FtSE Member News: FtSE to attend Community Foster Care's Building Communities – Developing Confidence Conference
Fostering News: Young people who stay in foster care beyond 18 twice as likely to be in full time education at 19
A new report reveals that young people who stay in foster care beyond 18 are twice as likely to be in full time education at 19 as those who leave care at 18. The report also reveals that young people staying in foster care beyond 18 have more control over their lives and their transition from care.
The findings come from the Staying Put 18plus pilot evaluation that has been released by the Department for Education.
About the Staying Put 18plus pilot
The Staying Put 18plus pilot offered young people who had established relationships with foster carers the opportunity to remain with their carers until they reached 21. The key objectives of the pilot were to:
The aims of the evaluation, conducted in partnership between the Centre for Child and Family Research, Loughborough University and the Catch22 National Care Advisory Service (NCAS), were to assess the effectiveness and impact of the Staying Put pilots on helping young people stay in foster care beyond 18.
A peer research approach to evaluation
A key element of the evaluation was the use of the peer research methodology, supported by NCAS, 12 care experienced young people from six participating authorities were trained and supported to conduct 32 interviews with young people who had benefited from the Staying Put pilots.
The evaluation found that many foster families offer a warm, nurturing environment, compensatory care and a secure base, that young people who stayed with foster carers were twice likely to be in full time education at 19 compared to those that did not and that Staying Put gave young people more control over their lives and their transition from care. The most common explanation young people provided for not wanting to stay put was poor quality relationships with their carers or others in the placement.
Read the full report (677KB, PDF)
Read the young people’s peer research report (724KB, PDF)
There were some positives that could be taken from the Minister’s speech regarding the care system and adoption. For example, as TACT has repeatedly stated it, the experiences of abuse, neglect and chaos prior to care entry cause disadvantage to young people, not the care system itself. The Education Minister’s acknowledgement of this, as well as commenting on the excellent work social workers do under extreme pressure, is a welcome change of tone.
However, while admittedly praising the work of foster carers, the Minister remains to appear fixed on his view of adoption as the gold standard for children in the care system. As a fostering and adoption service provider, TACT has experience of what works across the care system. We know that it is stability and support that helps children prosper rather than any perceived hierarchy of care option.
Gove also believes, rightly, that the sooner children are removed from neglectful and abusive environments, the better. However, no implication should be drawn from this that late entry into care cannot also reap dividends. Recently published research TACT undertook with the University of East Anglia ‘Looked after Children and Offending: Reducing Risk and Promoting Resilience’ shows that older children coming into care can benefit greatly from stability and a supported, caring foster placement.
Long term foster placements can offer similar outcomes to those adopted from care. The Minister himself admits that ‘maltreated children who remain in care did better than those who were sent home’. The majority of TACT’s foster care placements are long term and the outcomes are reflected in this stability; the number of our young people passing five or more GCSEs is roughly double the number for looked after children nationally. Our last recorded statistics show over 90% of our 6-18 year old young people are in employment, education or training. These fantastic achievements are a reflection of foster care providing a stable, loving environment for children in care.
Similarly, whilst the Minister gives anecdotal examples of those who have struggled to adopt, or be adopted, these are not put in context. Ethnicity is less of an issue to finding adoptive families than age, with older (and disabled) children often unable to find families.
While the focus of the Adoption Action Plan seems to be speeding the process up, it is crucial that effective post adoption support is provided. We know from experience that ensuring sufficient resource to help and support a new family after adoption is fundamental to success. Unfortunately, the funding available for support falls far short of what is needed. Indeed, some of the delay the Minister complains of is caused by families unwilling to seek a final adoption order because they are concerned by the lack of support that will then be available once the child is no longer in care. This is a particular issue when adopting children who are disabled or who have particular needs.
We agree with the Minister that more children should be adopted and unnecessary delay and bureaucracy reduced. However, improvement of the adoption system should only be seen as part of an overall improvement. TACT, along with other charities in the sector, is currently planning an enquiry into permanence in care and hope to engage the government in this work.
Fostering News: Survey shows strengths of gay adopters as first LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week launches
Gay adopters and foster carers are being hailed by social workers for their significant strengths in a survey commissioned by New Family Social.
At a time when adoption figures are at a 10 year low, 72% of social workers surveyed saw the "amount of energy and enthusiasm" LGBT adopters bring to the process as a significant strength, while 76% saw "openness to difference, and supporting a child with a sense of difference" as equally important.
Hugh Thornbery, Strategic Director of Children's Services at Action for Children, a key partner of the week, said: "Over the years, our LGBT foster carers and adopters have helped to transform many children's lives and we welcome more applications from LGBT people."
Andy Leary-May, Director of New Family Social, said: "More and more LGBT people are choosing adoption and fostering as a way to form a family, and we want prospective parents to see just how rewarding it can be, and how much advice and support is on offer from our huge community of families around the UK".
FtSE Member News: The number of children being referred into care in England is now higher than ever before...
Barnardo's Chief Executive, Anne Marie Carrie, says:
While the increase in the number of children being referred into care might cause alarm, I am pleased that decisions are being made more quickly to remove children from harmful environments.
Whilst some parents need to be supported to improve the standard of care they provide for their children, where this is not possible we must act. Care can and does transform the lives of vulnerable children. This is why it is essential that we ensure that there are foster or adoptive parents ready to provide them with a stable and loving family.”
The children's court advisory service, Cafcass, says there were more than 900 care applications in January 2012. This figure is 12.4% higher when compared to the same period last year and the highest ever recorded by Cafcass.
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