Today, Her Majesty The Queen shared the UK Government’s plans for the coming year. The Queen’s Speech promised some significant steps forward for the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK today.
Our chief executive, Javed Khan, responded to the ambitious plans in a special blog on the Huffington Post.
While we share the Prime Minister’s high ambitions for children, the proposed legislative changes are not, by themselves, a fix-all.
We’re glad the Government has indicated improving children’s life chances is a priority, alongside tackling some of the UK’s deepest social problems. This has been Barnardo’s driving force for 150 years.
In particular, I support the drive to speed up adoption where it is the right decision for the child. A permanent, stable home is in every child’s best interests. Our worry is that this is the second adoption bill in as many years. It is well-intentioned, but this time it must translate into actual improvements in practice.
The speech today also talked about improving support for children leaving care. Barnardo’s has long called for care leavers to have a personal advisor until they are 25 years old, which we have already secured in Scotland, so we’re pleased the right to this crucial support will be extended to all young people in England.
For all the legislative plans announced today, the devil, as always, will be in the detail and implementation of change. Our biggest questions are if these changes will translate into real improvements for the most vulnerable children in our society, and how success will be measured.
Read the full article on Huffington Post.
FtSE Member News: Community Foster Care - Community Foster Care's first Spring Ball is a huge success!
A huge thank you to all those who made our first Community Foster Care Spring Ball such a fantastic night.
More than 100 of our friends, staff and carers enjoyed a lovely meal and danced the night away to Tommy and the Fuse at the Hatherley Manor Hotel near Gloucester on Saturday 14 May 2016.
Wine and good spirits flowed freely. So did your generosity - we managed to raise £1,986 from the event. The top raffle prize was a one-night stay with dinner at the Hatherley Manor Hotel.
It was a brilliant event. Special thanks go to all those who helped organise it, especially our Claire Neely. Thanks also to everyone who kindly donated raffle prizes. We couldn't have done it without you.
A full set of photos from the event are available to view on our Facebook page.
Top photo: Hugh Pelham (centre), Chief Executive of Community Foster Care and Community Family Care, with foster carers Malcolm and Christine Coward (left) and Elaine and Richard Dent (right)
Bottom photo: Community Foster Care staff - Claire Neely, Elene Jose, Mark Goulding, Lyn Taylor and Sarah Hilton
In recent years there has been increased government and media focus on the benefits of adoption for children in care who cannot return to their birth families, the importance of reducing the time children wait for a permanent placement and the need to increase the number of adoptive families available.
One option that has not had enough attention is the potential contribution foster carers could make to improving the chances of achieving adoption, particularly for children who may be seen as harder to place. While foster carer adoption has always been possible, it is an area of practice that has been a source of divergent views and controversy over the past 30 years, and only represents around 15% of adoptions in England and Wales.
There are clear benefits for a child being adopted by their foster carer, the most obvious being the continuation of relationships and attachments with the foster family. It also means fewer moves for the child, the chance to remain in the community, school or nursery they have become familiar with, and – for some – a greater likelihood of maintaining a connection with their birth family or siblings.
There are also challenges for social workers to address so they can make the best decisions for the children they are responsible for: how can confidentiality be maintained if the carers are known to the birth family or live in the same area? Should carers stop fostering other children for a period of time? What level of financial support will they need if their role is changing and how might this affect the child?
Ultimately, each case must be decided on its merits, with social workers balancing strengths, concerns and areas for support. There may be times when the barriers are assessed as being too great, but it is important that social workers keep foster carers involved in trying to find solutions to the practical issues where there are no other concerns about their ability to offer permanence. Some foster carers have moved house, moved area and even changed their names to ensure the child’s – and their family’s – safety.
When assessing foster carers, it is important for social workers to recognise that their motivation and route to adoption will be different to that of “stranger” adopters and based on the bond and attachments that have developed while the child has been in their care. Some carers have described negative responses from social workers to their request to adopt, based on a view that this is a back-door route to adoption or a reluctance to lose a valuable fostering resource. It is important that local authorities have clear policies so carers receive consistent responses across the social work teams involved. Research has shown that the attitude of key people in a local authority can have a positive impact on foster carers coming forward to adopt.
Social workers need to ensure that foster carers consider the differences between their role and that of a prospective adopter and the long-term impact on their family and the child. Ideally this should be through attending tailored group training for carers adopting, but where this is not available they should have the opportunity to meet and talk with other carers who have adopted. It is important too that they are given full information about the child’s past and implications for their future health and emotional needs, which may not have been made available to them in their fostering role.
Social workers should inform foster carers that they will have access to the Adoption Support Fund to provide them with additional resources. Where children are already settled in their fostering placement and there has been an assessment of their immediate and longer-term needs, it is now possible to apply to the fund so work can start even before an adoption order is made.
Research has shown that financial support can be a key factor in enabling foster carers to adopt and agencies should consider how they determine these allowances and tailor them to the needs of the family.
Evidence from other countries such as the US and Northern Ireland suggests that a more consistent and positive view of carer adoption in the sector could ensure that the stability and security offered by adoption is extended to more children in local authority care.
The decision to adopt a child from foster care is a life-changing one for both the child and their foster family, and the support of helpful and informed practitioners is essential in making this happen.
You don’t have to be a good cook to foster, revealed children and young people in foster care as part of a new survey conducted by The Fostering Network to mark the start of Foster Care Fortnight 2016 (16-29 May).
Instead the overwhelming call was for foster carers who can provide them with security, support and love.
261 care experienced children and young people were surveyed on a range of issues aimed at identifying what they consider to be the key qualities and skills needed to foster, and about the difference these qualities made to the lives of children living in foster care.
The top three qualities that these children and young people identified as key to making a good foster carer were:
• making them feel safe and secure (67 per cent)
• supporting and helping them (61 per cent)
• loving them (54 per cent).
Adam,19, is living with his foster carer in Scotland, said: ‘Foster care saved me and rebuilt me. I was shy, timid and awkward with little life prospects.
‘Fostering opened the doors to a vast amount of opportunities: allowing me to go to university, allowed me to take up almost every hobby know to the world and allowed me to become a member of The Scout Association.’
When asked what made a good foster carer, Adam said: ‘This may sound really silly, but caring. There needs to be a passion to deal with these young people who often come from horrific conditions and you need invest time, belief and strength in them. It cannot be underestimated the importance of a strong role model on a young person. You need the skill of seeing light in times of darkness because these young people will lean on you through some of their lives.’
While important for some, only 14 per cent thought that being a good cook was an important skill in a foster carer. Stars of The Only Way Is Essex, Debbie Douglas and Lydia Bright, took place in a 20 minute bake off to highlight the fact that a child comes into care needing a foster family every 20 minutes in the UK. Watch Debbie and Lydia's twenty minute bake off here!
The Fostering Network is calling for 9,070 foster families to come forward right across the UK to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children (7,600 foster families in England, 800 in Scotland, 500 in Wales, and 170 in Northern Ireland). In particular there is an ongoing need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and sibling groups.
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 best meet their specific needs. There is then a significant risk that a child’s placement will breakdown, further disrupting an already traumatic childhood.
If you believe you have the skills that children and young people want in their foster carer, visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/could-you-foster today and find out more.
Tonight, 64,000 children across the UK will go to sleep in the safety and security of the loving home of a family who have made the commitment to foster - and The Fostering Network's Foster Care Fortnight is a unique opportunity to celebrate those 55,000 foster families who make this possible.
Across the UK, local authorities, independent fostering agencies, and health trusts, will showcase the work of foster carers so that everyone can see the commitment, passion, and dedication of the foster carers who care for fostered children and young people in their own homes.
I know though, from my everyday experience of working with and meeting foster carers and fostered children that these stats are just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to truly knowing what an amazing role foster carers play for the children they care for and the societies in which they live.
This Foster Care Fortnight, to dig a bit deeper into what foster care is, and what it means for children, we asked 261 care experienced children and young people their views on what they consider to be the key qualities and skills needed to foster.
The top three qualities that care experienced children and young people identified as key to making a good foster carer were:
• 67% want a foster carer who makes them feel safe and secure
• 61% want a foster carer who supports and helps them
• 54% want a foster carer who loves them
Sara from Litchfield, who fosters children with severe disabilities exemplifies these qualities, and she told The Fostering Network: 'We became foster carers to offer love to children who needed it but also to help children reach their full potential. Nothing changes with children with disabilities. The targets may be different but the goal to live life to the maximum still stays the same.
'Helping a child find their way in this world is one the greatest gifts you can ever give to them.'
We call them fostering families for a reason, fostering is something that everyone in the household can be involved with.
Brodie, Sara's daughter and a very proud foster sister, said: "Seven years ago, my sister Olivia passed away in her sleep. She had a condition called Rett Syndrome. She was unable to do the usual activities a nine-year-old would do. We were told that she was not going to be able to walk, talk or make a difference; she did all of those. She showed us how she could talk, walk and she definitely showed us that she would make a difference in this world. She was nine when she passed and, as I was seven, it made a large impact on my life.
"A few years after, we decided to foster a little boy. He had a hole in his heart and was tube fed - had never been shown the love a one-year-old should be shown. Sadly, ten months later his conditions took his life.
"After that, my parents insisted that we were no longer going to foster because the heartbreak of losing two people in our lives was too much to handle. As I was then nine, I felt as if my voice should be heard. I explained to my family that if we hadn't fostered that little boy for those ten months, he would have never have experienced the love of a family who cared. This then made my parents think; they thought about maybe fostering another child who has a disability, yet not one that was life threatening.
"So, a few months later, we had a call about this ten-year-old boy who has global learning difficulties, autism and much more. We agreed that he was to become part of our family and we were so excited for him to become part of our lives.
"Four years later... that 10-year-old who was shy and nervous is now my 14-year-old brother who enjoys being cheeky and mischievous. My experience of being able to watch him grow from a nervous child into a cheeky teen has been the best experience I could ever ask for. And yes, my family isn't the most 'normal' but it is the most loving, caring, cheeky and unique family there is, and we would never be who we are today without the foster children who have blessed our lives."
Fostering is incredibly challenging, but hugely rewarding, and this year alone there is a need for over 9,000 new fostering families to come forward to foster this year alone like Sara and Brodie's family did.
The pressure to recruit new foster carers is ongoing: just as there is diversity in fostered children, foster carers need to come from a variety of backgrounds and have different life experiences, skills and qualities to help meet the needs of each individual child and young person in foster care. At present the greatest need is to recruit foster carers for teenagers, sibling groups, and disabled children.
Debbie Douglas, a star of The Only Way Is Essex, has been a foster carer for more than 20 years, and she said: "Becoming a foster carer is daunting but something many people would be capable of doing. You don't have to be a superhuman you just need to be loving, understanding and resilient.
"I urge anyone who thinks they have the skills and personality to make a positive impact on these children's lives to talk to their fostering service about becoming a foster carer.
"Stop thinking, just do it and pick up the phone. Being a foster carer is knowing that you've made a difference."
Lydia Bright, star of The Only Way of Essex and daughter of foster carer Debbie Douglas, said: "I've never known a life without being part of a fostering family. My friends at school used to complain it was boring at home, but being a part of a fostering family meant I never felt alone as a child.
"No parents have a child and don't want to look after it, but some can't. That's why you should never stereotype, because every child has come into care for a reason that's nothing to do with them."
Debbie and Lydia took part in a 20 minute baking challenge to raise awareness of the fact that every 20 minutes a child comes into care and needs a foster family.
It is never the fault of a child that they come into the care system, and once they do it becomes the responsibility of local authorities and health trusts to ensure that they receive the care and support that they need. Foster carers are an integral part of this, advocating for children, loving the children, feeding, housing, and clothing the children and ensuring that they go to school. Ultimately, what foster carers do is to provide the safety, security and love that the children are asking for and to give them chance of having the childhood that they deserve.
Chief Executive of The Fostering Network
Responding to the Prime Minister's announcement regarding changes to the children's care system, Jackie Sanders, director of public affairs at The Fostering Network, said: 'We are delighted that the Prime Minister has recognised the amazing job that foster carers do. However, on the eve of Foster Care Fortnight, we are again disappointed that this Government’s rhetoric refuses to acknowledge the fact that for the vast majority of children in care foster families provide loving, stable and secure homes where children flourish.
'Adoption may be the best route to permanence for some children, and we have no doubts that post-adoption support should be improved. However it will always be a small minority of children in the care system who require adoption, with the vast majority living with foster families for as long as they need to. The Prime Minister talks about ‘busting a gut’ to give children every chance of a positive future, yet he is only focused on a minority of children in care. Foster care can, and does, provide the sort of loving, stable and secure, homes the Prime Minister appears to believe is only possible through adoption.
'Fostering needs the same passion, support and investment from the Government as adoption. This Foster Care Fortnight is the ideal time to shine a spotlight on the amazing work that foster carers do to offer tens of thousands of children homes, families and positive futures each year.
'The promise of the first Care Leavers Covenant is welcome news, and we look forward to seeing the content of the Queen’s speech where we hope there is a positive message for all children who are in our care system.'
Carers from Community Foster Care are sending out a message for Foster Care Fortnight – the time to join us is now.
There are more than 69,000 children in care in England and Wales and, as the number keeps rising, the increase in foster carers cannot keep pace. Nationally, one child comes into care every 20 minutes.
Foster carers with Community Foster Care want to help change that and are backing an awareness campaign during Foster Care Fortnight (May 16-29) with the slogan ‘Time to Foster, Time to Care’.
CFC Chief Executive Hugh Pelham said: “Most people think they can’t foster, but usually the opposite is true. So long as you’re over 25 and in generally good health, you too can foster.”
He added that many potential foster carers think about it for years before coming forward.
“They might have discussed it with friends and family, but didn’t pick up the phone and make that first inquiry.
“The fact is that there’s lots of help to get you started, plenty of support and excellent training.”
One foster couple who have never looked back are Mike and Angela Sewell from Gloucester.
“We started fostering five years ago and now have a whole new family,” said Mike. “We adopted our son, who is now five years old, and have two other children.
“We waited a long time before we picked up the phone to find out about fostering. We were a bit nervous at first but there is lots of support and we’re never alone.”
Wendy Impey from Gloucester has been fostering for 17 years. “There are lots of options – like short-term fostering. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. But it can be very rewarding. It can enable children to go on and create a good family life of their own,” she said.
She stressed that children end up in care through no fault of their own. “What they want most is to be safe and for someone to try and understand them,” she said.
Anyone who wants to know more can call 0800 0124 278.
Research shows that a child comes into the care system in need of a Foster family every 20 minutes in the UK. It is estimated that we need to recruit 9070 foster families within the next 12 months to meet the demand of children who are currently searching for foster homes and to accommodate those children expected to enter the care system.
If you are interested in becoming a Foster Carer, please click here to make an enquiry or call us on 0300 111 1945.
Each Year, Fostering Services take part in various events during what is known as ‘Foster Care Fortnight’. Fostering Fortnight is an initiative started by The Fostering Network and aims to raise awareness about the need for Foster Carers across The UK.
Each Year, The Fostering Network pick a theme for the two-week campaign and ask everyone to support them by getting involved. Previous Fostering Fortnight themes have included ‘My Connection to Fostering’ in 2015, where people were asked to share their experiences of fostering, and ‘Guess who Fosters’ in 2014.
The campaign theme for 2016 is ‘Time to Foster, Time to Care’. In line with the statistic of a child coming into care every 20 minutes, The Fostering Network are asking you to use their template card and write down your ‘Favourite 20 minutes from last year’. Once you have identified your 20 minutes, take a picture and share it on social media using the hashtag #FCF2016, encouraging people to participate. Everyone at The CFT will be doing their part and would love you to get involved!
During Foster Care Fortnight alone it is expected that over 1000 children will come into the care system. If you think you have what it takes to Foster and would like to find out more, please click here to make an initial enquiry.
Alternatively, why not come along and show your support for Fostering Fortnight at one of our local recruitment events. We will be holding Open Days at some our regional offices:
*Yorkshire Office – 10AM-4PM (The Rose Suite, Nostell Estate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF4 1AB)
*South Central Office – 10AM – 8PM (55 Station Road, Petersfield, GU32 3ES)
*North East Office – 10AM-3PM
(SMS Meer UK Ltd, Henson Close, South Church Enterprise Park, Bishop Auckland, DL14 6WA)
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