St Christopher’s took part in Foster Care Fortnight 2016, a national campaign by the Fostering Network to raise awareness of fostering and to celebrate the work that carers do.
The theme for this year’s event was Time to Foster, Time to Care. Every 20 minutes a child comes into care in the UK in need of a foster family. More than 9,000 new carers are needed across the country in this year alone.
We asked our carers to think of their favourite fostering memory with St Christopher’s so that we could share it on social media. They all spoke about how rewarding it is to be a carer and how they feel proud of their young people’s achievements. Two carers also shared stories about their fostering experiences with us on our blog.
Our fostering teams in London, Essex and the West Midlands also got involved by sharing the things they like the most out about working with St Christopher’s carers.
In our office in Putney, South West London, staff celebrated the fortnight with some 20 minute activities including a French lesson, a quiz and a communal lunch. Everyone also donned their best green outfits for one day during the first week and brought in homemade cakes to start Foster Care Fortnight with a bang.
The activities made people think about the things they could learn in 20 minutes and how they could make a difference to someone’s life in this amount of time.
Carers have a really challenging job but they make a tangible difference to the young people they support. Thank you to all of our foster carers for the amazing work you do.
Town hall bosses have highlighted research that shows children in foster care do better at school to help promote Foster Care Fortnight.
The study by researchers from Oxford and Bristol universities found the stability provided by foster carers helped children achieve better results compared to others receiving social care support.
Young people interviewed for the report spoke of the importance of having someone who genuinely cared for them, and who would not let them down.
The report is being used by the Local Government Association (LGA) to help promote Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until 29 May and is the organised every year by the Fostering Network to help encourage more people to come forward and provide a home for a child.
‘A stable, caring foster family can make the world of difference to a child in need, providing them with the right environment to thrive at school and experience the childhood they deserve,’ said the chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Rob Perry.
‘This research highlights the value of that support, with children who may have experienced all kind of suffering and neglect responding well to the nurturing, encouragement and sense of belonging that's provided by a good foster family,’ added Cllr Perry.
‘For anyone considering opening up their home to a child who needs it, local councils provide lots of training and support, from the first contact right through any future placements, so I would strongly urge people to get in touch with their council to find out how they can help.’
A foster mother – and adopter – on why Cameron’s changes to the adoption process are a step too far
I’ll never forget the anguish I felt when I waved goodbye to the children I had fostered for nearly three years. Tess and Harry, gorgeous blonde-haired, brown-eyed siblings, came to stay with our family when they were both less than 18 months old and left when they were almost ready for school.
I was so anxious the day I was introduced to their adopters that I burst into tears before we even shook hands. It was the relief as much as anything else; the eagerness on their faces and kindness in their eyes reassuring me the siblings would be safe in their arms.
The day before the introductions, I took the little ones to have their hair cut. “I’m meeting New Mummy and Daddy tomorrow,” Tess told the hairdresser, bobbing around in her chair. The children clung to me and cried when I told them they were moving on and they were still a little withdrawn, but there was intrigue there as well.
“Tess and Harry are meeting their adopters tomorrow,” I explained to the hairdresser, who was looking confused.
She pouted. “Ahh, how sad. Why doesn’t their real mum want them?”
Tess’s face crumpled, her eyes filled with tears.
A 10-day handover followed, a gruelling experience for all of us – and especially bewildering for the siblings. It was heartbreaking to finally let them go, but I felt sure they were moving on to a place of safety and love. It’s been several years since they left, but we still think of them often, quietly sending them our love.
Since then I’ve become an adopter myself. Few life events can surpass the joy of walking into a courtroom as a family of three and emerging as a family of four, and in that special moment it’s easy to forget that one of you is grieving. My five-year-old daughter, Megan, was three when I adopted her, but she still remembers the family she left behind.
Social services manage final contacts with birth parents as sensitively as they can, but I’ve seen contact supervisors literally wrench distraught children from their sobbing birth mothers arms after saying their final goodbyes – it’s a brutal, draconian process. Children almost always want to be with their birth parents, no matter how abusive or neglectful they may have been and however loving or attentive the replacements are. Removing children from all they have known, no matter how necessary, can leave them with painful sensory memories and an aching sense of loss.
The current system of finding fostered children a permanent home, whenever possible, within their birth family’s network of family or friends has led to a fall in the number of adoptions, but I believe maintaining that link helps to mitigate the crisis of identity that so many adoptees carry with them through life.
That’s why I worry that the fundamental changes to the adoption process announced in the Queen’s speech last week are a step too far. David Cameron has said he is “unashamedly pro-adoption”, and favours new laws that will “tip the balance” in favour of adoption, even if that means overriding family ties. But most UK adoptions already proceed without the consent of the child’s birth parents and twice-yearly letterbox contact is the norm.
Across Europe, non-consensual adoption is rare, with many babies remaining in foster care and maintaining direct contact with birth parents throughout childhood. Many children thrive in long-term care, often maintaining close (and usually lifelong) ties with their foster family long after the placement has ended.
In the US, 60%-70% of adoptions are open, with adoptees having regular contact with their birth family. Sometimes, for reasons of safety, face-to-face contact isn’t possible, but regular meet-ups allow adoptees to grow up with a realistic view of their biological parents, avoiding the birth family fantasies that sometimes drive adoptees to search for their family in secret using social networking sites. Unsupervised reunions inevitably follow, sometimes leading to a disruption in the adoptive placement.
Our family continued to foster after adopting Megan, and we have a little boy with us at the moment. Reggie has just turned three, with a gap-toothed smile and the cutest dimples I’ve ever seen. He arrived when he was two years old, head resting on his social worker’s shoulder, eyes half-closed and swollen. For the first few days he wore a puzzled expression, as if he wasn’t quite sure which faces would greet him as he pottered around unfamiliar rooms. Now he throws himself at me for a bleary-eyed hug in the morning, and screeches with excitement when his foster sister says hello.
The adoption team called last week with the news that they have identified a match for Reggie, and my heart lurched. Letting little ones go never gets any easier, however much practice I get.
I have no way of knowing what’s in store for Reggie, and until he’s old enough to express his views, no one can say for certain whether cutting ties with his birth family worked out for the best, but I’m hopeful that he’ll gain parents who will love and treasure him. And I know for certain that wherever he goes, we’ll be cheering him on from here.
Names have been changed
The Fostering Network warmly welcomes the publication of Lord Laming’s independent review of children in care’s involvement in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. We agree that ‘aiming to reduce the disproportionate number of young people who are, or have been, in public care progressing into custody’ is laudable, and we believe that, if implemented, the recommendations made within the report will make a positive difference to the lives of children in care.
Too often negative statements are made around children in care which are both harmful and misleading. This review is clear and helpful in stating that 94 per cent of children of looked after children in England and Wales don’t get into trouble with the law. And when considering the six per cent of looked after children who do have involvement with the criminal justice system, it is vitally important to understand that children in care and care leavers are being over-criminalised for minor offences.
We welcome the recommendation that police forces should be allowed ‘to record low-level, crime-related behaviour by children and young people in a way that ensures referral to a welfare agency to address the behaviour, does not create a criminal record and cannot be disclosed by an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.’ Currently minor incidents that might be dealt with by parents – or, in some cases, with a ‘verbal warning’ from the police – are too often quickly escalated for children in care so that they end up in the criminal justice system when their peers would not.
Lord Laming makes it clear that ‘starting at the point of evidence of criminal behaviour is for many young people simply too late in the day.’ Prevention is, and always has been, better than the cure. Prevention is better for society, for the economy and, most importantly, for the children and families involved. And that is why we re-iterate our previous calls that the Government ensures that early intervention funding does not continue to be a casualty of local authority budget cuts.
Good foster care can be, and is, a protective factor for fostered children, many of whom have had a traumatic start to life coming from backgrounds of deprivation, abuse and neglect – all of which are factors that can lead to a range of emotional, social and behavioural difficulties, including anti-social and offending behaviour. The role of foster carers in managing challenging behaviour must be recognised, and proper training support must be given to foster carers.
Staying Put and When I am Ready, which allow young people who are settled in foster care to stay with their foster carers up to the age of 21 in England and Wales, must both be sufficiently funded and consistently implemented by their respective Government’s so that young care leavers have the best possible chance of a successful transition to adulthood.
As Laming’s report says : ‘Investing in childhood is more than a nice thing to do. It has a real value that goes beyond the child as it facilitates the future wellbeing of society.’ We couldn’t agree more.
Yesterday, the Queen's Speech introduced the new Children and Social Work Bill, which outlines a strengthening of adoption for children, and also more supports for care leavers.
While I fully support that adoption is the best option for many looked after children to secure permanence, and all the benefits that stability can bring, I want to speak out for the value that permanence in foster care can bring for children and young people too.
We have many children and young people who are matched for permanence with their foster carers, and are enjoying family life, with the love, security and stability that this brings. We know that care really does work for many young people and I think it's important to speak up for the fantastic young people who are confident, talented in many different ways, and looking towards positive futures, thanks to the love and security they have been given by exceptional fostering families.
It was great to see more support being promised to care leavers up until the age of 25, through personal advisors, and clearer information about entitlements. We know from our own consultation with some care leavers that information can be varied, and it's often unclear exactly what they are entitled to. However, I want to recognise the very significant difference that foster carers make for young people, and we know that these relationships are hugely important, not just up to age 18, but beyond that also. Whether young people remain "staying put" (that means staying with their foster carers beyond the age of 18) , or just continue to enjoy ongoing relationships from an independent home, we know that foster carers are very important to young people, and many continue those supports unpaid, and often without recognition, but get a great deal out of seeing young people grow and thrive in adulthood.
New strengthened practices, and promises are welcome, and will help, but in the end it's people, and relationships that will make the difference.
Vicky Davidson Boyd
This Foster Care Fortnight we’re calling out for more foster carers in the North East, Yorkshire and the East Midlands to get in touch to find out more about becoming a foster carer with us.
The theme for this year’s Foster Care Fortnight is ‘Time to foster, time to care’, and we are urging those interested in fostering to take the time and make the next step to become a foster carer.
Figures released by The Fostering Network show that there is a need for 1,900 more foster carers to cope with the number of children coming into care across the North East, Yorkshire and East Midlands, and with a child coming into foster care every 20 minutes; these numbers are set to increase.
At Team Fostering, we are looking for foster carers from all walks of life who want to make a real difference to a young person’s life. We would be particularly interested in speaking to foster carers who want to provide care for teenagers and sibling groups.
As a not for profit agency, we invest any money made back into outstanding support and services for foster carers and children and young people. In our recent Outstanding inspection report (March 2016) Ofsted said “The Agency provides high quality foster care to children and young people with complex needs. Children and young people enjoy family life. They develop positive relationships with the adults who care for and support them, and consequently they thrive and develop, often over and above what was expected”.
All Team Fostering carers have access to our round the clock on call system managed by our team of Social Workers, an extensive calendar of training courses designed to equip you with the skills and confidence to meet the needs of our children and young people, and activities and holidays for you as a fostering family. In addition you will be provided with a generous fee and allowances to support you in the role as a foster carer.
We provide a range of fostering types including our specialist fostering placements; Wraparound and Evolution, all providing continuous support and training tailored to meet the individual needs of the children and young people. Our specialist fostering placements would ideally suit carers with extensive skills and knowledge in providing care for vulnerable young people.
If you are interested in fostering we would welcome you to get in touch with us at Team Fostering. We know that each person’s situation is different and quite often talking in through with someone can be the first step to becoming a foster carer.
If you would like to get in touch you can make an enquiry on our website or get in touch with one of our local offices across the North East, Yorkshire and East Midlands. We would love to hear from you!
Take the time this Foster Care Fortnight and make the next steps to becoming a foster carer.
3 new foster carer families were recommended for approval as foster carers at the Young People at Heart fostering Panel held last night.
Founder of Young People at Heart, Gary Cox, said he was delighted the new foster carers had chosen to foster with the organisation and he was particularly pleased that one couple had specifically sought to foster with a not-for-profit fostering provider.
He wished them all the greatest of success in making a difference in the lives of young people in care and added that as all the foster carer families currently with Young People at Heart had placements, they would provide much needed availability for the unprecedented level of referrals being received.
Gary also said he was pleased that two of the new foster carer families each had 2 bedrooms available for fostering which gave them and the organisation the opportunity of keeping siblings together.
Young People at Heart are still looking to recruit more foster carers, so if you are interested in fostering, would like to transfer with your existing placement or would like to find out more about Young People at Heart’s not-for-profit ethos, please complete the enquiry form on our website.
Industry News: Our government wants to transform the quality of children's social careEdward Timpson
Children’s social care is about changing lives. It has the ability not just to improve the circumstances of vulnerable children but to transform them completely. That’s why as a government we’re determined that every child in the country, whatever their background, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. And children’s social care services have an essential role to play – whether that be by keeping children safe from harm, finding the best possible care when children cannot live at home, or creating the conditions that enable children to thrive and achieve.
Children who come into contact with the social care system have often had more to deal with in their short lives than many adults. I know from my own family’s experience – having grown up with 80 foster brothers and sisters, and two adopted brothers – the intrinsic value of secure, trusted relationships and the importance of having a stable family home. And that without the right support, too many children find themselves on the wrong track, denied the opportunity to become the person they could be.
So we are taking the next step to giving these children the chance of a better life, with the introduction of our children and social work bill. This builds on the foundations we have laid over the last six years. Over that time, we have changed the law so children in care can stay with their foster families after they turn 18; we have made radical strides in delivering a world-class adoption system; we have rolled out a £100m innovation programme to drive excellence in children’s social care practice, with a further £200m committed over the next four years; and we have supported the high-quality training and development of social workers through programmes like Frontline and Step Up – so we can raise the status and standard of this crucial profession.
But now is the time to go further. There is a real opportunity over the next four years to truly transform the quality of children’s social care services in England.
Although many children in and leaving care achieve fantastic things, we know that too many get left behind. The children and social work bill enshrines in law for the first time the responsibilities we have as a country towards these children, who often have no one to speak out on their behalf, to act as their “corporate parent”.
Being a good parent means having your child’s hopes, fears and aspirations in mind. That is what our new principles – and our “local offer for care leavers” – require. The care leaver covenant will reflect society’s collective responsibility towards all care leavers, and I’ll be asking businesses, charities and the rest of the public sector to set out how they will support young people coming out of care. Parental responsibilities don’t end at 18 or 21, just as a young person starts to make their way in the world. That is why this bill provides all care leavers up to age 25 with access to a personal adviser, who will guide and support them on anything from applying for jobs to finding a first place to live.
The bill also represents the next important step in our plans to transform the adoption system. Over the last two years, the number of decisions for adoption have almost halved. We know that up and down the country, grandparents, relatives and foster parents do a fantastic job caring for children – and we will continue to support them in doing so. But we also know that some children are being put in unsuitable placements with relatives whom authorities are not confident will be able to look after the child for the long term. This isn’t right. So the bill will improve the way decisions about placements and adoptions are taken, making sure they are always in the best interests of the child and take account of the impact of the abuse and neglect they may have experienced, as well as providing adopted children with the additional support they need to thrive in school.
Another important part of our reforms to children’s social care is learning and innovation. We want leading local authorities to trial new ways of working so they can truly drive innovation in the best interests of children – even where this means stepping outside the existing statutory framework.
The bill also introduces a new, centralised system for reviewing serious incidents, which will be overseen by an independent panel. All too often we see the same mistakes repeated across serious case reviews. These new arrangements mark a new approach, which will be better able to extract genuine, high-impact national learning and clear proposals for doing things better.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, this bill represents a step change for the social work profession. Excellent social workers can truly transform children’s lives for the better: they are the crucial ingredient of a successful children’s social care system. None of the other measures in the bill will have the impact we need them to without the skill, hard work and commitment of social workers.
As a government we want to raise the status of the profession, embedding the highest standards and supporting our workforce to achieve them. The bill will set the framework for a new regulator with a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work education, training and practice in both children’s and adults’ services and overseeing the delivery of child and family social worker accreditation.
We will build on that progress by helping to attract the most capable people into social work. We won’t rest until we have created a world-leading profession with the confidence and backing to make the right decisions for children.
This is not about reform for reform’s sake – and it will not undo all the changes already underway. This bill is about continuing on our commitment right across government to make sure every child can fulfil their potential regardless of their background.
Our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our society is matched by our ambition to ensure the most disadvantaged children have the brightest possible future. I am not prepared to accept anything other than the best for all these children and will continue to stand firmly in their corner.
Well, we’re four days in to Foster Care Fortnight and we thought we’d share with you some posts from our foster carers thus far. They were asked to share their favourite 20 minutes of last year – as part of the ‘Time to Foster, Time to Care’ campaign set up by The Fostering Network. This is what they wrote…
Marie & John, foster carers:
"Our favourite 20 minutes of last year was when our first foster placement came back to visit, made our day :)"
Mandy, foster carer:
"My favourite 20 minutes of last year was seeing the look on my foster children’s faces when I took them to a toy shop for the very first time… amazing and a pleasure to be a part of that :)"
Pauline, foster carer:
"My favourite 20 minutes of last year was when the girls came back to see us with their children after leaving care"
You can change lives when you work with young people.
FtSE Member News: TACT response to content of Queen’s Speech relating to adoption and the care system.
The Prime Minister has just had the Queen say that Her Government will introduce legislation to “ensure that children can be adopted without delay”. It is a shame that the PM hasn’t spoken to the DFE as that is not in the Bill being published tomorrow.
Instead the DfE are sensibly introducing bill that will require LA’s to present care plans that take account of:
Andy Elvin – TACT CEO said: “It is a great pity that the PM had the Queen mislead Parliament and the country especially when the Bill that is proposed is balanced, does not pre-judge the best option for any given child and will lead to better long term outcomes for vulnerable children. How much better would it have been if our wonderful foster carers and those selfless family members who step forward to care for their grandchildren and nieces and nephews had heard the Queen recognise their role in helping children recover from trauma and grow up to lead happy and successful lives.”
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