In this General Election year The Fostering Network is calling on you to register to vote, and to raise with your parliamentary candidates the issues highlighted in our manifesto which reflect what we believe needs to change to improve foster care for everybody.
We have taken our message to all the main UK-wide political parties, and have already met with Conservative MP and children’s minister Edward Timpson, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron’s policy advisor, Steve McCabe MP - Labour’s shadow children’s minister, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg’s special advisor, and representatives from the Green Party.
To achieve better foster care for all, we believe that we need to see:
• Investment and monitoring;
• A recognition of the importance of relationships;
• A professional framework around fostering;
• A new approach to social work.
Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at The Fostering Network, said: “If you are visited or contacted by politicians during the election campaign, why not ask them what they will do to improve foster care? You as foster carers, and the children you devote your lives to caring for, deserve your MP to not only be aware of the issues you’re facing – but to be a positive advocate for the cause.
“Foster carers provide an immense service to our society and The Fostering Network will continue to campaign for change that will make foster care better as we always have. We know that campaigning can work, especially given the success of our Don’t Move Me campaign to introduce staying put, and so we must continue to push for the betterment of all involved in fostering.
“We cannot make change if you do not register to vote, and so we hope in the build up to the election you will let your local parliamentary candidates know that fostering is a priority for you as a voter.”
You can find some ideas of what to discuss with your local candidates on our current issues page.
You can register to vote on the Government's website.
Do you want to find out more about what Staying Put is and whether it is right for you?
Catch22 NCAS have produced the first guide by young people for young people on this topic.
The report is aimed at young people but is also useful reading for foster carers, social workers and personal advisers. The guide combines the legal requirements for Staying Put with practical advice and suggestions from young people who have experience in Staying Put arrangements.
There are also a series of top tips for young people and their carers.
Read the full guide: Staying Put: What does it mean for you?
At least 8,370 new foster families are needed across the UK during 2015 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for record numbers of fostered children, according to figures released today from The Fostering Network (a leading charity for all those involved in foster care, and exists to make life better for fostered children and the families that care for them).
Each day sees over 63,000 children living with over 52,500 foster families in homes across the UK. With a rising number of children coming into care, and around 13 per cent of Foster Carers retiring or leaving the service last year, there is a need to not only recruit more Foster Carers but also better utilise the current pool of foster carers. More foster families are particularly needed to provide homes for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups.
Kim Perkins, Registered Manager (Wales) for The Foster Care Co-operative said: “Children and young people in care have often had a very challenging start to their lives and Foster Carers really can make a difference by providing a safe and loving home.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions about who is able to foster that may discourage potential carers from applying. However, our experienced Social Workers are more than happy to provide further information and answer any questions so I’d definitely encourage anyone interested in fostering to contact us.”
Rose aged 55, who has been a Foster Carer for The Foster Care Co-operative for 9 years said, “I wondered if I would be accepted to become a Foster Carer as I am a single woman. I was reassured that this was in no way considered a disadvantage … The rewards are numerous, too many to list, but you do get an overwhelming sense of pride and a feeling of fulfilment.”
Without enough foster families willing and able to offer homes to these groups, some children will find themselves living a long way from family, friends and their school. It could also lead to them 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. These pressures can lead to relationships breaking down, and children having to make regular moves between homes. Some young people will also be living in residential care when fostering has been identified as the best option for them.
Ian Brazier, Executive Director for The Foster Care Co-operative said: “Careful matching is at the heart of what we do. Time is taken to match our Foster Carers skills and abilities with the children and young people being referred to us. This minimises the chance of the foster care placement breaking down and reduces any further upheaval, stress or anxiety for both the youngster and their foster family.”
Jackie Sanders, Director of Public Affairs at The Fostering Network, backs this up and says: “A wider pool of Foster Carers enables fostering services to be able to match the needs of each child more closely with the skills that each Foster Carer brings, and to find the right home for each child, first time.”
During 2015 an additional 6,900 foster families are needed in England and 550 in Wales.
Anne Bard, Director of Childcare (England) for The Foster Care Co-operative said: “We do need more people who have the right skills and qualities to foster to come forward and make a long lasting positive difference to the life of a child. You will soon realise that our organisation is quite unique; we are the only co-operative in Foster Care within the United Kingdom, and we use the structure and benefits that this provides to ensure that we are strongly focussed on the care of vulnerable children.
Also, we are a committed not for profit organisation, meaning we do not have any shareholders and the children and young people are placed with Foster Carers based on their needs and not to reach a numerical target.”
A new strategy to raise the ambitions and educational attainment of children who are looked after in Wales has been unveiled by the Welsh Government
Launched by the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis and the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford, it sets out proposed arrangements to further support the educational attainment of children who are looked after, primarily of compulsory school age but also includes transition to further and higher education.
The aims of the draft strategy are:
In March 2014, there were more than 5,700 children looked after in Wales. 3,700 of whom were of compulsory school age. Welsh Government data shows that the educational performance of children who are looked after is significantly below that of other mainstream pupils at all Key Stages.
At Key Stage 4 in summer 2013, 53% of pupils achieved Level 2 inclusive – the equivalent figure for children who are looked after is 13%.
In 2014, some 45% of 19 year old care leavers were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). From 2007 to 2010, this figure stood at 51%.
The consultation also sets out the Welsh Government’s intention to change the arrangements to support children who are looked after through the Pupil Deprivation Grant. From April 2015 regional education consortia, working with schools and authorities, will be responsible for the delivery of effective support and outcomes for looked after children. Consortia will also have flexibility to support the education of former looked after children who have been adopted.
Huw Lewis said:
“We owe it to all young people to give them the best chance to succeed in life. This is especially true of children that, often for no fault of their own, have found themselves placed in the most challenging of circumstances.
“The improved educational attainment of looked after children is essential. It will though only be possible if education, social services and others collaborate effectively.
“There has to be seamless integration that starts at the highest level of the Welsh Government and which reaches right into the classroom to ensure that each and every looked after child receives effective help and support.
“It is essential that all those whose work, responsibilities and lives brings them into contact with children who are looked after contribute to this national conversation and identify actions to better support these learners.
Professor Drakeford said:
“We are committed to supporting children who are looked after and care leavers to reach their full potential.
“A good education with successful exam results may not prevent children who are looked after from making the wrong life choices, but having a strong foundation in education will stand them in good stead for life and will help open up opportunities and inform better life choices.
“This will only be possible if education services, social services and others work effectively together to ensure all children who are looked after receive help and support which enables them to achieve educational outcomes at least on a par with
Are the government’s much-publicised plans to introduce innovation in children’s services a means of allowing private sector involvement in child protection? Some have argued so, but as the chief executive of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact), the landscape looks different to me.
It could be argued that the Department for Education has fudged the rules to allow private companies to sneak in under a social enterprise disguise. But I doubt any local authorities will be fooled by this over-familiar wolf in sheep’s clothing. And, coming from a charity looking to work more closely with local authorities, I see a host of opportunities for innovative local authorities and entrepreneurial charities to work together to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children.
Like Ray Jones, who recently argued that the privatisation of child protection is continuing apace, I agree that the private sector has no place making profit out of children’s social care. But evidence for Jones’s claim seems scant, and regardless, that ship sailed years ago. Residential and foster care have been provided by private profit-making companies for years. Venture capitalists, private investors and even overseas pensions funds are taking millions a year out of shrinking children’s social care budgets. This is a situation that has to be addressed and the new guidelines offer a way to do that and more.
Tact, the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, offers good and outstanding permanence options for children across the UK. Our expertise and sole focus is the recruitment and support of excellent foster carers and adopters for some of our society’s most vulnerable children. Our sole focus is on providing these services.
By partnering with innovative local authorities, we can offer to manage these services on their behalf, leaving them free to focus on complex frontline child protection work and offer them, over the medium term, potentially significant savings to invest in this work.
I am not saying that innovative and outstanding practice only exists in the voluntary sector, but neither is a belief that statutory services have all the answers, if only they were funded properly, credible. It is through honest, open partnership that the best results can be achieved.
Having had extensive experience of commissioning services and building projects as a local authority manager, I am not convinced that the present public sector commissioning framework gives the best pathway to developing the services required. It is only through honest discussions and co-designing that the services children need can be developed and successfully run. For this reason, I think the issue is not that G4S-lite is being allowed in, but that the way in which services are commissioned needs to be re-imagined. Procurement rules must allow local authorities and charities to engage in a joint endeavour to design permanence services that achieve the best possible outcomes for children. This process is not the same as contracting out refuse collection or recycling.
There is much to be optimistic about in children’s social work in 2015. Developments in the Frontline social work training programme, the innovation fund and the new statement of skills and knowledge are all reasons to believe the social work profession can take control of services and improve outcomes. The opportunities for proper partnership between far-sighted local authorities and committed charities and social enterprises is another building block.
Through all these developments we can reclaim social work from the long-term neglect of government bureaucracy and use our expertise as strong and confident social workers to transform outcomes for the vulnerable children, young people and families we serve.
An adoption charity has launched a best practice guide to prevent foster children being denied the physical and emotional benefits of having a pet.
The report from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) entitled ‘Dogs and pets in fostering and adoption’, calls for care professionals to develop ‘proportionate policies’ in relation to dogs and other pets.
Some fostering services and practitioners have expressed confusion around best practice, the report found.
And in some cases unhelpful and risk-averse policies have been implemented in the wake of dog attacks, with some authorities blacklisting certain dog breeds for adopters and foster carers.
The guide, produced with the help of the Blue Cross animal charity, highlights the physical and emotional benefits a pet can bring for looked after children by making the foster home a positive environment and encouraging empathy and trust.
Paul Adams, Foster Care Development Consultant, and author of the guide said: ‘Dogs and other pets can provide a loyal, non-judgmental and constant companion for fostered and adopted children, and help to promote attachment between humans.’
Mr Adams added: ‘It is important that local authorities develop measured policies to help foster carers, social workers, adopters and special guardians to manage their pets in adoptive and fostering contexts.’
Caroline Selkirk, BAAF chief executive, said: ‘With one in four UK children growing up with a pet, it is a shame for children in care to miss out, particularly when it is these children who could benefit the most from the experience.’
The guidelines are available to purchase from £9.95 on the BAAF website, a podcass is also available https://audioboom.com/BAAFadoption.
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