A stark report by the UK’s largest children’s charity, Barnardo’s, reveals the extent of the challenges facing the growing number of children in foster care in England.
An analysis of referrals made by English local authorities to Barnardo’s fostering services last year graphically illustrates the struggles of children and young people needing foster care, many of whom have suffered shocking neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
Of the referrals that were analysed in detail, 16 per cent of the children had been sexually abused, exploited or groomed, 17 per cent were asylum-seekers or had been trafficked and 6 per cent indicated that children had engaged in harmful sexual behaviour.
Many of the children showed the signs of trauma due to past abuse and neglect, including witnessing domestic violence, and understandably had challenging behaviour.
8% of children were referred for a foster care placement more than once during the year.
In the light of these findings, Barnardo’s is calling on Government to prioritise reforms which will make care work much more effective for children and young people with the most complex needs.
Ahead of the National Fostering Stocktake, which will review fostering in England, the report urges the Department for Education to prioritise reforms that will make foster care work for children and young people with the highest needs. These could include re-designing the foster care system to improve matching, support specialist placements, facilitating access to specialist help and improving access to tailored mental health support.
The report also urges local authorities to budget for the additional cost to support children with higher needs. It also calls on them to plan for a wide range of foster carers, to give children more chance of finding a good match with a carer.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
"This report on foster referrals makes bleak reading. Sadly it highlights the often traumatic experiences of children who need our foster placements.
We know first-hand from the tireless work of Barnardo’s foster carers that children in care, even those who have experienced the most shocking abuse, can recover with the right help.
But we need to see local authorities prioritising support for these children from day one, with specialist foster care placements and therapeutic support. And through its National Fostering Stocktake, the Government must make sure that it puts the most vulnerable children at the front and centre of future foster care reforms."
Bev Stoakes, from Coventry, has been providing specialist foster care for Barnardo’s for almost nine years. Bev said:
"Many of them have had horrendous experiences. You just have to be there for them – supporting, listening and not judging.
I try to be myself and to treat them like they’re a member of my own family, throwing birthday parties and Christmas dinners which are also attended by my grown-up children and their own families.
For some of them it’s the first time that they feel someone has really listened to them and cared for them, and then they start to really open up about what their life has been like so far. It can be heart-breaking."
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:
"Councils are committed to providing a care system that works for all vulnerable children, no matter what their individual needs or circumstances may be. Any child in care, including those with high needs, must be able to access the specialist support they need, when they need it.
Children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. If nothing is done to address this, crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on will be at risk.
Councils are calling on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to commit to fully funding children’s services so that all children and young people, including those with particularly challenging needs, are able to get the support and protection they need."
The report also warns there is often a lack of information about the children needing a foster care placement, so finding a good match with an available carer can be difficult and slow. Of our sample of 1,482 children referred to Barnardo’s in 2016, there was only sufficient information about why the children had come into care, what their needs were and what kind of foster carers they would require for just 630 children (43 per cent).
Barnardo’s helps find foster homes for children who are considered “harder to place”, including older children, sibling groups, children with physical and or learning disabilities and those who have been trafficked or sexually exploited.
Key highlights from the report:
-Sexual abuse, exploitation or grooming was documented in 16 per cent of the referrals that were analysed in detail.
-Six per cent of cases that were analysed involved children who had been engaged in harmful sexual behaviour.
-Seventeen per cent of referrals that were analysed were for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
-12 per cent of referrals described children showing extreme anger behaviours. Ten per cent of the referrals were for babies and their mothers.
-8 per cent of the children referred in the year had been referred for a foster placement at least once before, due to no placement being found the first time, a placement breaking down, or a child returning home and coming back into care.
Trafficked children need specialist foster care placements to reduce the risk of them going missing or being retrafficked, says Barnardo’s on Anti-Slavery Day.
Child victims of trafficking need specialist foster carers who have the skills and knowledge to help them overcome their trauma and keep them safe from traffickers, says the UK’s leading children’s charity.
Today (Wednesday, October 18) is Anti-Slavery Day which aims to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.
The UK’s largest children’s charity, which runs the national Counter Trafficking Service, also says it’s vital that professionals working with children can spot the signs of trafficking to keep children safe.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
"Trafficked children are threatened, manipulated and controlled by their traffickers who feed them a web of lies leading them to fear authorities.
It is well known that there is a greater risk of trafficked children going missing from care but too often processes are not put in place to protect children.
The first few weeks after a child has been identified as a potential trafficking victim are often the most crucial time to prevent them being re-trafficked and we need better support for these children.
They need specialist foster care placements where carers understand the risks and can work closely with other agencies to keep children safe."
Trafficked children are some of the most vulnerable in this country. Many children Barnardo’s has supported have been sexually abused, forced to work in nail bars or car washes, or forced to commit crimes, such as cultivating cannabis.
Many trafficked children go missing from care. They often go back to their traffickers out of fear for their families or themselves or because they’re the only person they know. Sometimes children will not realise they are being exploited or have been trafficked and want to return to their traffickers.
Traffickers use emotional and physical abuse to control children. They might lure children in with false promises and once in their power, they threaten them or their families with violence or death. They don’t care about the age of children; Barnardo’s specialist services have supported children and young people aged 0-21.
Barnardo’s National Counter Trafficking Service provides specialist support workers who are the go to people for trafficked children. They help children understand what is happening with social care services, the police and immigration in ways they understand and give them tools to stay safe.
Barnardo’s also says that professionals working with children have different levels of understanding about trafficking, with some not knowing what the signs are and therefore aren’t always able to keep them safe - it’s important they get specialist training to understand the issue.
Jeremy Corbyn took time out from his party’s conference to start making pizzas with a care leaver who is being supported by Barnardo’s.
As the pair chopped their vegetables, the Labour leader listened as care leaver Tyrone explained how the UK’s largest children’s charity is helping him get his life on track.
The 20-year-old talked about how he used to be in foster care and introduced Corbyn to Matt and Jude, his lodging hosts in the Barnardo’s supported lodging service.
With their help he is learning to live more independently by learning essential life skills and has secured a weekend job in a café.
"It's been great meeting Jeremy Corbyn. It's good to know that someone who has such influence cares."
The Barnardo's supported lodging providers have given me so much and allowed me to focus on my future.
Living with Jude and Matt feels like home now. I feel very happy here."
Barnardo's Chief Executive Javed Khan accompanied the party's leader on the visit and explained how the charity supports more than 272,000 children, young people, parents and carers like Tyrone to have fulfilling lives.
Javed Khan said:
"I am delighted Jeremy Corbyn was able to find time in his busy conference schedule to hear how Barnardo’s supports the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people.
We strive to transform their lives so they can lead positive futures and I think this really hit home for the Labour leader when he spoke to Tyrone, who is an inspirational young man."
Young people leaving care have often had difficult and troubled starts in life, so it’s vital they receive the support they so desperately need to enable them to achieve their dreams."
The Brighton and Hove Supported Lodgings service was started in 2015 with the aim of supporting young people who may be homeless or leaving the care system. Together with Barnardo’s, hosts offer a room in their home to help each vulnerable young person make a smooth transition into independent living.
Barnardo’s are looking for individuals or families to open their doors and provide safe and secure homes for 16 to 21 year-olds. Hosts receive round-the-clock assistance, a dedicated key worker, a comprehensive training programme and an allowance of £150 per week.
Hosts come from a variety of backgrounds. Some work full-time, some work part-time and some are retired. All have spare time to offer emotional care and practical advice to help a young person build their confidence.
For more information about becoming a Supported Lodgings host, call 01273 412010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We don’t need more demonising headlines about fostering, we need more foster carers, says Javed Khan of Barnardo’s, while Mike Stein points out that with proper support fostered children make good progress from poor starting points
Dawn Foster is, sadly, right when she writes that fostering tends to appear in the news for negative reasons (It’s hard enough as a foster child without being demonised, Opinion, 21 September).
When a troubled young person falls into the justice system, the implication is sometimes made that fostering could be part of the cause. What is forgotten is that these young people have often already suffered trauma or been at risk of harm – which is precisely why they need fostering.
Foster children are vulnerable, and can be challenging, but with the right support they can have fulfilling and positive futures. However, there are 81,000 children in care in the UK, and not enough foster carers to look after them. Without enough loving homes these children risk being moved around. Barnardo’s recruits foster carers for teenagers, disabled children, siblings and children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. But we urgently need more to come forward.
We view our relationship with our carers as a partnership, offering continued support, training and advice for as long as it is needed.
Our foster carers are amazing people. They open up their hearts and homes to children who have often had a tough start in life. We see first-hand how the support of a stable, caring family really can transform children’s lives.
• Dawn Foster is right to argue that the foster care system should not be dismissed in light of events at Tower Hamlets or the Parsons Green arrests. There is robust evidence from studies that where young people are provided with stability and opportunities for attachment, helped to overcome educational deficits, leave care at a similar age as young people leave home in the general population, and are provided with personal and practical assistance into adulthood, they make good progress from very poor starting points. When local authorities fail to respond to these challenges they let both foster carers and the young people they care for down.
Emeritus professor, University of York
Today is a landmark day for the provision of foster care in Wales. The three biggest charitable providers of foster care – TACT, Action for Children and Barnardo’s, have come together to launch a new initiative that will improve outcomes for children in care.
Under the name of ‘The Charitable Fostering Partnership‘ the organisations involved are committed to working together to tackle the big issues that the sector are facing in Wales, including the increasing dominance of the ‘for profit’ sector in foster care.
A special launch event will be taking place today from 12.30pm at the National Assembly of Wales with support from prominent figures within the Welsh Government and Local Authorities.TACT, Action for Children and Barnardos will be presenting the aims of the new partnership.
Watch the full event live here
The Commissioner for Wales – Sally Holland, has given her backing to a consortium of leading Welsh charities established to improve collaborative working and raise the profile of the charitable fostering sector in Wales.
In a supporting statement Sally Holland said:
“I’m delighted to hear that Barnardo’s, Action for Children and TACT will be working more closely together, and pleased to note their desire to work in collaboration rather than competition to provide the best provision in foster care.
We are entering new territory in Wales with a National Fostering Framework and I know that the third sector will work in collaboration with local and national government to develop an enhanced foster care sector in Wales.
Young people have talked to me about their concerns about profit being made out of their care. I’m therefore particularly pleased to support a desire to reduce or eliminate for-profit provision in foster services. I am also pleased that the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee are looking into quality and value in looked after children’s services and I will be encouraging them to look at issues of profit in this sector.”
Her Majesty The Queen will be handing over the role of Barnardo’s Patron to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
It was announced today that Her Majesty is stepping down as Patron from a number of national organisations. This decision follows the example set by The Duke of Edinburgh who resigned from a number of Patronages on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2011.
Javed Khan, the Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, said:
"We are extremely grateful for Her Majesty The Queen’s generous time and Patronage, together with her dedication to the work of Barnardo’s since 1983. The Royal Family has given us tremendous support throughout our history, and there has been a royal Patron since 1902 and Royal Presidents from 1923. I am delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall - our current President, has graciously accepted the role of our new Patron."
The Duchess of Cornwall was appointed Barnardo’s president in 2007. She wasted no time, embarking on a series of visits to see the vital work of Barnardo’s first hand. Her first visit was in November 2007 to High Close School in Wokingham where she met with staff and young people, as she visited the school’s many facilities and dropped in on science, maths and drama lessons.
In 2014, in a speech at Clarence House during an event for Barnardo’s, she praised the achievements of what she described as a “unique charity”.
"Over the past few years I have visited several inspirational projects which are not only very impressive but very humbling too, and I believe that it is thanks to the dedication of Barnardo's highly skilled staff and volunteers that these places exist at all without their care and counselling these young people would still be floundering alone in a frightening world."
In the past year HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has been very supportive of the charity, visiting a range of services and hosting a Buckingham Palace Garden Party to mark our 150th anniversary.
Charity releases records of first to benefit from ‘boarding out’ scheme that evolved into modern-day system
Previously unseen Victorian archive records of the first fostered children in Britain have been released by Barnardo’s, showing what life was like for children when the scheme was originally launched by the charity in 1887.
They reveal a period of no social workers, no welfare state and chaotic family arrangements. Elizabeth Mouncey and her parents eked out a miserable existence marked by destitution, violence and squalor; her father, an East End docker, drank heavily and beat his wife. Today she would probably be on the child protection register and her parents enrolled on a troubled families programme.
When her parents died within a year of each other (Elizabeth was six when she was found next to her dying mother), she was taken in by neighbours. Relatives refused to give her a home, so church missionaries contacted a children’s charity, Barnardo’s, which put her on an innovative scheme called “boarding out” .
Elizabeth became the first known black foster child in the UK, in 1891. She was sent to live with “respectable foster parents of the labouring class” in the village of Headcorn, Kent, for six years, before returning to a Barnardo’s home to train as a cook. The 1911 census records that she was working as a cook in Croydon, south London.
Elizabeth’s story is one of several published on Friday from the archives of Barnardo’s, which this year celebrates its 150th birthday. Collectively they put human faces to the development of a system of care for poor and at-risk children that would evolve over time into the modern fostering system. Today, three in every four children who are taken into care are fostered.
Lilian Murray, for example, was placed in Barnardo’s custody at the age of two after a Westminster magistrate found her mother, a career petty criminal, to be guilty of neglecting and ill-treating her. Placements of girls were often made to prevent “moral danger” (sexual exploitation). Lilian was boarded out in Cambridgeshire, during which time Barnardo’s inspectors found her “greatly improved”, before going into service as a maid in Surrey.
Elizabeth Matthews was twelve when her stepfather signed an agreement for her to be cared for by Barnardo’s. Her mother had died two years earlier and she had subsequently attempted to run away from her stepfather, who is described in the archives as “a cripple [who] earns his living by hawking, begging and singing ... roaming the country with one of this two children, a boy, and lodging in the lowest lodging houses”. After nine years in Barnardo’s care she became a domestic maid.
Thomas Barnardo began his foster experiment in 1887 by dispatching 320 orphan boys of “good conduct and character” from the East End slums of London to board out with “homely folk” in rural villages who were paid five shillings a week to bring up their charges. The location was important: not just the wholesome benefits of clean air, but an upbringing free from the temptations and moral hazards of the city.
Barnardo’s initiative was in part a response to Victorian public outrage over “baby farming”, effectively deregulated fostering, whereby a string of women who took in numerous children for money were convicted for murder and neglect. The charity’s archives show the development of a pre-placement assessment and inspection system designed to ensure the children were looked after by “Christian people” in “kind homes”.
Prospective foster parents were expected to sign up to a commitment to bring up the child “as one of my family”, providing them with food, clothes, washing and schooling, as well as to “endeavour to train the said child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry”.
According to Barnardo’s archivist Martine King, it is the child-centred aspect of boarding out that is so remarkable, along with the attention paid not just to ensuring that children went to good homes, but that their progress was monitored. “It was the first time we had a system in place to make sure the parents were looking after the children properly,” she said.
In 1889, 586 boys and 124 girls were boarded out by Barnardo’s. By 1905, 4,000 children were looked after in foster care. Latest figures for 2015 show that 52,000 children in England were in foster care – a 30 year high – and Barnardo’s and other foster agencies say that with many foster carers going into retirement, there is a shortfall of families willing to take in vulnerable children.
“Much has changed over the past 130 years, but there are still vulnerable children in foster care who simply need someone who can always be there for them,” said Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan. “Just as in Victorian times, today we’re looking for people, with a genuine desire to make life better for some of the country’s most vulnerable children, to become foster carers.”
Only three per cent of children in care in England are getting the independent support they may be entitled to by law, new research by Barnardo’s and the National Independent Visitor Development Project has found.
Local authorities in England have a legal obligation to provide children in care with access to such support in the form of adult mentors.
Access to mentorship provides children in care with a positive role model during the years when other aspects of their lives - such as where they are living and who is looking after them - are likely to change.
A freedom of information request sent out to 152 local authorities found that 1,000 children are currently waiting to be paired with an ‘independent visitor’.
Of these local authorities, eight are floating their legal obligations by providing no independent visitor services whatsoever.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
"Every single child needs an adult they can trust, who will be there for them and stay by their side no matter what life throws their way.
I urge Theresa May to ensure mentors are in place for young people who are at risk of dropping out of education, training or employment. Children in care already have a right to a mentor, but sadly our research shows they aren’t getting the support they need.
A key aim of the Government’s new strategy for care leavers is to support them into adult life. Providing enough mentors and signing up to the new, quality standards for independent visitors will help it achieve this.”
To make sure children get the support they are legally entitled to, Barnardo's and the National Independent Visitor Project are asking government, local authorities and voluntary sector organisations to consider signing up to a new set of quality standards.
Find out more in our National Independent Vistor Data Report.
Today, Her Majesty The Queen shared the UK Government’s plans for the coming year. The Queen’s Speech promised some significant steps forward for the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK today.
Our chief executive, Javed Khan, responded to the ambitious plans in a special blog on the Huffington Post.
While we share the Prime Minister’s high ambitions for children, the proposed legislative changes are not, by themselves, a fix-all.
We’re glad the Government has indicated improving children’s life chances is a priority, alongside tackling some of the UK’s deepest social problems. This has been Barnardo’s driving force for 150 years.
In particular, I support the drive to speed up adoption where it is the right decision for the child. A permanent, stable home is in every child’s best interests. Our worry is that this is the second adoption bill in as many years. It is well-intentioned, but this time it must translate into actual improvements in practice.
The speech today also talked about improving support for children leaving care. Barnardo’s has long called for care leavers to have a personal advisor until they are 25 years old, which we have already secured in Scotland, so we’re pleased the right to this crucial support will be extended to all young people in England.
For all the legislative plans announced today, the devil, as always, will be in the detail and implementation of change. Our biggest questions are if these changes will translate into real improvements for the most vulnerable children in our society, and how success will be measured.
Read the full article on Huffington Post.
FtSE Member News: Barnardo's - Fostering charity launch the Heart Gallery 'Children who wait' - come along and see our work of Heart
Artwork by children who have been fostered will be the focus of an art gallery being launched this valentines weekend in Aberdeen's Union Square Mall.
Come and see our work of heart this valentines weekend - Our fostering North service will be launching their first-ever Heart Gallery entitled 'Children who wait'. The gallery will showcase artwork by local fostered children.
Foster carers and staff will be on site to answer any questions you have about fostering on Saturday 13 February between 10am and 6pm and on Sunday 14 February 11am - 5pm. And for the young at heart, Party Box will have a giant dinosaur roaming and pony cycles to ride. Help us heal hearts this valentines.
At Barnardo’s we believe there are no unwanted children just unfound families. Could you be one?
Kim McPherson, Children Service Manager, promotes fostering across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for Barnardo's Scotland, she said: "Every piece of work featured in the Heart Gallery has been created by a child or young person living in foster care in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. We hope the gallery will give people an insight to what it's like for our children in foster care".
Anyone interested in finding out more about fostering or adoption can get in touch with their local Barnardo's foster care or adoption team. Barnardo's Scotland supports foster carers and adopters every step of the way, so they don't do it alone. Find out more by calling Freephone 0800 0277 280 or at www.barnardos.org.uk/fosteringand adoption
News & Policy
News & Policy from our member agencies, the fostering sector and the world of child protection and safeguarding as a whole.
Browse News Categories
Browse News Archives