Oscar nominee Samantha Morton is the latest big name to throw her support behind the Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign.
The film star, who spent time in the care system as a youngster, feels passionately that no child should be without a safe and secure environment in which to grow and develop.
"As a foster child myself I would not be where I am today without the people that were kind enough to help and care for me when others were unable. Please please consider fostering a child."
Samantha joins singer Gareth Gates, the son of foster carers, in supporting this year’s campaign, which beings on Monday 14 May and will highlight the urgent need for more foster carers across the UK.
For more information about fostering and becoming a foster carer, visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or ring Fosterline on 0800 040 7675.
NSPCC calls for much stricter assessment of children's needs and parents' problems.
Almost half of abused or neglected children who return home from care suffer further harm, the NSPCC is warning.
The charity claims that many returned children are finding their trust in adults shattered by their experiences, as documented in its report Returning Home From Care, published on Monday. Last year, more than 90,000 children were in care in England, the majority as a result of abuse or neglect. But some 10,000 returned home, compared with just 3,050 who were adopted.
The NSPCC report warns: "For too many children, returning home results in further abuse or neglect and often re-entry into care, causing significant long-term harm."
It cites academic research that found 46% of children who entered care as a result of abuse or neglect suffered further abuse or neglect if they returned home. Another study suggested the proportion was 42%.
The NSPCC's warning comes as the number of annual court applications to place children in care has exceeded 10,000 for the first time.
Between a third and a half of children who return home re-enter care or have to be accommodated again as a result of their experiences, according to the NSPCC.
The charity's report is based on interviews with social workers and more than 200 children in care. More than 70% of children consulted by the NSPCC said they were not ready to return home.
Tom Rahilly, head of strategy development for looked-after children at the NSPCC, said its report suggested that, in many cases, keeping vulnerable children in care was the right option. "Care does provide a safe and supportive environment for some of our most vulnerable children," he said. "The trauma caused to children who are abused, go into care, and are then abused again when they return home is unimaginable. Their trust in adults and their motivation to speak out is shattered."
One teenage girl who called the NSPCC's ChildLine said she was too scared to talk to adults because they "are nasty" and "can hurt you".
She said: "When I was little, my parents hit me, so I was taken into care. Then when I was a bit older, I went back to my parents, but things got worse, so I'm now in care again.
"I'm finding it hard being here and I want to go home, even though I know what will happen there. I'm afraid to leave my bedroom — when I go out of the room I get stressed and I can't breathe and struggle to eat. I don't want to talk to anyone because they might hurt me."
Another teenage girl who had recently returned home from care said: "I'm finding it very difficult. There's a lot of shouting and fighting. My social worker said that if I ever wanted to talk I could call her, but she hasn't returned my calls."
The NSPCC said the current focus on adoption was welcome, but fewer than one in 20 children in care are eventually adopted. "Focusing equally on the far higher number who return home would have a substantial impact on reducing repeated harm," the charity said.
The NSPCC argues that children should be returned only when there has been a comprehensive assessment of their needs and effective support provided for them and their parents.
It is calling for the government to publish full data on the outcomes of looked-after children who are returned home, in a bid to increase transparency and accountability. It also claims that there is a need to support problem families to tackle issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues and poor parenting skills both before and after the return of their children.
"Evidence shows that the wrong decision is being made in far too many cases," Rahilly said. "So it's vital that decisions to return a child home are taken cautiously and the risks to the child are assessed carefully. If parents' problems have not improved, the child must stay in the safety of care. And if a child is returned home, the concerns which led to them being removed in the first place must be addressed before they go home."
Last year, the government introduced a framework for children in care that requires local authorities to assess parents' suitability and set out the services to be provided to support them.
"It is right to keep families together where it is in children's best interests," said Tim Loughton, the children's minister. "It is wrong for local authorities to return children to potentially abusive households repeatedly, without being 100% sure they will be safe.
"We've toughened up the law, so local authorities must make a rigorous assessment of parents' suitability and set out the expert support they will provide, before sending a child home."
A pilot to trial new ways of speeding up care proceedings, in line with recommendations made by the family justice review, has been launched in London.
The Care Proceedings Pilot, which launched this week, will test new ways of working between the family courts, three London councils – Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea – and courts body Cafcass.
It aims to achieve permanent plans for children within the six-month target recommended by the review. All care cases, from April, will form part of the pilot.
“Delay in any part of the system causes a knock-on delay elsewhere so we are trying to make every part of the system work to its optimum efficiency,” said Steve Miley, director of family services at Hammersmith and Fulham council.
Councils will deliver prompt, high quality assessments that “meet the court’s needs and reduce the need for second opinions”, Miley said, while judges will ensure children’s timescales are central to cases and Cafcass that guardians do not contribute to delay.
The Inner London Family Proceedings Court will hold designated days for cases being heard under the pilot and there will be judicial continuity, wherever possible.
Two new positions, a project manager and a case manager, have been created. They will coordinate between 80-100 care cases across the boroughs every year, tracking and chasing the progress of each case to make sure it is completed within six months.
They will also support social workers to make the changes, Miley said. “We will support our social workers, through guidance, to do more comprehensive assessments. There will be extra work within cases but less work overall if we reduce the likelihood of cases being extended.”
Care cases in the boroughs currently take between 55 to 65 weeks, but the pilot should see cases completely in around 26 weeks.
“It sounds radical, compared with how long cases take now, but it can be done,” Miley said. “Our project manager visited Grimsby where their average case takes 22 weeks. We are also clear that six months is not a blanket rule.”
The pilot, part of a ‘Whole Place’ community budget awarded to the councils by the Department for Communities and Local Government, has a start-up budget of approximately £50,000 and is expected to cost around £160,000 per year.
Each borough has also contributed costs to the pilots. Palmer said: “We spend around £30,000 on internal lawyers and external advocates per care case in Hammersmith and Fulham so that’s around £1.7m every year on lawyers alone. If we reduce the length of care proceedings we will also reduce some of our costs.”
Andrew Christie, who oversees the children’s departments in all three boroughs, said: “While the measurable focus of this pilot might be to speed up family court proceedings and hit the six-month target, the overarching aim is to achieve greater permanency and emotional stability for vulnerable children in our care.”
TACT is delighted to have been mentioned in the April issue of the Magistrate Magazine.
The article 'The criminalisation of looked-after children' refers its readers to TACT's recently launched research report 'Looked after children and offending: reducing risk and promoting resilience'.
Inclusion in Magistrate Magazine demonstrates how TACT is reaching an ever increasing range of audience.
Gareth Gates, star of stage and screen, is supporting this year’s Foster Care Fortnight, the Fostering Network’s annual recruitment and awareness campaign.
Running from 14-27 May, Foster Care Fortnight brings together fostering services from throughout the UK to recruit foster carers and raise the profile of fostering.
The singer has thrown his support behind this year’s campaign because he feels that, as the son of a foster carer, more people need to take up the mantle of caring for children in our communities. With 8,750 more foster families needed this year alone the campaign is more important than ever.
Gareth said of his experiences: “When I was growing up, I was always surrounded by lots of other children. In addition to my three sisters my Mum and Dad fostered children. Over the years around 50 boys and girls of all ages, from different backgrounds have been a part of our family.
Foster carers from all backgrounds and experiences are needed so that children with often complex needs and a wide variety of interests can be found the placement that will give them the best opportunity in the future.
Gareth continued, “My parents wanted to give other children some of the security and love that we had. Many of the kids who came into our family didn’t have a great start in life and I know my Mum and Dad made a huge difference.
“I have seen first-hand, what a difference a foster carer can make on a child’s life. That’s why I’m supporting the Fostering Network with this year’s Foster Care Fortnight.”
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “As the son of foster carers, he knows the extraordinary contribution that they make to society as whole but most importantly, the individual children that they help and nurture.
“We are absolutely delighted that Gareth is supporting the campaign and helping us raise awareness of the need for more foster carers.”
You can find out more about becoming a foster carer and about the exciting events going on in your area during Foster Care Fortnight by visiting our website, www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or by contacting your local fostering service.
FtSE member agency, TACT, has put together a short film to celebrate the positive experiences that fostering can bring, not only to a foster child but everyone involved.
Click here to watch TACT carers, children who foster, care leavers and others reflect on how fostering has enriched their lives.
With local council elections taking place in Scotland, Wales and parts of England on Thursday 3 May, the Fostering Network is calling on foster carers to get involved and lobby their local candidates.
Over the next few weeks, candidates will be busy campaigning in their communities and foster carers are being urged to talk to them about fostering and the needs of the children they look after.
All local councillors have a legal responsibility for all children in the public care of the authority and the Fostering Network has picked out four key questions for foster carers to put to them in the run up to the election.
If you were a councillor how would you:
Foster carers are also being encouraged to raise any other fostering issues specific to their area where they feel local councillors need to take action.
Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at the Fostering Network, said: “This is a major opportunity to ensure that as many candidates as possible, from all parties, understand and value foster care.
“We want all candidates to know that caring about fostering and the needs of children in care are vital to their election, and foster carers are the key to them getting that message.”
FtSE Member News: Applications for children to be taken into care reach a record 10,000 - Read Barnardo's response in The Sun
By JANE STACEY, Barnardo's Deputy Chief Executive
THE increase in the number of children being referred into care might seem alarming.
But I am pleased that decisions are being made more quickly to remove children from damaging situations.
Families who are struggling need to get support early on so they have the tools to do the very best they can.
These are difficult decisions for social workers to make but the interests of the children must come first.
Leaving children in neglectful situations can cause long-term damage. So professionals do have to act.
But there is a real need for more foster parents and more adoptive parents.
We would be very happy to hear from members of the public who would consider coming forward.
Foster parenting is very challenging but it is also very rewarding.
Care can and does improve the lives of vulnerable children.
This is why it is essential that we ensure there are more foster or adoptive parents available to provide them with a stable and loving home.
Barnardo’s is urging more people to consider putting themselves forward as potential fosters or adopters.
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