostering agencies play.
"Alongside this we have supported the testing of new and innovative models of foster care through the £200m Children's Social Care Innovation Programme, including better ways to support foster carers."
The revelation comes amid a shortage of foster carers.
It is thought that at least 9,000 new fostering families are needed to look after the record number of children in care in England.
CoramBAAF, the independent adoption and fostering organisation, says the government's review of foster provision is a good opportunity to look at the financial incentives.
Jacqui Lawrence, a fostering development consultant, said: "Both independent agencies and local authorities can provide effective support services to foster carers in different ways and it does not have to be solely financially led.
"The focus needs to return to encouraging foster carers to explore what it is they need from their agency to enable them to take comfort and delight in the children and young people they are caring for."
A BBC report has highlighted the prevalence of ‘golden hellos’ offered to local authority foster carers by large commercial profit-making agencies to transfer.
Whilst FCC fully supports the banning of these pay-outs, we need to be clear that companies offering these incentives are in fact commercial profit-making fostering organisations, rather than a number of ethical, not-for-profit fostering agencies that exist in the UK.
Fostering Through Social Enterprise (FTSE), which represents charitable and not-for-profit fostering agencies, met in January to agree on a new term to describe its members: NFP Fostering Providers (not-for-profit fostering providers). There was a general frustration amongst members that all independent fostering providers were being ‘tarred with the same brush’.
It is extremely important that local authorities, as well as the general public, recognise that NFP Fostering Providers plough surplus income after office and support expenses, back into providing more support for their carers and children. By doing so, these organisations are able to offer more support and more training – which can only benefit the children placed within these agencies.
FCC would also like to echo the point made by Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, that the calculations for the cost of foster care within local authorities does not include the additional running costs faced by independent providers. FCC cannot speak for other organisations, but as a not-for-profit provider with a clear ethical approach to fostering, operating costs are minimal.
The full report can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36975478
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