Coventry City Council has announced it will give its staff an extra five days of leave if they are applying to be a foster carer.The move is part of a ‘fostering friendly policy’ introduced by the local authority to encourage more people to come forward to foster children.
The additional leave is designed to enable staff to attend meetings, home visits and training sessions and once approved they will be eligible for a further three days.
Julie McCann, who works as an early support key worker for the council and has fostered for 18 years, said the new policy had ‘taken the pressure off’ and hopes other employers follow suit.
‘This extra time allows me to attend those sessions and things like school and medical appointments without worrying about how much leave I’m using and whether I can still plan family holidays. It takes the pressure off me and my colleagues as we all know where we stand – it has made life so much easier.
‘You have so much to think about when you are fostering, even things like telephone calls to schools and this gives me the time to do that, I know that if meetings come up I have the time and I don’t have to panic.’
Councillor Ed Ruane, cabinet member children and young people, said: ‘As a council we want to make sure we get caring, responsible foster carers to help give children in need a loving home and the best possible start in life. And as an employer, we want to make sure our staff can provide that support and still have their career and not feel stressed about having to balance work and the busy role of a foster carer.
‘People like Julie are making a real difference to young children in Coventry and they do a wonderful job and we are trying to do our bit by making changes that make life a little easier for them and allows them the time to be the best foster carer they can be.’
FtSE Member News: Barnardo's - Put care leavers in the driving seat, so they can choose their housing
Together with homeless charity St Basil’s, we are launching a new five-step framework for local authorities that puts young people at the heart of choosing and managing their accommodation when they are leaving foster and residential care.
Young people who leave care are more likely to live alone when they are too young to cope. More than two in three (68%) of young people who have been in care leave home on their 18th birthday, and 31% leave when they reach the age of 16 or 17 .
Care leavers are more likely than their peers to face rent debt or homelessness. A quarter of homeless people were in care as children .
The framework pulls together expertise from local authorities, leaving care and housing charities. The Care Leavers Accommodation and Support Framework has five steps for local authorities to help put young people in the driving seat with their housing:
Vulnerable young people who leave care can face rent debt, misery and even homelessness. All-too-often they find themselves living in accommodation that they’re not ready for or doesn’t suit them."
As their corporate parents, we need to give care leavers the same support we would give our own children – honest advice about their housing options, choice and control as they make those decisions. They need to be in the driving seat.”
St Basil’s chief executive, Jean Templeton comments:
St Basil’s have been really pleased to work with Barnardo’s to develop this framework for care leavers which complements the positive housing pathway developed for young people moving to independence.”
As well as setting out a simple model that local authorities can use flexibly to meet local needs, the framework provides advice, case studies and examples of good practice from across the country. This includes talking young people through the reality of their local housing market, planning their options together, and working with them to find new accommodation if their circumstances change.
Notes to editors
This press release applies to England.
 Data from the Department for Education, 2014
 Crisis, Young, hidden and homeless, 2012
 The following organisations worked with Barnardo’s and St Basil’s in developing the Care Leavers Accommodation and Support Framework: Centrepoint, Depaul UK, Homeless Link, Leeds City Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Somerset County Council, St Christopher’s, Stoke on Trent Council, The Who Cares? Trust, Youth Justice Board
 St Basil’s published its updated Positive Youth Accommodation Pathway in September to help local authorities tackle youth homelessness: http://www.stbasils.org.uk/how-we-help/#positive-pathway
We urgently need more foster carers. Another 8,000 additional families are required to meet demand for stable, secure and loving homes for record numbers of fostered children, according to The Fostering Network
Our system of child protection relies heavily on foster carers. Of the UK's 80,000 looked-after children, 63,000 are in foster care. A shortage of available families weighs heavily on the care process. It may mean that a decision to take a child into care is delayed, with obvious risks. More children are placed out of area, far from family and friends. Many are required to move two or three times in a year, as a report by Action for Children has revealed. Siblings are more likely to live apart. The system is letting children down in so many ways.
At the same time, foster carers come under pressure to accept a placement that may be inappropriate for their own domestic arrangements, or without the necessary training, which increases the risk of a breakdown. Short-term placements become long-term by default. Multiple placements of children from different families are becoming more common.
Fostering organisations do fine work to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers, with frequent recruitment drives, and by providing better training and support. Without their efforts the situation would be even worse. But as the number of children in care rises, the gap between what is needed and what is available grows every day. The average age of foster carers has risen significantly, with a substantial proportion already in their 50s and 60s. Unless recruitment of new foster carers of all ages is stepped up sharply there will be a far higher deficit of foster carers very soon.
The outlook is not encouraging, and it is not because this generation is any less caring than previous generations. Structural changes in society make it more difficult for families to commit to fostering. Many people are delaying parenthood, prioritising careers and financial security. Grown-up children remain within the family home for longer, particularly in areas where housing costs are high. More students choose universities closer to their families to save on the cost of accommodation. Typical family homes are getting smaller, and the bedroom tax has encouraged many couples to downsize when their children do leave.
With an ageing population, more families are become responsible for the care of elderly parents and relatives. So families are squeezed between their commitment to their children and to their parents. Paradoxically, more people than ever before are living alone but often in single-occupier properties that are not suitable for fostering.
If the demographics militate against fostering, so do the economics. The finances of fostering are, at best, precarious. Foster carers are, essentially, volunteers supported by allowances that have kept not pace with increases in the real cost of living and many placements result in a financial loss. Yet the demands imposed on foster carers have increased significantly, albeit for the right reasons.
While I do not advocate a move to professional foster care, it clearly is wrong to expect families to subsidise the care of looked-after children. And yet, given where we are in terms of the arguments about spending on public services it seems highly unlikely that fostering will be able to negotiate a new settlement.
Where to turn in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles? There is pressure to find a solution through the privatisation of children's services. That is an argument for others to fight. I propose a third way, in which business forms a partnership with foster carers through a national membership scheme that provides meaningful discounts and special offers on goods and services to support the care of looked-after children. I am aware that some local schemes do exist. But though well-intended, they do not have the scope or reach to make a significant difference.
Businesses should recognise the exceptional role of foster carers in protecting and nurturing vulnerable children and young people in their strategy for corporate social responsibility. Companies can play a major role in improving access to the educational and leisure facilities that most children take for granted . By sharing the financial burden of foster carers they can make a significant difference.
It is essential for foster carers to be able to provide the same opportunities and experiences to looked-after children as they do for their own, without fear of overspending their allowances, whether they are buying shoes, books or school uniforms, or contemplating a trip to a farm park, the cinema or a holiday. As a foster family who look after siblings in care, we understand the significance of financial considerations. We are always mindful of the fact that as well as caring for other people's children, we are custodians of taxpayers' money. We also know that if we get it right we make an important contribution towards helping a looked-after child become a responsible and valued member of society as an adult.
If fostering is to have a future, it needs to become a national social movement, and not just the responsibility of a few thousand volunteers. A national membership scheme supported by business would provide a wonderful launch pad. Companies may even find that such a scheme becomes self-funding, by attracting additional business.
For the sake of all our children, fostering must be embraced and understood by all, and supported in meaningful, innovative ways. Business can, and should, play its part.
Fostering News: Celebrity chef Lorraine Pascale joins foster carers and children to celebrate educational achievement
elebrity chef Lorraine Pascale joined around 150 foster carers and fostered children to celebrate educational achievement at the Science Museum on Wednesday 23 September.The event, hosted by Achievement for All and The Fostering Network, was held as part of London Fostering Achievement - a unique programme of work designed to raise the educational aspirations and achievements of children living with foster families across the capital.
Research shows children in care have poorer educational outcomes than their peers. Only 16.8% of children in care in London achieve 5 A*-C including English and Maths at Key Stage 2, compared to 63% of the total London population.
High proportions have special educational needs; 67.8% nationally. The gap between the attainment of children in care and their peers remains a high priority for the government.
Children and adults alike were able to experience the exhilarating Red Arrows flight simulators for free, witness live explosive science shows, and enjoy over 50 interactive exhibits. All were treated to free ice cream and milkshakes throughout the evening.
East-London born Lorraine Pascale, said:
“Education plays a vital role in the development of any child, and London Fostering Achievement has supported foster carers in ensuring that children living in foster carers can achieve their full potential. This event has been a superb opportunity for fostering families from across London to come together and enjoy themselves as a reward for all of their hard work.
“Having spent time in foster care as a child, I can really value what being part of a positive fostering family can mean, and so it’s been amazing to be here meeting everyone and seeing so many smiles.”
The LFA programme is funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Department for Education (DfE) and is backed by the Mayor of London.
CEO of Achievement for All Professor Sonia Blandford said:
“Children in care traditionally do less well academically than their peers and are often less engaged in their education. The LFA programme helps to develop the confidence and skills of foster carers and support them to bridge the gap between school and home to help children in their care achieve the very best in their education.
“Foster carers are the first educators of children in care and by working alongside carers, teachers and schools we can successfully boost aspirations around what children can achieve.”
Lisa Belletty, Programmes Manager at The Fostering Network added:
"Foster carers play a vital role in boosting educational outcomes for children in their care. Through the work of London Fostering Achievement, we have heard so many inspirational examples of foster carers, including our education champions, going the extra mile to help children achieve. Hundreds of fostered children from across the capital will have their life and education improved because of London Fostering Achievement, and that on its own is reason enough to celebrate. Through this event, we want to thank foster carers and children for all their hard work over the last year and to recognise their outstanding commitment and dedication."
 The Mayor’s London Annual Education Report 2013
A new fostering charity has been created to help alleviate growing numbers of children being brought up in care.
The Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland (AFAS) will provide support services following the closure of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) earlier this year.
As well as being responsible for training and providing consultancy, a new helpline for the public and professionals will be created.
The move follows the appointment of St Andrew's Children's Society to run Scotland's Adoption Register in July.
Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, said: "We know that having a secure, stable and supportive home is vital to a child's well-being.
“When children are no longer able to live at home it is vital that there are effective services in place with knowledgeable, confident professionals who can support children into appropriate, alternative care placements.
"The importance of maintaining the services that match and keeps them together is clear.
“It impacts the young person's mental and physical health, improves their performance in school and sets them on the road to a successful and fulfilling life and this must be a priority for us all."
Rhona Pollock, legal consultant at AFAS, added: "We are delighted to be able to offer an independent, multi-disciplinary Scottish voice that supports those involved with children and families and those affected by adoption, fostering and kinship care.
"We will strive to promote permanently better lives for children in Scotland and look forward to working with other agencies in achieving this."
It is expected all staff from BAAF Scotland will transfer to the new organisation.
Industry News: Family court criticises council for failing to fully consider alternatives to adoption
A family court has told Gloucestershire Council to re-examine its plan to place a child up for adoption following a “systemic failure” in its handling of the case.
In a judgement made earlier this week, family court judge Stephen Wildblood criticised Gloucestershire for taking a year to issue care proceedings following its decision to remove Child C from his mother and for failing to fully explore alternatives to adoption.
The boy, now six, was taken into foster care in May 2014 due to concerns about neglect, his mother’s mental health and a person known to pose a risk to children continuing to have contact with the child.
But it then took Gloucestershire until May 2015 to make its placement application, a delay the judge called inexplicable. “That has absolutely nothing to do with limited resources,” he said. “It is simply bad practice.”
Judge Wildblood also criticised the placement application itself, especially over its failure to consider long-term fostering as an option for the child.
The council did discuss with the boy’s foster carers the option of them becoming his special guardians or adoptive parents, but they wished to remain foster carers. As a result the council’s care plan concluded that since Child C could not return to his mother, he should be adopted.
However, when the children’s guardian talked to the foster carers after the care plan had been filed, they said they would be happy to continue caring for the boy as a long-term foster family. The boy also now regards the foster carers as his family and the children’s guardian recommended that Child C should stay with them.
The judge noted, though, that Gloucestershire Council refused to commit to keeping Child C with his foster carers even if the court ordered it.
“The local authority’s response was that it would give no commitment to C remaining with his current foster carers if a care order were to be made, even if the court made such an order having expressed the view that he should remain there,” said Wildblood in his judgement, in which he also floated the option of giving directions for a special guardianship application if the council’s stance on this did not change.
The judge also said that adoption presented potential problems, including disruption to Child C’s life and the question of whether it was likely he would be adopted given his age.
In addition, after submitting its original plan, the council amended it so that it could first assess whether Mr D, the father of Child C’s younger half-sibling, could become his carer before deciding whether to go ahead with adoption.
While Mr D initially told the council he would not be able to care for the boy before changing his mind late in the care proceedings, the judge said it was “very unfortunate indeed” that the council had not reapproached him before submitting its original care plan given that Child C and his half-sibling were close and still in contact.
The judge also said that if the council had done a psychological assessment of the mother closer to the time when Child C entered care rather than in March 2015, the earlier provision of therapy to the mother might have opened up the possibility of the boy returning to his mother.
Given this, Wildblood concluded that the council’s placement application was “inadequately considered”. “The local authority must consider the realistic options that arise and must put its case into order,” he ruled.
“The local authority must therefore look at the options that arise and file proper evidence in relation to them. The case will have to come back before me later this week when I will have to give further directions as to how that will be achieved.
“It is deeply frustrating that a case such as this has to exceed the timescales provided by section 32 of the Children Act 1989 and that should be recorded as having been caused by systemic failure by the local authority.”
Kathy O’Mahony, Gloucestershire’s operations director for children’s safeguarding and care, said: “We took robust action in this child’s case to ensure he was protected from harm and he has been doing well in foster care.
“I am saddened by the judge’s comments, but he does raise important issues about delay and we will be reviewing this case to identify exactly why aspects of this child’s case have taken the time they have. If a family member makes a commitment to being assessed to care for a child, even if this is late in the proceedings – which is what happened in this case – then it is right to pause to do this.
“The best interest of the child is always our priority and has been central to our work in this case. As we do for any child, we want this child to have long-term stability and to be able to grow up in a permanent loving home. That is what we have been working towards here.
“We consider all options to enable children to grow up happily and safely in stable permanent homes. We must balance a range of complex factors to make sure the outcome is right for each individual child – in this case, adoption, potentially living with an extended family member, or remaining in care for a further 12 years.
“We have very good record of placing children of this age for adoption, with adopters who will support children to have direct contact with their birth families. It is vital at this stage that our focus remains on this child, and on ensuring a long-term, stable and loving home for him, as this is an ongoing case.”
The Foster Care Co-operative is proud to announce they are sponsoring the Nation Radio Sports Awards once again this year under the category ‘Junior Sports Personality’.
The Foster Care Co-operative fully support and understand the importance of fitness, activity, team playing, contribution, and success in a child’s health, growth and development.
Who will be this year’s Junior Sports Personality winner?
Have you voted? Do you know of a child worthy of a nomination who you would like to see win this award?
This award is for a young sports person who has achieved a high level of success in their chosen sport this year, or who has gone that extra mile off the pitch achieving great things for their local community. Applicants must be 19 years of age or under.
Nomination entry closes on Sunday 4th October at 23.59.
To nominate, visit Nation Radio’s website and fill in the nomination form:
Our chief executive, Javed Khan, blogs on what Syrian refugee children really need when they come to the UK.
Of an estimated 12 million Syrians displaced by war, more than half are children, tens of thousands of whom will be fleeing alone.
The UK’s decision to offer sanctuary to some of these children is right, and we have a solemn responsibility to protect the fragile lives of these traumatised children while they are in our country’s care. Our government should urgently prioritise the specialist care required by the unique circumstances of refugee children.
Firstly the government needs specialist staff to immediately identify the type of support these children need, and ensure that children stay in sensitive, loving foster homes whilst they live in the country.
Secondly, we must ensure that every child is treated as a child – not an adult. Most of these children will be travelling undocumented so officials must judge if they are under 18 and ensure they are not unfairly denied access to local authority care.
Finally, these children must be supported in their transition to adulthood and independence. Turning 18 can be a particularly vulnerable time as unaccompanied young people lose support from children’s services.
Learning to cope with the horrors these young people have witnessed is an obvious need. A more subtle need will be learning to cope with life in the UK, perhaps alone without the support of their family.
At Barnardo’s we have specialist staff that could provide the critical 'triage' that newly arrived children and young people will need. We also have trainedfoster carers to look after unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and independent advocates to help children navigate the care system and immigration processes. The government and local authorities should draw on such experience and expertise in putting together the package of support to help refugee children.
As a father of four, I find it difficult to think about the ordeal that these vulnerable children have, and will, live through. We owe it to them, their parents, and to ourselves to treat them as we would want our own children to be treated."
Read the full blog on the New Statesman website
Fostering News: Public law outline needs more flexibility to allow for special guardianship orders, charity says
In The Fostering Network's response to the government's special guardianship order consultation, it also called for comprehensive support for special guardians
The 26-week timetable for care proceedings to be completed should be reviewed in cases of special guardianship, The Fostering Network has said.
In its response to the Department for Education’s consultation on special guardianship orders (SGOs), which closed on Friday (18 September), the charity said the move could stop “hurried or incomplete assessments” compromising the safeguarding of the courts.
The new timescales for public law outline (PLO) care proceedings were piloted in 2013 and enshrined in law under the Children and Families Act 2014. While The Fostering Network said that good work had been done to reduce delays for children in these proceedings, “the best interests of the child are not served by placing them with carers where there has not been a thorough assessment of the ability to care for the child throughout her/his childhood and beyond”.
‘Potentially inadequate’ assessments
It said that some potential special guardians did not come forward until a late stage in the 26 weeks, at which point assessments may be carried out in a hurried and “potentially inadequate” manner to meet the PLO.
In these circumstances, there should be more flexibility to ensure adequate checks can be made, and reflect the diversity of situations in which SGOs are sought, said Melissa Green, the charity’s director of operations.
She said: “The key here is that the range of situations where SGOs are applied (and the number of SGOs given) are far greater than anticipated when they came into effect in 2005. The flexibility to extend the process if appropriate would simply allow the proceedings to be more flexible in responding to the differing needs of individual cases and the young people and prospective special guardians involved.”
An SGO is an alternative to adoption, and is commonly used to give parental responsibility for children to kinship carers and, in some cases, foster carers. It is a secure legal placement which does not sever the legal relationship with birth parents. The number of SGOs has risen more than 150% since 2010, and the sector has expressed concerns about how they might be being misused.
Foster carers under pressure
Local authorities are perceived to pressure foster carers to take out SGOs so they can meet the time requirements of the PLO, The Fostering Network said, and it questioned whether social workers felt confident with, and understood, the framework for special guardianship.
“A growing concern is that some local authorities have made it standard practice to encourage all foster carers with long-term placements to consider SGOs, as opposed to taking a child-centred, case-by-case, approach,” the response said.
Foster carers have reported “extreme pressure” to take out an SGO, the charity warned, adding that it was a concern that special guardianship isn’t seen as the “chosen path” in the same way that foster care and adoption are.
Consideration should be given to introducing an “approval system” for special guardians where assessments and recommendations can be challenged and discussed, the charity’s response said. It also called for a formal “two-way assessment process” to ensure sufficient consideration of applicants, and provide them with the opportunity to make an informed decision.
Special guardianship families should be receiving the same support as adoptive families, the response said, and all children placed with special guardians should be able to access leaving care support as and when required.
Green said that the support should not simply be about how much prospective special guardians are paid – although she said the lack of clarity can hinder them in making an informed decision throughout the assessment process – but about the need for a “comprehensive support package” aimed at providing ongoing training, support and information.
“We would want SGOs to be seen as one of the range of permanence options to be considered for young people but only pursued where this is what the young person and prospective SGs want. Our concerns are around SGOs being pursued without adequate planning around the child’s needs and a sense of pressure being applied on foster carers to take on SGOs without full consideration of the options and implications,” she added.
I was lucky to grow up in a home that was safe, secure and loving. I had a brother, John, and a sister, Claire to play with and a lot of freedom to roam and explore. We would run around outside, playing with our football and just be kids. Growing up in Gloucestershire in the sixties, we didn't have a lot of money but the house was full of laughter and noise and our parents always gave us lots of love and support.
We moved several times when I was a child. It always meant starting afresh - starting a new school, getting used to a new house and of course making new friends. It's safe to say that moving home was never my favourite thing. The average family in the UK only moves eight times in their lifetime but this upheaval is nothing compared to what too many children in care face.
I was deeply concerned when Action for Children found that one in four foster children in the UK have moved twice or more in one year. That's over 15,000 children who don't get the chance to set down roots and who constantly have to start again to make new friends.
We know of children as young as four who have had to move three times in a year before finding a stable family home. I can only imagine how hard it must be trying to deal with so many moves at such a young age.
For those who are already vulnerable, constant moving can be both very daunting and distressing. It means trying to deal with the fear that they might be rejected, making it hard to form relationships. After all, what is the point of finding friends if they think they'll be moved on? It also means getting used to a new home, people and schools. All this can affect mental and physical health, as well as exacerbate any behavioural issues.
I know that there are many reasons why a child in care needs to move - they experience some of the worst things in life, meaning that they may need several moves before they find a suitable foster carer who can meet their specific needs.
At Action for Children, we have a high success rate in providing stable foster homes in the UK. In Wales alone more than 80% of the children and young people in our care have thrived with stable foster carers for over two years.
This is what our 'Stickability' campaign is all about - highlighting the importance of providing stable and loving foster homes to vulnerable young people and the positive impact that this has on children in care.
The keys to our success are our amazing foster carers. They do a fantastic job providing the love, care and support needed by children and young people who have too often had a very tough life. The stability those foster carers provide can make a huge difference to the futures of the children they support, in so many ways: in education, health, career, family life.
We urgently need more foster carers. We need people who are resilient, calm and understanding. Whatever your marital status, sexuality, religious beliefs, whether you rent or own your home, if you have a spare bedroom, you can be a foster carer. Have you got what it takes to make a difference? If so, you can visit our website or contact our fostering team on 0845 200 5162. We promise to provide you with all the support you need, whenever you need it.
You can support our 'Stickability' campaign by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
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