PARENTS who want to adopt are being asked to consider fostering first by Devon County Council under new plans to reduce disruption for children in care.
Devon Adoption has introduced the ‘foster to adopt’ scheme to protect these children from experiencing multiple moves within the care system and provide them with good quality care, while the court decides on the plan for their permanent care.
Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member responsible for Devon Adoption, said: “We appreciate that what we are asking isn’t easy.
“Fostering to adopt requires a strong commitment and emotional resilience and willingness to be able to offer a child a loving and nurturing home whilst living with the uncertainty that the child may be returned to their birth family.
"But the rewards are immeasurable.
"There is the immense satisfaction of providing stability and security for a child at the early stage of their development, with the possibility of them becoming their legally adopted child."
Devon couple Rachel and Ben are almost at the end of their journey to adopt journey to adopt 26-week-old Chloe.
They said: “We are so blessed to have our family completed with our beautiful Chloe, it has been a long journey but was worth all of the ups and downs.
"Foster to adopt is by no means an easy option. You need to be resilient, adaptable and open.
"It seems to go on forever, but it has all worked out brilliantly for us and for Chloe.”
For more information, visit devonadoption.org.uk.
Being a birth child in a fostering family makes you realise how lucky you were to be born into the family you have. It gives you an appreciation of family, love and trust. It has almost empowered me to be ME, to have confidence in who I am and love people for who they are and not what I want them to be! I have had so many conversations with children when they have stayed with us, and as well as giving me memories of shared experiences, they have taught me that the world isn't the safe place, full of responsible adults and loving parents I always believed it was. They have opened my eyes to the extraordinary lengths we can all go to survive and come out the other side a decent person. I now know that there are nasty people in the world, but I also now that there are more good people to pick up the pieces.
I am proud of my parents and myself for the changes we have made to so many children and young people! Of the 13 children we have shared our home with 11 of them still visit and call regularly, it is almost like having a huge extended family that is still growing and I genuinely hope it continues to grow for many years!
A fostering charity is celebrating its 70th anniversary of helping to provide vulnerable children with permanent loving families.
The Children’s Family Trust, which was established in 1945 and has an office at Nostell Priory, helps place some of the 65,000 children in public care in the UK in a stable and secure home with foster carers.
As part of its birthday celebrations the branch held a Macmillan coffee morning to raise awareness of its work while raising more than £200 to help cancer patients and their families.
It is also sponsoring a Nostell Miners Welfare football player.
If you are interested in becoming Foster Carer or want more information, contact the charity on 0300 111 1945 or visit www.thecft.org.uk
Bernie Egan’s* 18-year-old foster daughter has been “part of the family” ever since she arrived as a neglected nine-year-old weighing four stone. In the past, she would have been expected to leave foster care when she turned 18. However, as a result of the government’s Staying Put legislation, which came into force in 2014, she can now remain until she is 21.
Newly published figures from the Department of Education (DfE) show that, under Staying Put, 25% of young people have remained with their foster carers. This has been broadly welcomed as a good start; while there are no figures from before the legislation, one estimate puts it at only 5%.
Fostering charities have campaigned for a Staying Put policy for years, and similar policies have now been enacted throughout the UK. The policy recognises that most 18-year-olds, particularly if they have a troubled background, are not ready for independent living. Evidence from a pilot study suggests that outcomes are better for those who remain with their foster carer.
We don’t yet know why 75% of young people still move out at 18. It may be that some simply don’t want to remain with their foster carers, particularly if they have come into care in their mid-to-late teens. Sue Lowndes, head of adoption and fostering at Hertfordshire county council, says: “If those young people have only relatively recently come into care, 18 months before or three years before, they’re less likely to have established a strong tie or attachment to the family in which they’re living”.
We do know, however, that finance for the scheme has been a bone of contention. Most regard the £44m provided by the government to support local authorities with implementation over the first three years as inadequate.
Under Staying Put, the young person, even if fostered through an agency, becomes the responsibility of the local authority, which pays the carer a weekly sum. This is usually about half of what the carer received before the child turned 18. Because the young person will now either be receiving a wage, bursary or state benefits (including housing benefit), they will be expected to contribute towards rent and keep.
Egan’s previous weekly income for her foster daughter (who calls her “mum”) was £429, consisting of a £214 fostering fee and £215 maintenance; this has now dropped to £120. She receives as an additional £40 to pay for two hours support designed to help her daughter move to independent living. Her daughter, now in full-time work, is contributing to her keep, but Egan is putting the money aside for her to use when she does move out. Andy Elvin, chief executive of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, says: “They [the government] are, without perhaps meaning to, placing an additional burden on foster carers while reducing their income, which is never going to be popular.”
Kevin Williams, chief executive of the Fostering Network, believes that expecting young people to make a substantial contribution to their care once they reach 18 is counter-productive. He says the amount they have to contribute if they are in work is “much more than most parents would expect from a young person at the age of 18. So there’s a real disincentive for young people to remain in employment.”
There have been tensions between local authorities and fostering agencies in interpreting the government guidelines. Brenda Farrell, head of fostering and adoption at Barnardo’s, says some local authorities insist that foster carers, to continue fostering under Staying Put, must register with the authority rather than with their current foster agency. This is cheaper and more manageable for the local authority, but agencies are unhappy.
Susanna Daus, placements operational manager at Islington council, welcomes the legislation, while acknowledging that it creates additional pressure on a stretched service: “We’ve got a nice group of foster carers who do foster teenagers, but if they take a 16-year-old, that might be another four years before they have a vacancy.”
Islington, like many other local authorities, is using the period between the age of 18 and 21 to help young people into work or education, smoothing the transition to independent living. A fifth of the authority’s 18-year-olds in foster care go on to university. “We want all our children to have good careers so they can enjoy their adult lives, so there’s been a really big push from our leaving care team to really help young people on whatever career ladder they want,” says Daus.
There is, however, much more that can be done. Elvin believes that care leavers should be given priority by housing associations and apprenticeship schemes, while Farrell would like to see young people for whom independent living doesn’t work out being given the opportunity to return to their foster homes up to the age of 25. Both argue that Staying Put should be extended to children in residential care.
It’s a policy that has the potential to transform outcomes for young people in care to the ultimate benefit of society as a whole, but without rethinking implementation, says Elvin, the government risks “souring a good policy in the minds of the people we really need – the foster carers”.
* Name has been changed
In response to prime minister David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Party conference, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network said:
‘We are delighted to hear the prime minister’s commitment to keeping children living successfully with their families wherever that is possible. However, when, for a range of reasons, this isn’t possible, it is vital that the best permanence option is found for each child in care who won’t be going home. This may be adoption or living with the wider family, but for the vast majority of children and young people the most appropriate option is foster care. Therefore, we would have liked to have heard the prime minister acknowledge, as his children’s minister often does, the role that foster carers play in looking after, and developing, tens of thousands of young people in care across the country.
‘We believe that good foster care offers the love, support and stability that all young people need. Foster carers offer a rich environment in which fostered children can flourish and achieve their potential and from which fostered children can move confidently into adulthood and independence and not into a “lifetime of struggle”. Indeed, we are often told by care-experienced young people that they are fed up with being stigmatised and labelled so negatively. We know that the statistics, especially in regards to educational achievement, show that there is still much more that needs to be done to ensure that fostered children and young people have the same opportunities as their peers, but we should be celebrating the outstanding achievements of fostered young people rather than simply portraying them in a negative light. We are looking forward to our Fostering Excellence Awards where we will be shining a spotlight on just some of the foster carers, social workers and fostered young people who have exceeded expectations or gone the extra mile.
‘All children in care in England are ultimately the Government’s responsibility. If even some fostered children are living in poverty then the Government has an obligation to tackle that. We would call on this Government to invest significantly in fostering services and to ensure that foster carers are properly recompensed with both allowances to cover expenses, and fees in recognition of the skills and experience they bring to this essential role. Foster carers are on the front line when it comes to caring for young people in this country, and they need to be seen as such by the Government and everyone else involved in the lives of fostered children.
‘Good foster care works. Many children thrive when they are placed with the right foster carers at the right time. Yes, there is more to be done to make foster care the best it can possibly be for every child, every carer, every day which is why The Fostering Network is here. And it’s why we have produced a manifesto outlining some of the things that need to be done urgently to make foster care better in England. We would ask the prime minister to read our manifesto and, along with his commitment to adoption, commit to making our manifesto a reality.’
On 7th October 2015 we celebrated our 70 year anniversary by formally opening the doors to our new flagship Bromsgrove office, which will be the new base for our West Midlands and Head Office teams.
The opening coincided with our annual Heritage Day and was filled with inspiring stories of how the Trust was founded in 1945 by Paul Field and his wife, Ruby, along with opportunities to gain further insight into our heritage.
We heard amazing speeches from our Chair of the Trustees, John Glover and our President, Andrew Turner and to mark this momentous occasion we also unveiled our commemorative plaque. The plaque was unveiled by our former President, Lady Jane Willoughby de Eresby, who also shared some heart-warming stories around how she became involved with the Trust many years ago.
The opening was a brilliant success and we were very pleased to host around 70 people throughout the course of the day.
We were joined by lots of our Lifetime carers, current carers, former and current staff members, Trustees and supporters of the Trust.
We spent the day hearing about the incredible history of the CFT and celebrating our work supporting hundreds of children over the years.
Thank you to everyone who came and made it such a fantastic event. Here’s to continuing to do more of the same for many years to come!
The Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson MP, has written a thank you letter aimed at the sons and daughters of foster carers.
Whilst foster carers themselves do an amazing job, it is very important to acknowledge the effort, flexibility and warmth that birth children of carers show to foster children within the family unit. We at FCC would like to extend our own ‘thank you’ to these amazing children!
The letter reads:
To all the sons and daughters of foster carers in England,
As the Minister for Children and Families, with the responsibility for looked after children, and as the son of foster carers myself, I’m writing to thank you for the very important part you play in welcoming some of our most vulnerable children in to your home and family.
I grew up as part of a large foster family, so I know only too well that fostering can be one of the most rewarding experiences life can bring, as well as having a life-changing impact on a child’s life. At any one time there are over 51,000 children in foster care in England, and each of them needs a fantastic family like yours. I’m thankful to each and every one of you for your help.
Everyone involved in fostering knows how vital it is that the sons and daughters of foster carers are involved in helping foster children to settle in and feel at home, thank you for all that you do to make that happen.
Edward Timpson MP
Minister of State for Children and Families
Children subject to state supervision while living at home have worst educational outcomes of all children in care
A new report launched today, 7 October 2015, by Barnardo’s Scotland, highlights the poor outcomes and lack of effective support for young people subject to state supervision while living at home.
‘Overseen but often overlooked: Children and Young People ‘Looked After at Home’ in Scotland’ reveals children and young people who are looked after by a local authority but living at home with their parents can have the worst educational outcomes of all children in care, despite being on formal supervision orders.
Working with the Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS) at University of Strathclyde, Barnardo’s Scotland has raised concerns that while these young people may well be overseen by the state, their needs are often overlooked.
In Scotland more than 4,000 young people who are ‘looked after’ are not in foster or residential care, but are ‘looked after at home’ (around a quarter of those in care). These children and young people are subject to a type of legal supervision order at home, unique to the Scottish system of child welfare and protection, which was introduced in the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. While they are considered to be ‘looked after’ by a local authority, they continue to live at home with a parent or another person with parental responsibility for the child. A social worker is allocated to the child, in order to ensure that the terms of the order are met.
Despite the long history and extensive use of this Act, little research has been carried out into children looked after at home or the experiences of the children and young people who are subject to this intervention.
A series of *reports commissioned by Barnardo’s Scotland from the Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS) found that these children can experience some of the worst outcomes of all children in care. Official statistics regularly show that ‘looked after at home’ pupils fair worst (in terms of school attendance or attainment) than looked after children in foster or residential care.
These are children and young people often on the edge of being taken into local authority foster or residential care. Barnardo’s Scotland argue that if we fail to provide effective support to children who are looked after at home we risk having to invest much more in support when their vulnerability turns to crisis. A range of additional and different strategies and services needs to be developed for children and young people on home supervision orders.
Barnardo’s Scotland recognise that there have been major changes to the children’s hearing system since 2011, and that new responsibilities on public bodies to young people in care and care leavers brought in under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 should help, but argue that more still needs to be done to recognise and address the particular needs of this group.
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said:
"The questions around the system of children being looked after at home are of long standing – ever since the establishment of the system in 1971 there have been questions about its status as an effective intervention. But the time has now come to act.
We hope this Barnardo’s Scotland report, accompanied by the three CELCIS research reports, will help to open up a debate about the needs of children looked after at home, and about how to improve the current model of children being looked after while living at home."
Jennifer Davidson, Director of CELCIS, said:
"The challenge we face is in ensuring that those children and young people who are looked after at home receive the same access to services as other looked after children. We know they are less likely to do well at school and more likely to end up in prison and that a large amount of these children live with families where poverty, domestic violence, addiction and poor mental health are prevalent. This is simply not good enough.
This research is particularly important as it gives us the evidence to back up what we have thought for some time. These children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and yet services for them are limited, inconsistent and patchy. It’s time to change that."
The report ‘Overseen but often overlooked: Children and young people ‘looked after at home’ in Scotland makes a series of recommendations, based on the evidence from three research reports produced by CELCIS for Barnardo’s Scotland.
Yesterday I represented NAFP at a very interesting seminar hosted by KPMG, and focusing on a review of the projects they are supporting to pilot social pedagogy in a range of settings in England and Scotland.
What is social pedagogy? That’s a good question, and at the moment the answer can depend on who you ask. My understanding has always been that it is a set of beliefs about how children learn and develop which has its roots in continental Europe.
The managers, practitioners and researchers who reported back were across the board enthusiastic about the impact of taking this approach. It was said to improve relationships between foster carers and SSWs, improve the quality of care in residential homes and even change the culture across a local authority’s children’s services.
So could this be the way forward for fostering services? It would be good to know more. If it means recognising the importance of the quality of everyday life in fostering households. And providing carers with practical strategies which will help them do what they do well. And giving them the support which recognises the emotional costs of their role – as well as the confidence and energy to keep going – then of course yes.
But there are other approaches which make claims to do all of these things too. So I am looking forward to hearing more – especially from the participating carers – about how it worked for them and the children they look after. And how these ideas can be implemented to shape (and improve) our fostering practice.
,Today we are launching our new CFT Website and are very excited to announce a number of new additional features which we think will aid us in attracting new Foster Carers as well as raising the profile of the great work we do here at The CFT.
In addition to the updates and the brand new ‘look’ of the website we have consulted with several of our own Foster Carers and staff in order to maximize the functionality of the website.
You will also notice that we have added new pages such as ‘Meet our Staff Teams’ and we have changed our Enquiry process so that all enquiries are dealt with more securely and effectively via our in-house database system CHARMS.
We are very pleased with the new website, however, this is a work-in-progress and as such an ongoing project.
We appreciate that much like a ‘hungry child’ a developing website needs to be ‘fed’ continually in order to make it the best recruitment and information tool we have!
We are also currently working on our ‘Kids Zone’ and will be asking for input from the children and young people in our Foster Families about what they would like to see included in the website.
Please do share the news of our new website, you can also check us out on our ever-growing social media sites.
If you have any suggestions, ideas or views you want to share with us on the new website we would love to hear from you so please contact us on 01527 574446.
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