TWO Reading charities have joined forces to promote adoption and fostering to people in the LGBT community who want to become parents.
Parents And Children Together (PACT) and Support U are jointly hosting a Cheese and Wine evening for LGBT people at 7pm, on Monday 3rd March at PACT’s office, 9 Southern Court, South Street, Reading, RG1 4QS.
The evening is taking place during the annual LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week to encourage more people to consider starting or growing their family through this route.
PACT Adopter Rob Wratten will be coming to the evening to share his story about adopting his son as a gay man.
Rob said: “It’s been an exciting year for me, this time last year I had just been approved and my son came to live with me in July.
“He has such a loving, fun and exciting personality and I love being his daddy. I’ve had lots of help and support from my family and friends. I’m so glad that I made the first step to enquire and chose to adopt with PACT.”
The evening will include the first showing of a short PACT film about Olivier and Marco who adopted their son through PACT in 2011.
Support U Manager, Claire Bannister, who was fostered as a child said: “When I was in need of someone to love and care for me, I didn't even know what sexuality was. All I wanted was someone with the warmth, the love and the compassion.
“There are plenty of children out there that still feel everyday like I did back then. You may be able to help this longing go away and that makes you one special person. Please join us to find out more.”
PACT and Support U are hosting this event as part of the LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week 2014 co-ordinated by the LGBT adoption and fostering network New Family Social.
The evening will remind people that more than 6,000 children are waiting to be adopted or fostered long-term in forever families and to celebrate LGBT families becoming parents through adoption or long term fostering.
To sign up for the evening email Jayne.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Support U’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/supportu.rdg
Changes to out-of-area placements need to be carried out in conjunction with foster care reforms
A recent press release from the Department for Education vowed to improve the use of residential placements for looked-after children, putting an end to unnecessary out-of-area placements. I agree that there is an over use of out-of-borough placements, but these changes need to be carried out in conjunction with the reforms for foster carers.
First, there needs to be immediate, intensive support for foster carers who take on children recently separated from their families to ensure they are helping the children to cope with the change and transition. This would reduce the number of moves and address those behaviours that lead to breakdown before they become unmanageable.
There needs to be extensive support for the carers of children with behavioural difficulties, or local authorities and independent fostering agencies need to have a pool of "special rate carers", carers who are given a package of support. They are paid extra to support children with behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties, mental health issues etc, and given increased supervision, training and respite. These particular carers should have a more stringent assessment procedure because they will need the normal skillset required by a foster carer, as well as more time and involvement.
Second, demographics need to be considered because it may mean a local authority has no choice but to go outside its area. There is a high concentration of carers in certain areas and minimal in others. This may not be down to the local authorities efforts to recruit; it may have to do with the makeup of the area. Every effort should be made to place the child as close as possible to the local area to ensure, where appropriate, they remain connected to family and friends.
Third, social workers and managers need to be better at explaining and evidencing the need for placing a child outside a borough. This can be a valid decision, especially in instances of gang involvement, exploitation, dangerous families, lack of placements or repeated offending.
Our responses need to be based on the need of the child or young person. Our professional judgment needs to be robust enough to withstand scrutiny, and sometimes will go against what the child or young person wants. We are still the professionals.
Finally, robust and appropriate residential facilities are needed locally. We cannot ignore the fact that foster care will not be appropriate for every child or young person. We need to account for the fact that some children will benefit more from a residential placement. This does not have to be severely restrictive, and it is possible to have placements that operate at different levels to benefit the needs of the children and young people they house.
The government needs to offer some incentive for local facilities (if they haven't already) so such services can be offered within a borough. There needs to be a gap analysis conducted by local authorities, looking at the number of children or young people they have in out-of-borough residential facilities and how many of those could return to the local authority. If the response is such that it is warranted, a tender should be put out for the service. If there is only a small proportion of children in residential facilities or the majority of those placed in these out-of-borough facilities are not appropriate to return, there should be a partnership with neighbouring boroughs to reduce cost.
Things are heading in the right direction. This change needs to be managed well because it would go a long way to improve children's outcomes. This is essential as part of an overall reform for placements of looked-after children. There are changes happening in the recruitment of foster carers that address part of the need. But I am a big proponent of having specialist carers, either at the initial stages of being in care to help stabilise children or young people or for those who have already been in the care system for an extended period and are experiencing multiple disruptions. I hope changes continue for the better.
Tiffany Green is director of TG Consultancy and blogs atKeepingtheBalanceinSW
As the 3rd annual LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week approaches, LGBT people are encouraged to learn more about the possibility of adoption and fostering.
The week, run by the UK’s LGBT adoption and fostering charity New Family Social, runs from 3-9 March 2014.
Events will be taking place across the country, with details of local events available at the LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week website.
The flagship events will take place place in London on 7 March at 6.30pm, and in Manchester on 6 March at the same time. Events are free to attend, and will include information on the assessment processes and testimony from existing LGBT adopters and foster carers.
New Family Social is also hoping to have LGBT foster carers or adopters, or those considering adoption or fostering fill in a survey to mark the launch of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week on 3 March. The survey can be accessed here.
The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) says an estimated 4,000 children need adopting every year, with the Fostering Network stating that around 9,000 extra foster carers are needed to bridge the shortfall for children currently in care.
However, experts say this could be done if just two percent of LGBT people came forward to foster or adopt.
Nonetheless, LGBT adoption is currently on the increase as in 2011-12, 160 same-sex couples adopted, representing 4% of UK adoptions for that year, but in 2012-13, 230 same-sex couples adopted, increasing to 6% of the total UK adoptions that year.
With the addition of gay single people, trans people, bisexual people in opposite-sex relationships, LGBT people are becoming a sizable portion of adopters.
FtSE Member News: - TACT calls for Welsh Government to allow young people to stay with foster carers until 21
TACT Cymru has joined forces with other Welsh charities to call for the Welsh Government to follow the lead of England and Scotland in allowing young people in care to stay with their foster carers until 21.
Recent announcements in England have seen requirements imposed on local authorities to provide fostering services until the age of 21. In Scotland, the government has gone further and plans to raise the care leaving age to 21 so that children in residential and other care arrangements will also benefit.
The Welsh Government has introduced an amendment to the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill, currently before the Senedd. This will allow local authorities to provide services until 21, but will not be a requirement.
TACT and other charities will continue to campaign on this issue. If the Welsh Government does not agree to introduce a requirement on local authorities, we will seek to persuade authorities to make suitable provision. Whatever the initial outcome, TACT will continue to campaign, until children across the UK are entitled to stay with their carers until at least 21. We know that this gives them the best platform to go on to become successful adults.
The text of the letter signed by TACT and 11 other charities is below.
“Dear Deputy Minister for Social Services
We believe you share our conviction that more fostered young people across Wales should be able to remain with their foster carer beyond the age of 17.
The average age for leaving home in the UK is 24, but many young people in Wales are forced to move out of foster homes before they are 18.
Care leavers are among the most vulnerable in our society. They are less likely to do well educationally and are more likely to have a mental illness, be homeless, misuse substances, be unemployed, or spend time in prison than those who haven’t been in care.
By giving young people the chance to stay with foster carers, we can change this. Evidence shows that the longer a young person can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are later on. The one-to-one support and guidance offered by foster carers is crucial in helping these young people in their transition to adulthood and independence.
Experience shows that we cannot rely on the voluntary, guidance-led approach to solve this problem. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill provides a clear opportunity to make sure children in care receive the time and support they need to succeed.
We welcome that the Government has committed to address this issue by tabling an amendment to the Bill, but it is crucial that any change in the law places an obligation on local authorities to allow fostered young people to stay beyond 18. Merely giving local authorities a power to provide these arrangements will not drive real change for young people, and we urge you to introduce a strong legal duty supported by adequate financial resources.
Providing young people with the opportunity to stay with their foster carers represents real value for money. The Chance To Stay – Cyfle i Aros report estimates the additional cost at £1.1 million per year, with this low short-term investment providing long-term benefits for the Welsh economy, and for the young people and the foster families that care for them.
We urge you to use this Bill to change the law to ensure that care leavers get a fair start to adult life.”
Lords agree that over-18 year olds should be able to stay with their foster carers
A 'Staying Put' amendment, proposed by the Government, which will allow young people in England to stay with their foster carers beyond their 18th birthdays, has now been formally made to the Children and Families Bill in the House of Lords.
The amendment represents another milestone in the successful Don't Move Me campaign. The charity's role in achieving the amendment was praised by Lord Listowel during the debate in the Lords chamber. The peer, who led the fight for this change to the law in the House of Lords, said:
"I am grateful to the coalition of charities which made this possible, including Barnardo's, the NSPCC and the Who Cares? Trust, and most especially to Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, who led the charge. The help offered by his officer, Vicki Swain, was faultless."
Lord Nash, who tabled the amendment on behalf of the Government, reassured peers of the Government's commitment to ensuring local authorities implement the change properly. He said:
"We are continuing to work with sector organisations on the guidance to ensure that it supports the effective implementation of this important new duty. We are committed to doing more to support care leavers, and I believe that the proposed new clause is a crucial step forward."
The amendment was accepted by the Lords and has now become part of the Bill, which is expected to receive Royal Assent this spring.
Fostering Network says that at present, some young people are supported to stay with their foster family beyond 17 by their local authority, while others are reliant on their foster carers being willing and able to keep them out of their own pocket. Many young people find themselves having to leave their foster home and live independently by their 18th birthdays. This change to the law will place a duty on English local authorities to facilitate and support staying put arrangements for all fostered young people, where this is what they and their foster carers want. Crucially, the importance of financial support for foster carers has been directly addressed by the Government: they have pledged an extra £40 million for local authorities over three years to ensure that foster carers will not be out of pocket as a result of offering staying put placements.
FtSE Member News: Action For Children - Highland region of Scottish Land & Estates names its first charity partnership
Action for Children Scotland has been named as the inaugural charity for a new partnership with the Highland division of Scottish Land and Estates. As part of the exciting initiative, landowners across the region will aim to raise £70,000 over the next two years.
Scottish Land & Estates is a membership association, acting as the voice for estates, farms and land based businesses in rural Scotland. It will hold a variety of activity days and events for the community on members’ land and at selected properties from now until December 2015 to raise funds for Action for Children Scotland.
Hilary Canto, fundraiser at Action for Children Scotland, said: “This is a really exciting initiative that seeks to raise vital funds for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children, young people and families, whilst bringing communities together to learn about the land and take part in great events at truly stunning locations. There will be lots going on so I urge people to keep an eye out for Scottish Land and Estates fundraising events in their area.”
Gordon Robertson, Chairman of the Highland Region of Scottish Land & Estates, welcomed the establishment of the new partnership. He said: “Landowners, by the nature of their role as custodians, usually have a long-term vision woven into their management objectives. Looking ahead to the next generation fits naturally with the obligations that we all have to educate, care for and inspire our children.
“It is a privilege to be able to play a part in Action for Children’s invaluable work and I feel sure that the membership of Scottish Land & Estates will continue to come forward with imaginative ideas for fund raising and to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters to benefit from positive rural experiences. Our members already contribute a great deal to Scotland’s rural areas and this is another example of their eagerness to invest time and resources and displays how they continue to be a part of the fabric of the rural community.”
For more information about Scottish Land & Estates’ partnership with Action for Children Scotland, please contact Hilary Canto on 07803 115475 or by email at Hilary.Canto@actionforchildren.org.uk
St Christopher’s Fellowship today welcomed the commitment by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson to work with children’s charities to see how residential care can be extended to young people aged up to 21.
The commitment, in a Commons adjournment debate led by Craig Whittaker MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Looked After Children, comes after the Government increased the leaving age for fostered children to 21.
Mr Timpson said he would ask his team to work with the Who Cares Trust, Catch 22 and the National Children’s Bureau to see how obstacles to extending care in children’s homes could be overcome.
Sam Olsen, Director of Strategy and Development at St Christopher’s said: “We welcomed the increase in leaving age for fostered children and we welcome this latest intervention by the minister.
“Children looked after in children’s homes have been overlooked, and disadvantaged, because they will not benefit from the extension of care granted to fostered children.
“We need to ensure that we do not end up with a two-tier care system. Children looked after in children’s homes often have greater needs than those who are being fostered and to achieve better outcomes they will need a greater level of support.
“In many cases, children leaving children’s homes will be in greater need of continuing, high quality, care and support and it is really important that we ensure they get it.
“We call on the Government to guarantee appropriate care, housing and support to all young people leaving children’s homes at 16 until they are at least 21.”
St Christopher’s, a children’s charity established in 1870, runs children’s homes, fostering services and supported accommodation for care leavers across England and the Isle of Man.
The UK Government's new law will give young people the chance to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday.
By allowing young people to stay with their foster carers for longer, the government has taken a step forward in righting the wrongs of a system that allows young people to leave care at 16.
Most children in care will have experienced great distress and upheaval in their childhood and for these reasons are not always ready to be independent.
Responding to the 'Staying Put' amendment in the Children and Families Bill, Action for Children welcomes the change but wants the age increase to apply to all young people in care.
Jacob Tas, interim chief executive of Action for Children, said: “This legislation will make an enormous difference to the lives of children and is very welcome, but it is only part of the solution.
“The care leaving age should be raised to 21 for every one – vulnerable children, many of whom have been abused or neglected, who live in residential care or with friends and relatives, face life alone as young as 16 at the moment.
“This won’t be straightforward, but is a challenge worth tackling as right now society is failing all the young people who are forced to leave care too soon.”
As a foster care provider Action for Children will work closely with governments to make sure the new legislation works. We are also working with the Welsh Government to make the case to ensure young people in Wales have the same rights.
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