Today The Fostering Network welcomed The Duchess of Cambridge to a roundtable discussion and special tea party reception to celebrate foster care across the UK.
The event, held at Islington Council children’s services, saw The Duchess meet foster carers and care experienced young people for a private discussion about the issues that they feel are most pertinent in foster care today.
Following this, The Duchess attended a tea party with foster carers, the children in their care and care experienced young people – as well as social workers from Islington Council.
Zoe Witherington, a care experienced young person who co-hosted today’s event, said: “It is fantastic to have The Duchess come to learn more about fostering and the work of The Fostering Network. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my foster carers and so I am very happy that I had the chance to tell The Duchess directly what a difference they have made to my life.
“We presented The Duchess with a memory box today, one like I know so many children in foster care carry with them. It was full of stories and poems from young people in foster care, and the children of foster carers, and I hope that we managed to provide some more memories of fostering that she can carry with her.”
To find out whether you have the skills and commitment needed to become a foster carer, you can visit couldyoufoster.org.uk to find out more and to find a fostering service in your local area.
You can support our continuing work helping foster carers and children thrive by donating £5 to The Fostering Network: just text Care00 £5 to 70070.
You can also see some highlights from the day on our website.
The Fostering Network is delighted to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge to an event hosted by the charity at Islington Council to celebrate the work of foster carers in providing support to vulnerable young people on Friday 16 January.
The Duchess will meet foster carers, social workers, and care leavers to discuss the role of fostering and the need for more foster carers, and to hear the stories of those who have experienced fostering first hand.
Every day more than 63,000 children live with over 52,500 foster families across the UK, while they are unable to live at home. These children have often experienced neglect and abuse, or have witnessed domestic violence or substance misuse. Whatever their experiences, all of them will be suffering the trauma of being separated from their own families, and need love, support and stability. Foster carers can provide these children with what they need, and often give them their first positive experience of family life.
Right now there’s a need for at least 8,600 new foster families across the UK, particularly to offer homes to teenagers, disabled children and groups of brothers and sisters.
Lucy Peake, director of development at The Fostering Network, said: “The Fostering Network has, for 40 years, been at the forefront of the development and growth of foster care right across the UK. We are proud to celebrate fostering and the amazing role that foster carers play in helping to transform children’s lives.
“A visit from The Duchess helps to shine a spotlight on fostering and the need for more foster carers, particularly to look after teenagers, disabled children and groups of brothers and sisters. We are very grateful to her for her interest, and know that the foster carers and care leavers attending our event today are excited to be sharing their experiences and stories with her.”
Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s executive member for children and families, said: “Islington has a fantastic group of foster carers who look after our children and are real community heroes. But we need more people of all backgrounds to come forward and foster, especially for teenagers and siblings. Our carers receive excellent training and support and can make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people, providing them with a happy and safe home.”
If you believe that you have the skills to foster, and the room in your home, visit couldyoufoster.org.uk to find out more and to contact your local fostering services.
You can follow the visit of The Duchess on Friday by following us on Twitter @fosteringnet
Over 13,000 incidents of fostered children going missing were reported between April 2013 and March 2014, a 36% rise on the previous year, Ofsted has revealed.
According to data published by the watchdog this week, a total of 4,245 fostered children and young people were reported to have gone missing, 900 more than the previous year. In over half of the incidents, children were missing for less than a day.
Contact with family or friends was the most common reason children went missing from foster care, while children at risk of sexual exploitation accounted for over 500 of the incidences of children going missing.
The data was returned from 450 of 453 eligible local authority and independent fostering agencies in England.
Independent fostering agencies (IFAs), which account for a third of children in foster placements in England, reported more than half of the total missing incidents, and saw the numbers of children going missing from foster care rise 48%. This compares with a 28% jump in children missing from local authority foster placements.
A spokeswoman for the Fostering Network said this is impacted by, “how local authorities often commission their services to find foster carers for older children and adolescents with highly complex needs”. This could affect the number of children who go missing from care in this sector, she said.
Paul Adams, a foster care development consultant for the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, said the data overall is “very blunt”.
“Obviously children go missing for some reason that often relates to some level of difficulty – although the data shows that a lot of them were having contact with family and friends. It’s difficult to read behind that in any detail really,” he said.
“The question would be: are they just being teenagers and wanting to go out with their friends, or is it that the contact plans they have with their family and other important people aren’t working for them?” he said.
“A large number of the children reported missing are returned in 24 hours, and potentially that will be a teenager who has gone out and not come back at the agreed time, or won’t answer their phone,” he added.
Plenty of teenagers in birth families don’t come back when they should and aren’t necessarily reported missing in the way that fostered children are, he continued.
However, he insisted all circumstances of children going missing need to be taken very seriously by children’s social workers, local authorities and fostering providers.
Advice and support for foster carers must be available at night and the weekends when these incidents are likely to take place, said the Fostering Network spokeswoman.
“There is a huge role here for social workers and other professionals too, supporting the child and helping them understand the risks they may be taking,” she said.
While councils reported a 14% fall in incidents of physical restraint, IFAs reported an 18% rise in the use of physical restraint. In total, IFAs account for three quarters of the 1,230 incidents of physical restraint reported, Ofsted found.
But Adams warned: “If you wanted to make a more valid comparison it really would have to take into account the age of the children and their needs…Even age wouldn’t tell you the full picture.
“Because if you’re looking at teenagers, for example, maybe some teenagers in local authorities came into care at a much younger age and are more stable in their foster placement compared to other children who have come in at a later stage, are more challenging or have been placed with an independent sector provider because of the challenges they present.”
Barnardo's is urging local authorities to work more closely with adoption and fostering agencies to respond to a looming crisis for children in care.The call comes as the charity launches a new drive this week to recruit more foster carers to help address an urgent recruitment target of 8,600 carers nationally.
The number of abused and neglected children in care across the UK has risen for the eighth year in a row. There are now more than 90,000 children in care looking for a replacement family.
This afternoon a House of Commons Select Committee will explore concerns raised by a recent National Audit Office report. The NAO report found that local authorities are spending £2.5 billion for children in foster and residential care. Despite this the Department for Education cannot demonstrate that it is meeting objectives for these placements.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said the situation is now critical. “The care system is under enormous pressure. Budgets are tightening and social work teams are stretched to capacity. Social workers with high caseloads struggle to find the time to provide agencies with enough information to match troubled and vulnerable children with the right foster carers.
“Placements break down quickly when children with problems and complex needs are placed with the wrong family. The children often get returned to their birth families or moved to another set of carers - only to be removed again at a later stage.
“Some children get put on a merry go round of placements which is anything but merry. Each move to a new family distresses the child further and stores up behavioural problems for the future. Moves can also disrupt children’s education and ability to sustain friendships.
“It’s becoming harder to find families for children in care. Two things need to happen to avert a crisis. We need to work together so we can prepare carers better to meet the needs of the children they foster. And we need to look at the changing reasons why children are being taken into care - like sexual exploitation - and plan how we’re going to respond to that."
In the meantime, Barnardo’s is urgently looking for people with patience and commitment to provide a stable home for the most vulnerable children in the UK. To find out more about fostering visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or call 08000 277 280
From Tracy Beaker to Wuthering Heights to A Series of Unfortunate Events, the author of Salvage shares her favourite books adoption tales.
Among the advice handed out to writers of children’s books, “First get rid of the parents,” is standard. I disagree. I write for teenagers, a time when the child-parent relationship can be stressful and difficult, packed with misunderstandings on both sides. Books can give readers useful insight into those mysterious people who are trying to control their lives.
But what of the children whose birth parents are literally absent, for whom “get rid of the parents” was true at an early age? When I came to write my bookSalvage, about siblings Aidan and Cass, reunited after a long separation triggered by Cass’s adoption into a wealthy family, I realised that many of my favourite children’s books examine the particular experience of adoption or fostering.
1. The High House by Honor Arundel
Emma and her older brother Richard are orphaned by a car crash, and Emma comes to Edinburgh to live with her Aunt Patsy, an artist who keeps irregular hours, celebrates the occasional cheque with wine and parties with her students. It’s a far cry from prim Emma’s old life in the suburbs, and her slow adaptation to a new way of life is portrayed with heart and skill.
2. Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker series
One of the most popular children’s series of the last 20 years, it spawned a television series, a film and a video game. Uncompromisingly unsentimental, Tracy is an angry girl who ricochets between a children’s home known as the “dumping ground” and foster parents, longing for her inadequate mother, and severely testing potential substitutes.
3. Wintle’s Wonders (later renamed Dancing Shoes) by Noel Streatfeild
I could easily have chosen Streatfeild’s classic Ballet Shoes, but I prefer the lesser known Wintle’s Wonders. Twice-orphaned Hilary is blessed with a sunny nature and a talent for dancing, and a devoted adopted sister, Rachel, who is determined that Hilary should have the chance to train to be a ballerina, despite their adoption by Aunt Cora who runs a very different sort of dancing school. The focus of the book is mostly Rachel’s misguided and misunderstood attempts to protect Hilary from a future of high kicks and cartwheels and it is only at the end of the book that we see Hilary’s response to her twice-orphaned state. She plans to marry young and have “lots and lots of children”. “It seems a waste of talent,” says Rachel, but Hilary is determined. “What’s nicer than babies?” says the girl who lost two mothers by the age of 10.
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
When Mr Earnshaw returns from a trip to Liverpool with a “dirty, ragged black-haired child” that he has found starving on the street, his family react with horror at the intrusion of this “gipsy brat”. Heathcliff might have had a chance if Mr Earnshaw had survived longer, but he is vulnerable to abuse when his foster father dies, and this unleashes a passionate story of love and hatred that tears a family apart.
5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
“You would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a place you thought was going to be home and found that they didn’t want you because you weren’t a boy. Oh, this is the most tragical thing that ever happened to me!” So says red-headed orphan, Anne when she discovers that the elderly Cuthbert siblings were expecting a boy to help with the farm work, and got her instead. Luckily her spirit and personality win over their hearts, and she finds a home in Avonlea.
6. Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls
Olivia has been in care since she was five, and is just entering her sixteenth placement. She tests every new foster parent to their limit, in a self-destructive cycle that she can’t escape. Will things be different when she goes to live with single father Jim and his children? There are hopeful signs, until Olivia becomes convinced that the house is haunted by the ghost of notorious baby farmer Amelia Dyer.
7. Blood Family by Anne Fine
Edward’s first years are horrific – neglect, violence and imprisonment. His rescue and adoption seem to be a complete success, but as he reaches adolescence his past surfaces, and seems about to destroy him.
8. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Were there ever orphans more unfortunate than the Baudelaires? In The Bad Beginning, they are swiftly orphaned and given over to the guardianship of their evil uncle, Count Olaf, who makes them do all the household chores and is only interested in getting his hands on their fortune. In the 14-book series, things go from bad to worse, but luckily the Baudelaire siblings are resourceful and loyal.
9. From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma
Raven is a troubled teenage boy, placed in care after his mother’s death. Slowly he trusts a new friend enough to draw her into his hunt for his mother’s killer – but can Raven’s word be trusted?
10. Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
Saffy doesn’t even realise that she was adopted by her aunt and uncle, until one fateful day when she looks at the paint chart where all the children’s names come from and realises that hers is not there. So begins a quest to discover her past, which takes her to Italy and uncovers some big secrets. First in the wonderful Casson family series.
A Somerset teenager is calling for foster carers to be better trained on how to look after lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) young people.
In our regular update from Fixers, the campaign that gives young people a voice, we bring you the story of 18-year-old Emma Willoughby, who realised she was bisexual while in foster care.
She found the views of her conservative foster parents upsetting and struggled to open up to them about her sexuality. She wants foster parents to have more information on these issues, and has created a suggestion booklet with the Fixers campaign.
She will also be holding workshops with new foster carers through the Somerset Foster team, who are supporting the campaign.
Children who've been brought up in the care system are some of the most vulnerable in our society, and often don't do well at school. But a Government scheme's hoping to change that for good. From this September every council now has to have a 'Virtual Head' in place to improve the academic standards of children in care, by acting as a kind of "pushy parent". Andrea Thomas reports from Cross-In-Hand near Heathfield. She spoke to 'Virtual Head' Adrian Money, Children's Minister Edward Timpson and school Head Andrew Best.
BRADFORD Council is drawing up a new policy in an effort to ensure that fewer children in care in the district are separated from their brothers or sisters when adopted or fostered.
It follows national guidance on improving the placement of siblings for adoption, which is relevant to both adoption and fostering.
A checklist has allowed the Council to assess what it is doing well, and to focus on areas for development, such as developing a specific policy on placing siblings.
The latest statistics show that as of June last year there were 196 sibling groups in care in the district. Of those 89 were placed together, 36 had some of the siblings placed together, and 71 groups were not placed together.
The vast majority of these groups contain two or three siblings, but there were also 18 groups with four siblings, seven groups with five siblings, two groups with six siblings, and one group with seven siblings.
Work is now taking place to develop a clear policy about placing sibling groups based on the British Agency for Adoption and Fostering guidance, which is expected to have an impact throughout the whole service.
Structures, practice tools and training are expected to be developed, to help improve the number of siblings in care that are able to stay together.
From April to the beginning of December there were ten groups of siblings matched to adopters, which involved 20 children in total. In the same period of time, five children across two groups were placed separately.
In addition there were 35 foster placements for siblings groups between April 2013 to March 2014. Of these 61 children across 27 sibling groups were placed together, 12 children across six sibling groups were assessed to be placed together but were placed separately, and five children across two groups were assessed to be placed separately and were placed separately.
In a report to Bradford Council's corporate parenting panel, Julie Jenkins, the authority's assistant director for children's specialist services, states: "As a general principle the local authority would want to place children in a sibling group together in recognition of the fact that sibling relationships are likely to be the most enduring of family relationships.
"However we are currently seeing more very large sibling groups, also children with highly complex needs.
"Work is under way to understand in more depth the population of children in order to build in appropriate planning and decision making to achieve the best possible outcome for them."
She goes on to state: "There are many factors which can effect the final decision to place sibling groups together or not including the individual pathway into care, their ages, and individual additional needs, the attitude of social workers, fosters carers, magistrates, judges and guardians."
In September, the Telegraph & Argus reported how research by Action for Children showed that one in five children in foster care were split from their siblings across the county.
The corporate parenting panel will discuss the report when it meets at Bradford City Hall on Wednesday, January 14.
On behalf of our young people we would like to say a huge "thank you"!
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by our supporters over Christmas. We had a fantastic response to our appeal and the gifts we received will help us make a big impact on the lives of our vulnerable young people.
Special thanks go to Corillace Sweet Creations who delivered a beautiful Winter Wonderland themed cake on Christmas Day to one of our London 16+ services, and a supporter who travelled by train from Winchester all the way to our head office in Putney, South West London, to deliver a suitcase full of presents for our young people.
In addition we'd like to thank corporate supporters Mitie and Thomson Reuters for their kind gifts to all those in our 16+ services, and to The Duke's Head pub in Putney for arranging a Christmas run on December 27 to boost our funds.
This Christmas has been filled with activities and acts of kindness which have brought smiles to our young people's faces. You can still help us support our young people by donating on our website.
If you think you or your business could support our young people next Christmas please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information about fundraising here.
An adoptive father who heads up a charity dedicated to campaigning for children in care has been awarded an OBE.
Dr John Simmonds, of Priory Gardens, Highgate, was recognised in the New Year’s Honours List for services to children and families as director of policy, research and development at the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).
He said he has seen adoption change from a system mostly used by unmarried mothers to one used for children in care.
The 65-year-old, who adopted his two children through Camden Council, said: “It has been a wonderful combination of the personal and the professional.”
He added: “One of the things that has driven me is listening to children, and working directly with children, and recognising that it is fundamental to have a permanent, loving and stable family as we expect for all children.”
Dr Simmonds began his career as a social worker before becoming one of the first to teach a specialist course in child placement at Goldsmiths College in the 1980s.
He joined BAAF in 2000, and has become one of the most respected experts in adoption, fostering and looked-after children.
Caroline Selkirk, BAAF’s chief executive, said: “We are very proud of John and are thrilled that he and his work have been honoured.”
News & Jobs
News stories and job vacancies from our member agencies, the fostering sector and the world of child protection and safeguarding as a whole.
Browse News Archives