Response to the annual Department for Education statistics on children in careThe publication of the Department for Education (DFE) annual statistics for children in care showed that Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) have risen by 28 per cent to 2740 since 2012. SGOs are court orders made for children who cannot live at home, which allow the child to live permanently with the guardian. The majority (58 per cent) of special guardians are former foster carers.
TACT has been a strong supporter of the use of SGOs which can give children who have been in care the security and stability they need to thrive. Once an SGO is made the child will no longer be looked after. However, this sharp rise might indicate that the use of orders is extending beyond the original intentions.
TACT interim CEO David Bradley said;
“The introduction of Special Guardianship Orders allowed foster carers to offer a permanent home to a child in care without adopting. We are, however, increasingly hearing of foster carers being asked to consider special guardianship shortly after a placement is made, or placements being made only on condition that an SGO is part of the care plan. SGOs should only be considered when the time is right for carers and the young person.”
The statistics also show an increase of 15 per cent to 3980 in the number of children adopted since 2012. This rise has occurred before many of the Government’s flagship proposals, contained in the Children and Families Bill currently before Parliament, have been introduced. The statistics also show that the larger majority of children in care (75 per cent) are fostered, increasing from 72 per cent since 2012.
David Bradley said;
“We fully support the government’s aim to have more children adopted. Rises are likely to continue and we hope some of the new proposals, such as fostering for adoption, are introduced gradually to ensure the best placement for every child. As the statistics show, fostering remains, and will continue to remain, the suitable option for most children in care.”
There has also only been a small rise in the number of 19 years olds still living with their foster carers. There are 330 of these ‘staying put’ placements, a rise of ten since 2012. TACT believes that all children in care should be able to stay with their foster carers until 21 and is supporting amendments to the Children and Families Bill seeking to introduce this.
For further information contact Gareth Crossman, TACT Executive Director of Policy, Communications and Fundraising 07976 389 925 or 020 8695 8120.
TACT has welcomed a report published by the Scottish Education and Culture Committee. We are incredibly pleased to see that children and young people have been consulted with, and directly fed into the DoE report. The fact that the children involved are saying that they feel that they should have been taken into care earlier, shows how important it is to take their views into account.
As the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity we feel that often care is viewed as a negative option for a child, but for many it’s a positive experience. We believe that children are more likely to thrive in a stable, secure foster placement than in a chaotic, potentially dangerous environment.
There will always be situations where after a short time in foster care, children will return home. However, if the home situation was to deteriorate children may find themselves re-entering foster care, it is this bouncing back and forth that will be traumatic and hugely damaging.
TACT’s ‘Aspirations’ research shows the benefits of stable long term foster care for supporting the wellbeing and achievements of children and young people, who will go on to have the same life chances as their peers.
The Department of Education’s annual ‘Children looked after by local authorities’ report published today shows that the number of children in foster care has increased by 3% year on year to over 68,000 children.
Sam Monaghan, director of children’s services, Barnardo’s, said:“The number of children in foster care has risen for the 7th consecutive year. Without a permanent foster family, these children are missing out on the care and stability they so desperately need.
“Barnardo’s has been finding foster homes for children since 1887 and we believe every child has the right to a happy childhood. We view our relationships with our foster carers as partnerships, offering continued support, training and advice for as long as it is needed.
“Our foster carers tell us that fostering changes and enriches their lives as well as the children in their care. Please consider fostering, contact Barnardo’s to find out more.”
TACT is working in partnership with Barnardos, Fostering Network and The Care Leavers Association to deliver a roundtable discussion event at the Labour Party conference.
The Handle With Care event will focus on improving the quality of leaving care support available to young people a national and local level. Guests will have the opportunity to discuss issues that affect care leavers at specific points during their transition into independence and adulthood, with the roundtable groups exploring three key ages: up to 18 years, 18 – 21 years and 21+.
The event will be supported by a panel including Lisa Nandy MP, Scott King, Rita Krishna and will be chaired by Kim Catcheside.
Handle With Care takes place on Monday 23 September, 17:30, Brighton Metropole Hotel. For further information please contact Gareth Crossman on 07976 389925
To follow the discussion online search for #HandleWithCare
More than 200 foster carers have now committed to taking part in Head, Heart, Hands, the Fostering Network’s pioneering programme introducing social pedagogy into foster care in the UK.
The foster carers are based in six demonstration sites and their next step on the programme will be an eight day core learning and development course. During this they will gain an understanding of social pedagogy and how they can put its principles into practice to help the children in their care.
Through the core course, which has been designed by the Social Pedagogy Consortium, the foster carers will learn about the development of social pedagogy theory and its key values and principles. They will also explore issues such as childhood development, attachment theory, risk management, children’s rights, communication theory and reflective practice.
The first few foster carers to join the programme have already been through the course and the early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with some reporting they are starting to change the way they care for children. The aim is for all the foster carers to have completed the course by April 2014.
Over the following two years the foster carers will put what they have learnt into practice with the support of 13 fully trained social pedagogues. In addition, the foster carers will also work with the evaluation team led by Loughborough University to help the programme understand the impact they and their new way of working are having with the children in their care.
Raina Sheridan, deputy chief executive at the Fostering Network and the Head, Heart, Hands programme director, said: “We have been delighted by the appetite among foster carers to learn about social pedagogy and be a part of the programme. It is unfortunate that we haven’t been able to accept everyone, but we are pleased that more than 200 foster carers have been confirmed.
“The foster carers are embarking on an exciting journey of discovery, not just learning about social pedagogy as a new approach to fostering children in this country, but also about themselves and the different ways they can help to improve the lives of children.
“We hope they all enjoy the experience of being a part of Head, Heart, Hands, and that with the support of the social pedagogues and their fostering service they are able to help the children in their care to have a better experience of childhood and go on to achieve their potential.”
The Social Pedagogy Consortium is the Fostering Network’s delivery partner for the programme and consists of Jacaranda Recruitment, Thempra Social Pedagogy and Professor Pat Petrie from the Institute of Education.
For more information about the programme, visit the Head, Heart, Hands section of the Fostering Network website.
The British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) has announced the appointment of its new Chief Executive. Srabani Sen will move from her role as CEO at Contact a Family effective 02 December 2013.
Sen brings with her more than 20 years of experience in the voluntary sector, and will now lead BAAF, the UK’s leading adoption and fostering charity dedicated to improving the lives of children, adoptive parents and foster carers.
Sen said of her appointment: “BAAF is an organisation which combines great passion and expertise in working for children in need of adoption and foster care. Throughout its 30 year history, BAAF has been at the forefront of driving better outcomes for children in care and I'm thrilled to be taking up the role of CEO. I have a huge admiration for BAAF’s achievements providing services for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people, and look forward to working with all the staff, trustees and members to build on the organisation’s successes of recent years.
“Despite progress made to improve adoption and fostering there is still much more to do and I am very much looking forward to taking BAAF from strength to strength.”
Anthony Douglas, BAAF Chair, added: “Srabani is already an outstanding Chief Executive and she will help BAAF continue its programmes of innovation based on the best professional principles, and to tackle the challenges for vulnerable children and families over the next few years.
“I am convinced Srabani will take us to another level and I’m delighted she is joining us.”
BAAF’s work is about helping children find the right families for them, through initiatives such as organising and running Adoption Activity Days, the training of social workers in line with best practice, and providing advice and support for those affected by issues surrounding adoption and fostering.
Worcestershire council's proposal to recoup the cost of support will deter parents in need of help from seeking it
Worcestershire council's proposal to charge parents when their children are taken into care has made the news this week but in fact is nothing new. Recoupment of the cost of providing services is covered under section 29 of the 1989 Children Act. Worcestershire themselves looked at the same suggestions in 2011 and other authorities are considering this move.
But if, as Worcestershire say, it would not apply to many families then why do it? There may be parents who, as is suggested, could offer their children a caring home but refuse to do so, although I have never met one in over 35 years of social work. Even if that were the presenting problem, to any social worker it would indicate a measure of the desperation they felt at the time, suggesting work was required on the underlying issues.
I have every sympathy with cash-strapped local authorities but now more than ever the focus must remain unwaveringly on the needs of children and young people. To resuscitate a long-dormant clause is to the detriment of the very people the Act is intended to help. It marks a decisive and perhaps irrevocable break with the principles of legislation already under pressure as resource shortages nibble away.
It becomes a deterrent aimed at parents yet by distancing families, it may deny children the services and protection they could need, whether they remain in the family or become looked after.
Hard-pressed families see social services as the last resort. Preventative budgets have been decimated already. This further disincentive makes families harder to reach which in turn means problems will be picked up later than they need be. The decision to take a child into care should be based solely on their welfare and best interests.
Section 29 also allows authorities to charge young people over the age of 16 for a proportion of their care if they are able to afford it. Worcestershire are evaluating this proposal too, yet at the same time the government supported Care Leavers' Charter urges authorities to improve services for care leavers drastically. As a result more young people will remain in care up to 18 and receive support until they are 25 so they can become independent when they are ready. It is hard to see how charging supports this welcome and long-overdue initiative. The young people I work with would see the mixed message straight away.
Hailed at the time as reform that would last, the 1989 Children Act enshrined the paramount importance of the child's welfare and the duty to work in partnership with parents. I am old enough to remember when one function of accommodation under S20 was as a preventative short-term service to be used alongside other provisions to keep children safe in their own families in the long-term. Parents and social workers worked to take the best possible decisions in the child's interests. Worcestershire has dubiously invoked the spirit of partnership with parents in support of their proposal whereas in reality they demonstrate total disconnection from the real issues faced by families and young people in care.
Authorities are placed in an almost impossible position, facing increased demands as they simultaneously reel from budget cuts. It is imperative to stay close to the communities of which they are a part and who they serve. Measures like these drive families further away regardless of whether an actual charge is made or not. The principles of the Children Act are just as valid now as they ever were. These measures will not help children one jot.
Alan Fisher is the director of care at Supported Fostering Services, a charity providing foster placements and packages of care, and is chair of Fostering Through Social Enterprise. He writes in a personal capacity.
Foster carers, and prospective foster carers, are invited to take part in a free webinar being offered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to find out more about tax issues.
Entitled ‘Foster Carers and HMRC', this webinar is a basic guide to key tax and National Insurance issues affecting foster carers, such as what is Qualifying Care Relief and how it works, how to keep records, and what to put on your tax return. Plus, you will also have the opportunity to ask your own questions.
Jackie Sanders, head of media and campaigns at the Fostering Network, said: “We know that lots of foster carers took part in the previous round of tax webinars in July and we’re pleased that the HMRC has decided to run the webinar again for those who missed out.
“It is vital that foster carers, and prospective foster carers, know the tax implications of fostering. The webinars are a great opportunity to stay up to date and to help keep organising finances as hassle-free as possible. So if you didn’t take part last time, why not sign up now?”
The webinar will be held on Tuesday 24 September at 7pm, and will last about one hour. As always, you can be involved in webinars from the comfort of your own home.
Please be advised that places are limited, reserve your space today at:
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information on how to join the webinar.
The Fostering Network has updated our popular financial booklets for the new tax year. Members can download our Signposts on Benefits and Income tax and national insurance for free from our website now, or you can order hard copies from our online bookshop.
Based in Staunton, Gloucestershire or Nateby, Lancashire
£80k (with performance bonus + benefits)
Community Foster Care and its sister charity, Community Family Care, require a Chief Executive. Community Foster Care was born in 1999 and Community Family Care formed in February 2012, since then the charities have gone through a massive period of growth. Due to a change of management we need someone who can carry on the good work and help drive the businesses forward.
This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced practitioner with proven business acumen to join our child focused charities as we continue to grow and develop over the forthcoming years.
The work we do makes a difference to children’s lives and to the communities where they live.
For an application pack please telephone 01452 849301
Closing date: 4th October 2013
Interviews will be held 5th & 6th November 2013 in Gloucestershire
Community Foster Care and Community Family Care are equal opportunities employers.
This post is subject to an enhanced disclosure and barring service check.
No agencies please.
Finding adoptive parents is less important for children in care in Northern Ireland than securing a long-lasting and stable place to live, new research has indicated.
While adoption has long been considered the best outcome for children in need of carers, the study by Queen's University found that the type of placement is not as significant as how long it lasts.
The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study followed a group of 374 children in care in Northern Ireland over a 10-year period from 2000 to 2010.
The university said it is one of only a small number of studies worldwide that has taken a long-term comparative approach, thus providing vital information for practitioners.
A new book reports on the most recent phase of the study, which involved interviews with 77 children aged 9-14 and their parents or carers in adoption, foster care, on residence order or living with their birth parents.
Dr Dominic McSherry, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Child Care Research at Queen's School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, is the lead author of the book - Comparing Long-Term Placements For Young Children In Care
"This study reveals a number of crucial insights and patterns about the lives of young children in care," he said.
"They are important signposts for the professionals involved in the sector, and for parents and guardians.
"For example, until now adoption was considered the gold standard in long-term care placements. One of our key findings, however, is that from the children's perspective, it doesn't appear to matter significantly what the placement is, be it fostering, adoption, kinship care, residence order or returning to birth parents.
"It is the longevity of placement that appears to be the most important factor in achieving positive outcomes for these children, so long as they enter long-term placements at an early age."
Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots commended Dr McSherry and his research team.
"As minister with responsibility for children and young people who are in the care system, I want to be assured that the quality of care provided for them is of the highest standard; that we are offering them the best chance of permanence and stability; that they are being enabled and facilitated to take part in decisions about their care and that they are being afforded the same opportunities as children and young people outside the care system," he said.
"I want to congratulate the research team at Queen's University for undertaking this important study. It is vital that we carefully consider the key messages emanating from such research to inform future policy and determine best practice on how to meet the long-term needs of children in care."
Other findings in the book, include:
:: Within Northern Ireland, the Southern and Northern Health Trusts have the highest numbers of adoptions, the Western has the highest number of children in foster care and the South Eastern Trust, the highest levels of children returning home to their birth parents.
:: Despite a positive level of openness between parents/carers and their children across placement types, adoptive parents and some foster and kinship carers found it difficult to talk to children about their birth families and past history. Birth parents also found it difficult to talk to their children about the past.
:: Many adoptive parents highlighted a sense of being isolated after the adoption order, without access to a formalised support mechanism.
:: Eight of the 77 children interviewed had been diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), and five of these were in the adopted group.
The book is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland.
Professor Bernie Hannigan from the PHA said: "While this study provides a positive contribution to the experiences and outcomes of looked-after children, it also focuses on those areas which require significant attention from policy makers; service managers and practitioners.
"It provides an evidence base for decision-making in relation to the health and well-being of young children being looked after."
Priscilla McLoughlin, from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), the organisation that published the book, said: "The study is hugely important because those who make decisions about looked-after children's long-term care need to understand how the children fare in each of the long-term care placements.
"It is also crucial in that it follows a group of children in Northern Ireland and takes account of our unique demographic, social and structural issues. Its longitudinal nature is also important, providing an opportunity to consider the long-term implications of care options for children and for their parents and carers."
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