Charities have criticised Nicky Morgan's rhetoric in support of adoption, and said she should "immediately apologise" for belittling foster carers
Education secretary Nicky Morgan has been accused of “insulting” foster carers by excessively focusing on adoption compared with other permanence options.
Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT Fostering & Adoption, criticised the government for belittling foster care and said the secretary of state should “immediately apologise”.
“Seventy-five percent of children in care are in foster care, 5% of children who enter care each year go forward [to be] adopted. These statistics are not going to change appreciably. For government ministers to constantly decry foster care as some sort of substandard waiting room for adoption is both inaccurate and deeply unintelligent,” Elvin said.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said Morgan and the government were “consistently promoting the message that adoption is the gold standard of permanence despite the lack of research into adoption outcomes, and that all other permanence options are second best and inadequate”.
In an announcement about adoption reforms, Morgan said: “Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough. We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.”
Not good enough
But this angered Williams, who used Morgan’s own phrase and said her statement “simply isn’t good enough”.
“While adoption can be the best option for some children, for the vast majority of children in care other permanency options will better meet their needs,” he added.
“We are tired of listening to those options being denigrated by politicians who, because they have the platform to speak and work as the ultimate corporate parent for all children in care, ought to know better.”
This is the second time in recent months the government has been criticised for comments on adoption, following an outcry over the way David Cameron spoke about adoption in comparison with other care options last year.
Williams added: “The secretary of state said that ‘We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve’. We, and the thousands of foster carers across the country, couldn’t agree more. Foster carers are committed to helping the children they care for to aim high and fulfil their potential; now we, they, and the young people they’re caring for need to know that the government respects, values and supports what they do.”
Education secretary Nicky Morgan unveils measures to prioritise permanence and therapeutic care in placement decisions for vulnerable children.
The law will be fundamentally changed to prioritise permanence and therapeutic care in placement decisions as part of the government’s drive to increase the number of adoptions, education secretary Nicky Morgan has announced.
The government has said it will quickly change legislation to make sure councils and courts prioritise placements on the basis of whether they will provide care up to the child’s 18th birthday, and provide the quality of care the child will need to recover from abuse and neglect.
The government said the change would mean that courts and councils always pursue adoption when it’s in a child’s interests. Morgan said it would “make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability”.
More money for the adoption support fund
The legal change is part of a suite of measures announced by the government to support adoption, which also includes extending the adoption support fund (ASF) for the next four years to provide therapeutic support to families both before and after the order.
The government will spend £200m over this parliament to support adoption. As well as the ASF, money will be spent on ensuring social workers have the right knowledge and skills to make robust decisions, support the creation of new regional adoption agencies, strengthen voluntary adoption agencies and speed up the adoptions of harder to place children.
Morgan said: “Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough. We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.”
The change to the law has been influenced by a fall of about 50% in the number of decisions for adoptions made by courts and councils over the past two years, an effect of the Re B-S judgment, which was perceived to have raised the bar in terms of what a court required to approve an adoption.
Today’s announcement follow David Cameron’s commitment in November 2015 to speed up adoptions.
Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK, welcomed the news, and said a vital part of permanency planning was ensuring all of a child’s needs were considered.
“We encourage the government to give due consideration to the need for there to be the best possible assessments of children’s needs to assist the robust decision-making they have described,” Thornbery said.
On long-term funding for the ASF, Thornbery said: “The progress of the ASF since its national roll out in May last year is really encouraging but we’re concerned that some adopters are still struggling to secure an assessment. We hope to see a marked increase in support services to meet demand as a consequence of the establishment of regional agencies.”
He added: “We must also understand and respond to the significant pressures that overstretched children’s services departments are under with increased referrals and diminishing resources.”
Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT Fostering and Adoption, called for the education secretary to apologise for an “egregious slur on foster carers”.
“The constant implied and direct criticism of foster care by the Prime Minister, Morgan and their acolytes is inaccurate, not supported by evidence, insulting to foster carers and counter productive,” Elvin said.
He added: “For government ministers to constantly decry foster care as some sort of substandard waiting room for adoption is both inaccurate and deeply unintelligent.”
Source: Community Care
FtSE Member News: Young People at Heart - Why we operate as a not-for-profit fostercare organisation
A recent article published by The Guardian highlighted exactly why we formed Young People at Heart as a not-for-profit fostercare organisation. It makes interesting reading.
At Young People at Heart, outcomes for young people are paramount and our profits are retained in the organisation for the benefit of young people in care.
If you would like to foster for a not-for-profit fostercare organisation, please contact us. We are recruiting new and experienced foster carers and if you already have a young person in placement, they will transfer with you.
Contact us today and let’s keep young people at the heart of fostercare.
The winner of a national live poetry contest today revealed his foster parents inspired his work and that he “wants to make them proud”.
Solomon Ogunmefun-Brooker was crowned National Poetry Slam champion at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday.
The 24-year-old had audience members welling up as he recited Unorthodox Beginnings, a poem about being raised by his white foster parents Victor and Patricia Brooker.
The musician, who goes under the stage name Solomon O.B, was born in Hackney but was taken into care with his brother Sam and sister Anu when they were all babies.
He calls his foster parents “nan and granddad” and spoke on stage about how he adopted their surname as a Christmas present.
Mr Ogunmefun-Brooker, who describes himself as a hybrid between a rapper and a poet, said: “They are the most loving people I’ve ever met in my whole life. Of course I’m biased.
“If we weren’t different skin colours you would have no idea we weren’t related. They showed us the same level of love and affection and pure dedication to raising us as they would their own children.
“We see so many fostering and adoption horror stories, and of course they are terrible, but our situation has been so beautiful and such a positive one.
“I think it’s important to share that and hopefully people can relate to it and hopefully it celebrates all that they’ve done for me. There’s a line in the poem ‘the whole family embraced us the same way that veins take in blood’ — they are all just our family.
“I showed it to them on Christmas Day. My nan is quite emotional, my granddad is more like an old fashioned man’s man. They tell me they are proud of me and that’s all I ever want.”
FtSE Member News: Why do we let fostering agencies profit from caring for vulnerable children? by Andy Elvin (TACT), The Guardian Social Care Network
Recent research from Corporate Watch shows that in 2014/15, eight commercial fostering agencies made around £41m profit between them from providing foster placements to local authorities.
This is pure profit. It’s after allowances for foster carers, staffing costs and support services. Who did this money go to? Well, according to Corporate Watch, one company, Graphite Capital, made £14.4m on shareholder loans from the National Fostering Agency, which it owned, and then sold it on. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan accrued £13m from its ownership of Acorn Care and Education. And Sovereign Capital took £1.9m in 2014 alone from company Partnerships in Children’s Services, a group that comprises several foster care agencies.
There is nothing remotely illegal or underhand about any of this.
Meanwhile, in 2014-15, local authorities were making significant cuts and services for vulnerable children were being squeezed. The fact that £41m of public taxpayers’ money, allocated to support children in state care, actually ended up in the pockets of a Canadian pension fund and some seriously rich capital firms is obscene.
Of course, they provided a service for the money. Foster carers (and the overwhelming majority of foster carers are selfless and fantastic in my experience) provided stable, loving homes for the children placed with them. But minimum fostering allowances, which range from £123 to £216 a week depending on location and the age of the child, are still scandalously low given the amazing work foster carers do.
The truth is that £41m could make a transformative difference to the young people these firms care for. It could pay for their university tuition fees, additional tuition, or a deposit on a rented flat. It could pay for their living costs so they could intern like their privileged counterparts.
Should we allow this, should local authorities stand for it? Do we need these firms, must we unthinkingly accept the logic of the market and accept that this is the price of doing business?
The commercial agencies will argue they have improved the quality of foster care. I would argue that charities and effective local authorities are equally adept at doing this – and don’t take millions in profits.
The National Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP), which largely represents the commercial agencies, recently took three local authorities to court in a judicial review to claim their commissioning approach was unlawful. The local government association deputy chairman, David Simmonds, said: “With most councils still maintaining high-quality foster care provision for a wide range of children’s needs despite 40% budget reductions, we will robustly contest this case as taxpayers do not need to be ripped off any further.” Simmonds is a Conservative councillor from Hillingdon, a traditionally Conservative borough. In December last year, the judge dismissed the NAFP’s claim.
In Scotland it is illegal for commercial, for-profit firms to provide foster care. Some companies have social enterprise subsidiaries operating in Scotland but, theoretically, no money is taken in profit. Children are still fostered. Local authorities and charities provide excellent foster carers and no one takes any profit; all the money goes on services for children. So another way is possible, it would be fairly straightforward for similar legislation to be introduced in England and Wales.
Surely we don’t want the care of vulnerable children to be a vehicle for enriching the already wealthy. Corporate Watch concisely told us what goes on, now we will see if the Department for Education and local authorities are listening.
Andy Elvin is chief executive of the fostering and adoption charity The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT). TACT is a member of FtSE.
Source: The Guardian Social Care Network
Fostering and Adoption Week 2016
This Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption Week (11th-17th January), the children’s charity is issuing a heartfelt plea for would-be-foster carers to give children the stable, loving care they deserve.
Everyone deserves a childhood where they remember feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. Tragically, this is not the case for some children who through no fault of their own, cannot live with their parent/s. When life gets tough, they need a caring adult to look after them.
Around 9070 new foster families are needed across the UK in 2016 to provide stable, loving care for these children, according to the Fostering Network. *
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“Across the UK ordinary people are doing something extraordinary: opening their hearts to help children feel secure and loved. More foster carers are desperately needed to give these children loving, stable care. You could be one of them.”
Barnardo’s celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2016. The charity was one of the first to place children with families and train foster carers to have the right skills to look after children.
Brenda Farrell, head of fostering and adoption at Barnardo's, said:
“Our foster carers are changing children’s lives for the better. You don’t have to be a saint or a superhero, you just need to be able to offer a child the loving care they need to help them be themselves at a difficult time.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about fostering a child can get in touch with the local Barnardo’s foster care team. Barnardo’s supports foster carers 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/fostering.
* Source: Fostering Network
9,070 fostering families are needed right across the UK in 2016, to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. This breaks down as:
Northern Ireland 170
North East 475
North West 1300
Yorkshire and the Humber 775
East Midlands 550
West Midlands 1000
East of England 650
South East 1100
South West 600
Not for profit fostering providers are expressing disquiet at the size of pay-outs to shareholders in some of the country’s largest for-profit agencies. Whilst we accept that we operate in a mixed market place, the increasing prevalence of tax avoidance schemes and the taking of excessive profits is unacceptable, particularly given the current challenges to Local Authorities working to maintain services in the context of austerity cuts. When profit becomes the primary driver, children and foster families inevitably lose out.
Almost 86,000 children were in foster care in the UK last year. The support they receive from their foster carers can make a huge difference to their lives.
Foster care placements are still paid for publicly but they are increasingly organised by private companies, for a profit.* The number of children who need foster care is going up, and it has become a “growth market”, according to the Financial Times. Even with council spending hit by austerity cuts, it is attracting an ever-wider range of companies and investors.
In response to requests from foster carers concerned by the privatisation of their service, Corporate Watch has combed through company records and accounts to investigate who is behind the UK’s biggest foster care businesses, how much money they are making and where that money is going.
We have found millions of pounds that could be reinvested in the care of children are instead leaving the system as bumper payouts to shareholders. Directors enjoy very generous pay packets, while some companies are siphoning profits out through tax havens in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean.
Foster care has become a lucrative business. Whether it should be a business at all is another question.
Companies referenced in the article:
Foster Care Associates; National Fostering Agency, The Foster Care Agency; Acorn Care and Education, Fostering Solutions, Pathway Care Fostering and Heath Farm Fostering; Partnerships in Children’s Services, Orange Grove, ISP, Fosterplus and Clifford House; Swiis Foster Care; Capstone Foster Care; Compass Fostering, The Fostering Partnership, Eden Foster Care and Seafields Fostering; Caretech
Click on the link below for the full article, including information on each of these companies, such as company owners, income from foster care, payouts to owners and highest paid director salary.
Corporate Watch have published an article highlighting the amount of commercial profit made by some foster care organisations.
As foster care is paid for using public money, FCC believe any surplus income after running costs should be re-invested back into an organisation to provide more support for the children.
This is not about the standard of the provision of care being offered. It is about the proper use of limited local authority money allocated to childcare – particularly at a time when that funding is at the mercy of so many cuts.
You can read the article here: https://corporatewatch.org/news/2015/dec/15/foster-care-business
This follows on from meetings with FTSE (Fostering Through Social Enterprise) this week, where it was agreed that not-for-profit fostering organisations should refer to themselves as NFP Fostering Providers (not-for-profit fostering providers) in order to rightly distance themselves from those that make a commercial profit from foster care.
Independent providers of foster care have previously been referred to as IFAs (Independent Fostering Providers) – an umbrella term used to include both profit making and not-for-profit organisations, particularly by local authorities.
New acquaintances are always intrigued to learn that we are foster carers. They have many questions about every aspect of what we do. But what they all really want to know is how many children we have fostered. When we tell them I look for a hint of disappointment in their faces, for their awareness of foster care is often based on stories of legendary carers who have looked after hundreds of children, and that is certainly not us. They may have seen foster carers on shows like Pride of Britain or Surprise, Surprise and been moved by the dedication of someone who has provided a temporary home to dozens of vulnerable children over many years. These are, undoubtedly, remarkable people and society owes them a great debt indeed. By comparison, our own achievements as foster carers fall short.
It is not only the general public that is beholden to the numbers of foster care. When Debbie Douglas, of The Only Way Is Essex fame, was announced as a new ambassador for fostering last month the Department for Education press release focused on the fact that Ms Douglas had fostered more than 250 children over two decades. She was, said children's minister Edward Timpson, "an inspiration".
She truly is. Foster care needs role models like Ms Douglas to encourage more families to consider becoming carers. But by focusing on the large number of children who have spent time in her care, rather than the breadth of her experience, we are doing Ms Douglas, and foster carers in general, a disservice.
The number, rather than the quality or complexity of foster care, has become the benchmark by which we are measured. Perhaps this is inevitable, but is it right?
We are not talking here about the number of goals scored or houses sold, but about real lives, about vulnerable children who have suffered neglect or abuse, about the tragedy of a family that has fallen apart.
We rightly applaud foster carers like Ms Douglas and her family. But are their achievements any greater than, say, those of the family who welcome a single child with learning disabilities and provide a home for life? Or those of a grandmother who steps in when her daughter's life falls apart to take responsibility for her grandchildren, at a time when those of her age are contemplating retirement? These are life-changing, full-time commitments that foster carers typically make, unselfishly. They look modest, almost insignificant, when subjected to the 'how many children have you fostered' test. Yet these carers stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have fostered hundreds of children. They are just as inspirational, and have so much to teach those who are contemplating becoming foster carers. In so many ways they are the real heroes of child welfare.
My concern is that our emphasis on numbers also perpetuates the image of fostering as a conveyor belt of care, which sends vulnerable children spinning from one home to the next. Do the maths (as prospective carers will do): if you have cared for 250 children over 20 years it means that in a typical year at least a dozen children will have passed through your front door. How to build meaningful relationships or to become a positive role model under such circumstances? Faced with the daunting prospect of this upheaval, and emotional challenge, it is hardly surprising that many families do not give fostering a second thought.
This image also weighs heavily on media representation of foster care. Last month The Times said foster care "brutalised" children, urging the Government to do more to encourage permanency through adoption. It becomes more difficult to argue against this when a Government minister singles out high placement numbers as an outstanding achievement.
The work of foster carers is diverse and complex. In our experience placements last for around one year. Typically, we receive siblings (we currently care for three children) and we been able to build lasting relationships with members of their birth families and their long-term carers. We are in regular contact with most of the children who have lived with us, and consider them to be part of our extended family. Under such circumstances it is unlikely that we shall ever be able to say that we have cared for hundreds, or even dozens of children. Yet our experience is not dissimilar to that of many foster carers, and all the more rewarding for it. Our lives have been enriched by this experience and we believe that, under difficult circumstances, the children have also benefited from the time they spent with us until their long-term futures were resolved.
How many children have we fostered? From now on, that will remain between us and the children, thank you.
A growing number of new fostering families is needed during 2016 to ensure the provision of stable, secure and loving homes for the record number of fostered children in the UK, according to figures published today by The Fostering Network.
9,070 fostering families are needed right across the UK in 2016, to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. The need is for 7,600 foster families in England, 800 in Scotland, 500 in Wales, and 170 in Northern Ireland.
In particular there is an ongoing and urgent need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and sibling groups. Many foster carers who choose to foster these groups, who are traditionally thought of as ‘hard to place’, comment on how rewarding the experience is and how well their fostering service has supported them to develop and evolve their current skillset in order to give a home to children who could not live with their birth family.
Despite the call for more foster families, all children who need a foster family have one. However, without more foster families coming forward during 2016 some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who does not have the right skills and experience to meet their specific needs. There is then a significant risk that a child’s placement will breakdown, further disrupting an already traumatic childhood.
Figures show that two in five (40 per cent) fostered teenagers are already living with their third foster family since coming into care, and one in 20 (five per cent) teenagers are living with their tenth family in foster care. With a rising number of children coming into care, and around 12 per cent of foster carers retiring or leaving fostering last year, there is a need to not only recruit more foster carers, but also better utilise the current pool of foster carers to best meet the needs of the children and young people in foster care.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “Foster families perform an invaluable duty on behalf of the state, one that really serves the whole community. Their work contributes not only to society now, but in the decades that will come as the young people who live in their care grow into independence and in turn become positive adults who give back to society. Foster families give children the opportunity of the childhood that they deserve, a childhood that otherwise they may not have had.
“By recruiting more fostering families, we can provide the wide choice of potential foster family needed so that each child has the best opportunity of being matched with a foster carer who can meet their needs at the first time of asking. Prospective foster carers will receive training and support from their fostering service, but before they even start the process they need a range of skills and qualities including patience, the ability to listen, being a team player and advocating on behalf of a child, a sense of humour and much more besides.
We would urge anyone who is interested in fostering across the North East, Yorkshire and the East Midlands to get in touch to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Team Fostering.
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