The Fostering Network has released its latest statistical findings on the recruitment and retention of foster carers in England. The report Local Authority Fostering Services in England - performance benchmark report 2013/14, has been produced in conjunction with partners iMPOWER Consulting, and funded as part of a two year project by the Department for Education.
First collated in 2013, the benchmark report uniquely combines data collected through Ofsted and CIPFA with the addition of pertinent fostering performance statistics, giving participating fostering services an exclusive snapshot on performance compared with other local authority fostering services.
Foster carer recruitment and retention remains a signiﬁcant challenge for fostering services throughout England. A skilled, competent and committed foster carer workforce is the lifeblood for all fostering services, and many foster carers are credited as the greatest positive inﬂuence on the life of a fostered child.
Key ﬁndings from the Local Authority Fostering Service benchmark show that:
- 11 per cent of enquiries proceed to approved foster carers, and 31 per cent progress from enquiry to initial visit;
- the journey to approval takes an average of 273 days;
- 65 per cent of children in foster care are placed with local authority foster carers;
- 12 per cent of foster carers left their service in the past year.
James Foyle, foster carer recruitment and retention consultant at The Fostering Network, said: “By collecting this data year on year we are building a clear picture, and identifying trends, which will provide a foundation to identify and determine best practice for recruitment and retention in the sector, particularly with the potential addition of data from more fostering services next year.
“It is clear though that the challenge remains on how to promote fostering to recruit and retain foster carers. There are multiple reasons why 69 per cent of applicants drop out before the initial visit. For many the initial information provided to them through advertising or on initial enquiry does not sufficiently address the challenging and complex job that is fostering.
“By using the data to inform what we do going forward, and by working together as a sector to implement the best recruitment practice, then I’m confident that all fostering services can improve the quality and quantity of their foster carer cohort for the children who need them.
Each local authority who contributed information has received an individual benchmark report, so that they can assess their performance compared with participating fostering services across the rest of England.
To register your services interest in taking part in our next fostering service benchmark survey, please email: James.Foyle@fostering.net
Reading a densely written statistical analysis is the best cure for insomnia in my experience. For anyone from the independent fostering sector, however, Ofsted’s Fostering Statistical release for 2013-14, published in January, will jolt you wide awake in an instant.
The sector does not emerge from it well at first glance. Of the five ‘Key Points’ at the top of the report, two relate to the 36% increase in the number of children and young people reported missing and both indicate that the large majority of this increase came from independent and voluntary sector fostering providers (IFPs), who have a third of all foster placements and 40% of fostering households yet 59% of missing instances.
Not surprisingly given the concerns raised about CSE, this was picked up by several news outlets, including the BBC. Receiving less publicity were figures indicating that 42% of unplanned endings and 75% of children subject to restraint were in our sector. Also, IFPs were the source of most of the 25% increase in the number of misconduct allegations.
Credit is due to the author because these statistics are presented in an admirably accessible style and I encourage you to take a look. They cover all the key aspects of children and young people in foster care and as such deserve to be taken into account in future child care planning, policy and resource allocation. And for the sector, here’s where the first cautionary note should be introduced, because appearances can be deceptive.
On first reading it appears as if there is a serious problem in some areas with the performance of the independent sector. The fact that stats are produced separately for the independent sector and local authorities invites comparison throughout. Whilst it is useful to have these numbers, in the absence of background and context comparisons are of limited value in terms of future policy making and, crucially, improving outcomes for children and young people.
Complacency is the enemy of safe practice and the Department for Education (DfE) would be advised to examine all the elements that go into the complex task of fostering. I would suggest that the apparent disparities are due to two main factors, the complex nature of a decent proportion of IFP placements and, first and foremost, the excellent reporting practices in the sector, an area of inspection where Ofsted are diligent and detailed.
Greater vigilance regarding children and young people going missing is welcome. That’s why IFPs are responding enthusiastically to well-developed local protocols and working alongside police and Social Services, often at considerable extra cost because of the differences in protocols across the areas each IFP covers. This additional factor is not part of the report, again not the fault of the author because the stats are produced with little commentary or editorial, as they should be. However, readers inescapably bring their own context, ranging from the scandals in Rotherham and Oxford about young women in care or formerly in care being abused, exploited and drawn into prostitution to the need to justify budget cuts with independent fostering placements.
It’s not all gloom and doom in the sector. The figures suggest that IFPs are successful in recruiting black and minority ethnic (BME) carers and also offer a high proportion of permanent and child and parent placements. More foster placements are available for disabled children and young people, an increase more pronounced in the sector with a jump of 21%. These directly address gaps in provision.
Any focus on disparities also serves as a distraction from issues that must be addressed if children and young people are to benefit from placement choice. One such is the number of children coming into care. As of March 31st 2104 there were 51,315 children in foster placements, an increase of 1% over the previous year. Interestingly, the number of children who lived in fostering placements at some point in the year rose by 5% over the same period to 84,450.
One possible implication is that a number of children are coming into care for short periods, many of them as part of a sibling group. We know already that the number of care applications has increased since Baby Peter. This is not as a result of any evidence-based policy or direction. If the trend is to continue, research and resources should be focussed on meeting this need and identifying if it is desirable in the interests of children.
Another area is Staying Put. 52% of young people who turned 18 stayed with carers – the figures are about the same for both local authorities and IFPs. The previous year’s figures are not given (I suspect this is the first year these have been collected) so it’s hard to judge what this means for the life chances of care leavers. I am concerned that 48% do not appear to have had the chance to stay put. It would be helpful to know where they are.
A third issue is the number of foster placements. The Fostering Network has campaigned for many years for more foster carers, citing a shortfall of around 9000. These statistics show a 6% increase in both the number of carers and places, substantial given what appear to be long-standing barriers to recruitment.
More work is required to find out what is happening here. Are more families coming forward and if so, what has attracted them to fostering? Has the streamlined application and assessment process been successful and have standards remained uniformly high?
Further, what do we do with this increase? Occupancy rates have fallen by 3% to 63%. Good placement planning requires space in the system and some potential placements are kept free for the sake of children already in the household. Yet 37% of spaces are unused, almost two fifths of the total fostering resources.
One explanation could be that the placements are in the wrong place, i.e. there are shortages in some areas and a surplus in others. Another could be that IFP resources are not being used efficiently i.e. that IFPs’ spare capacity is unused because local authority commissioning processes exclude them. If this is true, this is not in the best interests of children and young people who benefit first and foremost from placement choice.
Overall, these figures are far too valuable to waste on superficial judgements and require considered analysis in order to take evidence-based policy-making and commissioning forward. The differentiation of local authority and IFP statistics implies separation whereas in fact there should be none. Local authorities and the sector are linked inextricably rather than being on opposite sides of the fence.
Alan Fisher, independent fostering consultant and social worker @spursblogger
The dramatic impact of social work scenes in The Casual Vacancy come at the expense of reality, writes social worker Alan Fisher
By Sunday night my brain has usually turned to mush. It’s all I can do to collapse on the sofa in front of some suitably undemanding television to postpone the start of the working week for as long as possible. Then I turned over to BBC. Social work has become peak-time viewing.
The dramatised version of JK Rowling’s book, The Casual Vacancy, was set in the fictional village of Pagford, a picture-postcard idyll in the Cotswolds whose middle-class elitism is under threat from the council estate on the other side of the tracks.
The opening half-hour rapidly set the tone as the veneer of gentility and community hid a multitude of back-biting and prejudice.
Enter Kay, an Afro-Caribbean woman who seems out of place. Turns out she is a social worker and we accompany her on her first visit to Terri, who lives on the estate and is ‘known to social services’, struggling to bring up her two children and stay drug-free.
‘Stark and brutal’
Kay finds Terri comatose on the sofa, her three-year-old playing on his own next to a tray of sharps and other paraphernalia. The house is a mess and there’s no food. Terri’s teenage daughter returns home while Kay goes to tell her manager about the visit.
The scene in the social work office is stark and brutal. Without even making eye-contact, the white middle-class supervisor slaughters Kay’s assessment that the child should be removed. She says they have lots of worse cases on the estate, and if this had been a complex family it would not have been allocated to Kay.
The BBC synopsis indicates Kay has fled from London after a child abuse scandal, but that’s not referred to directly. Anyway, the supervisor concludes, social services are £3m over budget so they can’t take children into care just like that.
This highly charged 30 seconds made for great drama, and that’s the problem. The dramatic impact came at the expense of reality. The child was at immediate risk of significant harm and it’s debateable whether or not Kay should have left the house at all.
Not only is there a duty for social services to act, in these risk-averse times it’s highly unlikely no action would be taken in these circumstances. The callousness of the supervisor in the face of child neglect just did not ring true.
Social work on TV
Social work has been well-served over the past couple of years by documentary-makers –Protecting Our Children on the work of a Bristol child protection team and a series about the adoption process were insightful, considered pieces – but less so in drama, even though programme makers have featured the profession more frequently.
Holby City introduced a social worker and the recent Silent Witness provoked a strong reaction with its portrayal of a committed but burnt-out social worker undermined by numerous procedural inaccuracies.
The Casual Vacancy has extremely high production values – the acting is pitch-perfect as a large of number characters in this ensemble piece have to establish themselves quickly. However, on this evidence the series has fallen into exactly the same trap.
Programme-makers must believe that the viewing public have a greater consciousness of children’s social work so we may see more social workers on television in the future. No one knows this better than advertisers, so the makers of the new Kentucky Fried Chicken advert must be delighted with themselves.
A forlorn but unnaturally neat boy stands framed in the doorway, filled with trepidation. Never fear – settling a child into a new placement is dead easy, just buy a bargain bucket and tuck in. Fostering is finger-lickin’ good. More awareness is welcome, such a pity therefore that programme-makers take a stupendously superficial approach.
‘A dramatic device’
People may not know much about what we do. The trouble is, they think they know what we do. Not in detail, but enough so they don’t want to dig any deeper. Also, social work is still not embedded in our culture. It’s easy to portray us as interlopers, outsiders who ‘do things’ to a community rather than be part of it.
Social work is vulnerable. Scriptwriters can get away with anything. Programmes always seek advice regarding the technical aspects of the work of any profession, so why have they chosen to ignore this in Silent Witness and The Casual Vacancy? We’re in danger of becoming relegated to the role of a dramatic device to enable the plot to move along smoothly. It does us no service whatsoever.
I’ve not read JK Rowling’s book, but the BBC has apparently changed the original ending because it was too bleak. I suspect Kay may play a part in that. But the BBC’s other Sunday night drama, Call the Midwife, allowed the episode’s central character, a doctor called Dr Turner, something that is denied to social workers in fiction or reality – redemption.
Questioning his self-belief and his future in the profession, Dr Turner hides at home behind drawn curtains. Then, a stream of gifts from the grateful locals arrive and he performs an emergency operation to save a patient’s life.
I suspect it will be a while before Kay or any other fictional social worker is allowed the chance to be the hero.
Ed Nixon and Ian Dickson, Every Child Leaving Care Matters.
No child would ever want to be in care. Sometimes they simply need to be – sometimes care saves lives. It’s fair to say that at the time of being admitted, care is usually better than the alternative. Even so, when a child is admitted to care they are thrust into a new and strange world of public ‘ownership’ at a time when they have probably experienced trauma sufficient to justify them being removed from their family.
Consider those children who are removed from ‘abusive’ families. This might be an entirely appropriate thing to do, fully justified legally and even morally – but it is often the child who suffers. In meeting their duty to protect, the ‘rescuers’ are taking the child away from all he or she knows. Whatever little security and attachment the child has is removed suddenly. It may well be in their best interests …….but try telling that to the child.
There are thousands of skilful, dedicated and committed social care, health and education professionals and carers ready to look after the child. These people all want to help the child. Why then does the care system fail so many children? Why, when the child has experienced the trauma of being removed from all that he or she has ever known, do so many children face this process being repeated sometimes time and time again?
Many social workers or carers will tell you about placement breakdowns and, in an unwittingly entered competition, you may find that they will often ‘gazump’ each other with true stories of a child who has had twenty, thirty, forty or more placements. It is impossible to work in child care and not come across these children. Even after decades, it still happens with appalling frequency.
How might these numerous and changing placements impact on the child’s development, education, sense of attachment, self-esteem? Badly, inevitably.
Should we be surprised that looked after children fare less well in education, for example? Of course not – so would we all if we changed school every few months and could not be entirely certain where we would be living from one month to another. There’s another thing – ‘attachment’. I am not one of those who feel that ‘attachment theory’ holds all the answers but it does provide quite a few. Many people switch off when they hear the word ‘theory’, yet often theory is simply condensed common sense. In my view, the impact of changing placement on a child’s capacity to form meaningful attachments is critical.
Even today, it sadly remains true that few children who enter care remain very long in their first placement. A change of placement within weeks or even days is still common. What impact do such changes of placement have? (Actually, the term ‘changes of placement’ doesn’t begin to tell the whole story does it? What it means as children often move through two, three, five, ten or twenty placements is that their carers change all of the time. Their social network is built and then dismantled, whatever trust they developed in their carers evaporates and for reasons of basic self-preservation, the young people are less likely to trust the next carer or carers in line.)
Pause a moment all those of you who haven’t been in care. Can you really imagine what that feels like? I can’t. I can conceptualise it but I can’t begin to imagine the pain and emotional impact. Of course the more complex the child the more likely it is that he or she will experience more upheavals, and every one adds to the litany of damage caused to the child in care.
Do people generally know what an attachment disorder is? What it looks like? The impact it can have? I suspect not. This piece is not even going to try to go there. I have not the skill with words to do so. However I implore you to watch the video on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0
As you watch this video, remember that it was a securely attached child experiencing a moment in time, not a whole childhood of unmet needs.
What therapy do we offer these children in care to begin to help them deal with their trauma? Frequently none, rarely consistently and almost never enough. If we placed a child in hospital because of a broken leg, would we simply feed, clean, keep it warm and as safe as we could it for a period and then send it on? No: we would ‘fix’ the leg.
Why then don’t we fix the trauma, and why then are we surprised that there are consequences for the rest of the child’s life. Seems simple doesn’t it?
Here is a true story of a referral I received from a social worker in October 2012
The social worker told me “J.’s age is a major issue. At 8 he is not of an age of criminal consent, which denies him access to further services, and means that his case is not deemed appropriate for discussion in certain arenas. I recently completed the ‘Vulnerability Checklist’ for J. in an attempt to have his case discussed at RMG.”
(I was then told that he had ‘wrecked the house, stabbed and killed a pony, kicked a pet pigeon to death, that he frequently and violently assaults his mother, father and siblings; that he is permanently excluded from school.)
The social worker continued: “However, due to his age and his non – involvement in sexual exploitation, hard drugs or overnight absconding for example, he only scored at 49 and the referral would not have been accepted.”
Did the local authority want a therapeutic placement? Oh no that would cost too much! I was told. I could not help but think to myself that if only he could have killed someone perhaps he would have ‘qualified’ for the help he so clearly needs.
Of course I have little doubt that J. was found an ‘affordable’ (for affordable read probably inappropriate to his needs) placement but I can be certain it will not have met his needs and that it will probably have broken down – as will several others afterwards – at which point finding the right placement may be impossible as the child’s experiences in all probability have pushed him further away from rather than towards recovery. And the cycle continues…
As the journey through care progresses, the situation does not improve for many children. Many may be increasingly vulnerable to someone who shows them affection and attention (which may lead to sexual exploitation).
Many may seek to take control of that part of their life that they can (sometimes manifesting as self-harm), or they try to block out bad memories and a pretty awful life (sometimes involving substance abuse). Some simply try to flee and become listed as missing.
These are our children – ‘Children in the Public Care’ as one Act states it. Who cares? Not enough people that’s for sure.
Moving towards the end of their care experience, even those children who have thrived and progressed face an abnormal future. They are effectively evicted from home by their 18th birthday at the latest in most cases and generally long before.
Sure, in theory (and subject to the capacity and benevolence of their foster carers) some children can ‘stay put’ until they are 21. Disgracefully, for children in residential care this is not even an option. This government seems to think it’s OK to discriminate between children with the same needs.
At a time when our society ponders why it is that so many ‘twenty and thirty somethings’ are still living at home with their parents, why is it that care leavers (who are often much less well equipped by virtue of their disrupted childhoods) are thrown out by their ‘parents’ at little more than half that age? It hurts, it’s frightening and it’s dangerous – and we do it to our care leavers.
Little wonder then that so many care leavers have troubled adult lives – the statistics are well known and I shan’t repeat them here. It is amazing that so many care leavers still have the courage and resilience to make the transition to adulthood without the struggle becoming too much. Very many don’t. They don’t because we as corporate parents have failed to meet their needs. Essentially we contribute to the ruining of some lives, not just childhoods, and the lives that those affected bring into the world are often affected too.
Care……….there is no escape for some. It just keeps on hurting for a lifetime.
Please sign Children England’s petition calling on party leaders to answer the simple question: “What will you do for children in care?”
Today Foster Carers in Wales went on one of the new courses we have introduced, based on their suggestions for their training needs.
The course was aimed at showcasing the positive benefits of using social media and social networking, for the Foster Carers and the children and teenagers they look after. Topics that were covered included:
1) A brief overview of popular Social Media platforms
2) Safe Social use
3) Why organisations should use Social Media?
4) How to use Social Media to build relationships and trust
5) Tips on how to create “rich content”
6) Why it's good to share
7) Some studies of successful Social Media charity and not for profit campaigns
8) How NOT to do Social Media (the last bit was just a bit of fun, showing examples of how some people have got social totally wrong)
The course was taken by Chris Moore, who is a familiar voice on Welsh radio stations for 30 years working for Red Dragon fm and working from day one at Real Radio Wales - where he was Wales' most listened to commercial radio presenter. Chris was instrumental in developing social media usage at Real Radio and utilised the power of social media platforms to build a closer relationship with the audience. Chris graduated with a degree in Social Media from the University of South Wales a few years ago. www.chrismooremedia.co.uk
Here’s what some of our Foster Carers had to say about the course:
“As a novice I did not know what to expect, very interesting, drawing me out of a negative position. I can see the positives in sharing news, information and promotions.”
“It opened my eyes to the vastness of social media. The course has taught me not to get bogged down trying to keep up with the technology and platforms the young people I care for are using, however, I will educate them on privacy settings and keeping safe, and get them thinking before the post or share.”
“I had no expectations however it opened my eyes and was very interesting. I will try facebook now, which I never thought I would.”
“It was highly beneficial and insightful, particularly because the trainer, Chris Moore, had a wealth of experience.”
“Lots of interesting information, I feel more confident talking to the teenagers I care for about social media.”
More pictures here:
A group of more than 30 children’s sector leaders have today published an open letter launching a petition to ITV, and the other public broadcasters, to get one question to all party leaders included in the Leadership Debate next Thursday: ‘What will you do for children in care?’
Led by Children England, the membership body for children’s charities and voluntary groups, the letter says ‘This General Election should be the first in which the nation publicly asks its politicians how they will live up to their responsibility to be good parents for our most vulnerable children’
The long list of signatories includes David Holmes (Family Action) Matthew Reed (The Children’s Society) Javed Khan (Barnardos), the Earl Listowel (All Party Parliamentary Group for Children), and a wide range of leaders across the charity sector and wider.
Kathy Evans, CEO of Children England, said:
“Elections are a vital time in every democracy for voters of all ages and opinions to hear what their politicians would do on their behalf, if given the power to do so. We believe it is time that children in care, who depend directly on government but have no vote themselves, featured in that democratic examination and debate.”
“The strength of support among leaders for children shows the passion there is within the sector that supports and champions them. We hope our public petition will also show that ordinary people out there in the voting public also really care about children in care, and want to know what their politicians will do for them.”
1. The full text of the open letter is at http://www.childrenengland.org.uk/?p=8689. The public petition is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/ask-leaders-what-will-you-do-forchildren-in-care
2. Children England is the leading membership organisation for the children, young people and families’ voluntary sector. With member organisations working in all parts of the country ranging from small local groups to the largest household names in children’s charities, Children England is in a unique position to use the collective voice of the voluntary sector to achieve positive change for children. www.childrenengland.org.uk.
3. There are 68,840 children in care in England; 16,041 in Scotland; 5,756 in Wales; 2,858 in Northern Ireland.
4. The Commons Select Committee children in care report, 11 March 2015, criticised the Department for Education for a lack of leadership on children in care: “It has demonstrated an alarming reluctance to play an active role in improving services and securing a better future for this most vulnerable group of children”. http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/publicaccounts-committee/news/report-children-in-care/.
5. The open letter and petition calling for party leaders to be asked ‘What will you do for children in care?’ is part of the Children at Heart umbrella campaign, which unites and amplifies all priorities for children in one simple demand for the next government to put children at the heart of decision-making. Further information is at www.englandschildren.org.uk.
This General Election should be the first in which the nation publicly asks its politicians how they will live up to their responsibility to be good parents for our most vulnerable children.
We call for the Leaders' Debate on 2nd April 2015 to include one simple question to all parties: ‘What will you do for children in care?’
Why is this important?
The forthcoming Leaders' Debate presents a vital opportunity for the voting public to hear how the different political parties would act in government over the next five years, if given the power to do so.
Among the millions of children and young people who are affected by government policies every day, one group in particular rely more directly on government than any other – the 68,000 children in care*. For these children and young people, too-often invisible in political debates and without a vote of their own, the state has a special responsibility.
Anyone seeking government office, not least hoping to be Prime Minister, takes on a ‘corporate’ responsibility for all children in care. We believe it is our duty as voters to hold our politicians to democratic account for their role as corporate parents to these children. If we don’t, who will?
This General Election should be the first in which the nation publicly asks its politicians how they will live up to their responsibility to be good parents for our most vulnerable children.
We call for the Leaders' Debate on 2nd April (and other leadership interviews) to include one simple question to all parties: ‘What will you do for children in care?’
*There are 68,000 children in care in England.
How it will be delivered
Email signatures to the relevant editorial staff at each broadcaster.
EXCITEMENT is building for the Dorchester-on-Thames Festival which is taking place this May.
The biennial event is one of Oxfordshire’s leading festivals and will be held at Dorchester Abbey from 1st - 10th May. More than 3,000 people are expected to enjoy almost 50 events including The Tallis Scholars, a Come and Sing with John Rutter, OSCAR winner Ben Morris, a Food Fair with cookery demonstrations and a wide variety of children’s entertainment.
Family support charity Parents And Children Together (PACT) is the official charity partner of the event and will share the proceeds with Dorchester Abbey.
PACT has been building and strengthening families since 1911 through adoption, long-term fostering, award-winning therapeutic services and community projects across London and the south.
It hopes to use the funds raised from the festival to provide therapeutic support services to Oxfordshire families to help adopted and fostered children to address painful issues from their past.
PACT chief executive Jan Fishwick said: “We are looking forward to the excellent programme of shows and performances.
“I am personally taking part in the fun by abseiling down the Dorchester Abbey Tower – an enormous challenge for me but something I am prepared to do because I am passionate about the work PACT does.”
Festival Director Steph Forman said: “This year’s festival programme is the best yet and we are delighted to have so many well-known people contributing their time to raise money for two great local charities.”
Also taking part in the abseil on Saturday 2nd May are Rector of Dorchester Abbey Sue Booys, SODC Leader John Cotton, PACT Trustee Graham Sykes, TV presenter Saira Khan, PACT adopter Julie Bignone and parish counselor Sue Graney. Find out more at http://dorchesterfestival.com/familychildrens/grand-opening-and-tower-abseil-saturday-2nd-may-12noon/
Tickets for all the events can be purchased via the website at www.dorchesterfestival.com.
The Fostering Network is delighted to have been awarded a grant from the Department of Education to engage with Children in Care Councils in England, and strengthen the voice of care experienced young people through the recruitment of care experienced young ambassadors.
The one year project will work with local authorities in three regions and will seek to raise awareness of Children in Care Councils amongst foster carers and care experienced children and young people, with the aim of increasing the number and diversity of young people taking part in the councils and enhancing their impact locally and nationally, including through a new national virtual Children in Care Council.
Lucy Peake, director of development at The Fostering Network, said: ‘The Fostering Network is committed to delivering services to children and young people that benefit them, make their voices heard and enable them to reach their potential, which is why we are so pleased to have been given this grant to raise the profile of Children in Care Councils and embed the voice of young people more fully in local and national structures.’
More than four out of five newly approved foster carers hold “pioneer” values, compared to just one in four of the general population, according to new research released this week by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network.
Why foster carers care: part 2, produced by The Fostering Network in partnership with consultancy iMPOWER as part of the Department for Education funded project to support fostering services to recruit more foster carers, uses a system for identifying individuals’ values in order to explore in depth the actions and attitudes of foster carers.
Using this Values Modes™ approach, the population of newly approved foster carers was found to be:
81 per cent pioneer: Typical pioneer characteristics are that they try to understand the big picture; they’re concerned about the environment, society, world poverty, and so on; they’re always looking for new questions and answers and hold a strong internal sense of what is right and what is wrong; they’re self-assured and sense of self-agency; pioneers are generally positive about change, if it seems worthwhile, and they’re cautiously optimistic about the future.
16 per cent prospector: Typical prospector characteristics are that they are success oriented and want to ‘be the best’ at what they are doing; they welcome opportunities to show their abilities and take great pleasure in recognition and reward; they look to maximise opportunities and will take opportunities for advancement and professional networking; they like new ideas and are generally optimistic about the future.
Three per cent settler: Typical settler characteristics are the need for safety, security and belonging; family, friends and home are very important to them, as are tradition and structure; they prefer things to be ‘normal’ and are naturally conservative (with a small ‘c’); they are wary of change, especially for its own sake and prefer regular and routine situations.
The importance of identifying values
Identifying the values of foster carers can help fostering services understand why people make the decision to care for other children. This in turn can help services to find the best way of engaging existing foster carers through support and supervision, and can also assist them in targeting their recruitment message to reach different members of the community.
For example, pioneers have a strong desire for fairness and a keen sense of what is right or wrong. Being treated fairly and being involved in decision making are very important to pioneers. This knowledge should prompt fostering services to consult with and engage their current foster carers, while understanding that pioneers will be the ﬁrst to respond to what they see as a moral call to action should also help fostering services to shape their recruitment messages when they are targeting more pioneers. In contrast, prospectors are more driven by status and ambition, while settlers are focused on home and family. Each group will respond to a different approach.
James Foyle, foster carer recruitment and retention consultant for The Fostering Network and author of the research, said: “Around 7,200 foster carers have been approved in each of the past two years, demonstrating the success of fostering services’ recruitment initiatives across the country. This success should mean wider placement choice so that more children and young people can find the right home and family at the first time of asking.
“But greater focus is needed on the utilisation of foster carers, as well as an onus on recruiting for speciﬁc groups of children. As the first Why foster carers care report identiﬁed, understanding and applying the Values Modes™ theory can improve all fostering services’ recruitment and retention performance.”
In addition to identifying the values of foster carers approved since April 2013, the survey also sought information on the key motivations for applying to foster. Support available and peer recommendations were identified as two of the primary motivators for selecting a fostering service, while money was not an important factor in the decision to foster for almost half of new foster carers.
You can download the Why foster carers care: part 2 report here.
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