The adverse experiences that led to children entering the care system remain with them through school, says Fiona Aitken
In Scotland today we have a much greater understanding of the needs of care-experienced individuals. Along with our growing understanding of the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), research from the University of Stirling’s Permanently Progressing study informs us that over 80 per cent of children entering the care system in Scotland have experienced significant abuse and/or neglect (Cusworth et al, 2019).
To fully understand the impact of early childhood trauma is to recognise the lifelong impact on a child, and the areas of vulnerability and disadvantage it creates. Regardless of the child’s permanent placement – whether this involves returning home, being permanently placed in foster care, with kinship carers or an adoptive family – the adverse experiences that led to them entering the care system remain with them. These experiences lead to needs displayed in a variety of ways requiring support.
Supporting children in care
Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties most often show evidence of children’s needs – particularly inside the classroom, where particular skills are expected and peer comparisons obvious. These difficulties can come from a variety of different reasons; impact of early trauma, attachment difficulties, sensory processing challenges or behaviour typical of children who are living with the impact of alcohol taken during pregnancy – those living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). For children who are care-experienced or adopted, it is extremely common to be managing one or more of these issues.
Responding to the acknowledged need of children in our classrooms, the Scottish government created a specific funding opportunity in 2018 to improve the educational attainment of Care Experienced Children and Young People. This funding has led to an increase in specific project delivery for this marginalised group of children, whose additional support needs can, at times, go unrecognised or unsupported.
Across Scotland, we are increasingly aware of a variety of creative and impactful practice that is making a real difference. The implementation of "virtual headteachers", schools becoming more attachment-aware, trauma-informed and the increasing facilitation of outdoor learning opportunities are contributing to the creation of learning environments that are more attuned to the learning needs of our children.
Adoption UK Scotland’s upcoming conference, Thinking Differently About Education, offers an opportunity for the showcasing of successful approaches, and for attendees to learn more about the benefit to children and schools of applying this different thinking. Chaired by Nicky Murray, former headteacher of Burnside Primary School, which is renowned for its attachment-aware principles, the day will also feature a headline talk from author Louise Bombèr, expert on educational approaches for children affected by trauma.
Attendees at the conference in Falkirk on Friday 6 December will also benefit from hearing directly from the minister of children and young people, Maree Todd, about the Scottish government’s hopes and intentions around the Care Experienced Children and Young People’s funding stream use. We are also joined by the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Advisory Service, which will be launching an innovative education resource at the event.
The conference is for anyone working with, parenting or caring for a child who is care-experienced, and keen to learn new ideas for supporting their education. Tickets can be found here.
Fiona Aitken is director of AdoptionUK Scotland
It is National Care Leavers Week, and TACT – the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, is using it as an opportunity to mark the fantastic first year of TACT Connect – an innovative service for care experienced people.
TACT recognises that leaving care is a challenging time for young people, especially as many will not have the help of a supportive family network. As a child in care they are surrounded by professionals dedicated to their welfare, but once they leave care that level of support fades away. So, TACT has set up a program called TACT Connect that provides a model of support for care leavers, enabling them to achieve positive outcomes.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “It’s important as a parent that you stay in touch with your children throughout their lives. The state can be a not so great parent because once people have left care, it doesn’t know what’s going on in their lives. So, TACT Connect is our way of addressing that.”
TACT Connect has built an impressive network of care leavers that support and celebrate one another, while keeping in touch with TACT. TACT Connect offers the chance to meet other care experienced people, learn and access new skills and get support in reaching their aspirations. By becoming a member, care leavers receive newsletters packed full of helpful advice and shared experiences, plus invites to events, and the opportunity to be involved in shaping the scheme.
Mark Riddell – National Advisor for Care Leavers has welcomed TACT Connect. Mark said: “Initiatives like TACT Connect are important because they are led by the voices of care experienced young people. This is a new concept and it would be good to see similar work happening elsewhere in the country. We need to be ambitious about how we support care experienced people, and TACT Connect is a really good starting point.”
Work on TACT Connect began in October last year, with the creation of a steering group consisting of care leavers, foster carers, young people in care and TACT members of staff. Right from the start the development of the scheme has been guided by care experienced people, who are naturally in the best position to know about the needs of Connect members, so they have taken a prominent role in tailoring the service. Care leavers are also solely responsible for editing the TACT Connect newsletter, which was launched in March.
In February, work began on the “Peer Mentoring” scheme by providing training to prospective mentors. The scheme allows care experienced people to mentor 15-16-year-olds to help their transition to independence, by offering their own experiences and learned wisdom, as well as being available any time the young people need someone to talk to who may have faced similar challenges to them.
In April, TACT Connect was officially launched at an art gallery in Birmingham where TACT care leavers displayed works of art that they had created themselves with the theme of “message to my younger self”. Those present also built a road-map of their accomplishments, helping to put their experiences in context and define themselves in a way which recognises their many assets.
TACT young person, Channon, said: “It is great to be given the opportunity to connect with other young people who have been in care and have similar life stories. Creating my art piece made me think a lot about my own story, I found it very therapeutic.”
In May, TACT Connect created its database of TACT alumni to establish a network of care experienced people that continue to support each other throughout their lives.
Shortly after the launch, TACT Connect began piloting it’s “Enabling Grants” scheme, which is a grant available to care experienced people to help improve their access to both education and employment. Government statistics found that care leavers aged 19-21 are three times more likely to not be in either education, employment or training compared to their peers. Often this is due to financial insecurity, and the “Enabling Grants” scheme aims to address this issue by providing assistance to those looking to take their next steps but are struggling due to a lack of resources. Applications are assessed by a panel of care experienced people, foster carers and the TACT Connect coordinator Verity.
TACT Connect has made fantastic progress over the past year, but this is just the start. Ambitious plans are in place to grow and meet the needs identified by its members. Plans include regular regional events shaped entirely by members (the next being in Wales in November 2019), a money management workshop, the creation of an online portal for members and the recruitment of regional TACT Connect Advisors made up of care experienced people who organise activity in their local community and engage in research and campaigns.
TACT Connect wants care experienced people to know that leaving care does not mean that they are forgotten, they will continue to be supported throughout their life by those who have had experiences similar to their own, as well as TACT.
TACT care leaver Samantha summed up the scheme: “TACT Connect isn’t just about having a supportive community, it’s about having a friend for life that you can turn to whenever you need help or are feeling lost.”
St Christopher’s is delighted to announce our Staying Close pilot is being extended for another year to offer continued support to young people leaving care.
The Department for Education announced on Wednesday 23 October that further funding will be provided for all the Staying Close pilots running under their Innovation Programme, which includes St Christopher’s project.
We work in partnership with the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow as well as a private children’s home provider to ensure young people in the area have a smooth transition from residential care to independence. Mental health charity MAC-UK provides clinical supervision.
Our project centres around keeping young people in touch with the people who they want to maintain a relationship with. Young people are supported by our worker to develop a Staying Close plan so they can outline what type of contact they want, whether it’s a weekly phone call or popping back to their old children’s home for dinner.
This service is part of St Christopher’s strategic aim to promote lifelong learning and thriving for children and young people. We want them to enjoy happy, fulfilling lives when they leave care as part of our mission to create brighter futures.
Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley said: “Leaving care is a journey, not a one-off event, so we are thrilled that this funding will support us to work alongside more young people as they make this transition.”
“With the support of my foster carers, I’m now following my dreams”
I moved in with my carers, Albert and Joyce, shortly before my 10th birthday and have been with them ever since. Albert and Joyce are brilliant carers, right from the start they made me feel safe and supported. I now refer to them as my mum and dad. By a strange coincidence we share the same surname, which makes me feel like I’m even more part of the family!
We used to go out shopping, to the cinema and to restaurants as a family, this was my favourite thing to do with them. Having these experiences, I felt as though I was no different from any other child. They have also taught me basic life skills such as cooking, cleaning and generally looking after myself.
When I first arrived, I was a very angry child. I wasn’t able to express myself or talk through the things that I was feeling. As well as giving me a safe and supportive home, Albert and Joyce helped me to learn how to control my behaviours and emotions. I think it’s really important that people don’t bottle up their feelings and have someone they can trust. Throughout my nine years living with them, I’ve seen them have the same positive effect on other children in their care.
Participating in TACT events was also a very positive experience for me. I was among children from across the UK to take part in TACT’s Children’s Champions meetings, which is an opportunity for the charity to learn from children in care’s views and experiences, to help shape its work.
I also attended TACT’s Big Weekend, which brings children together to experience outdoor activities and bond with their peers. It was a great opportunity to make friends and try new experiences, and helped me to build up my confidence and challenge my fears. I had always been scared of heights, but after finally gathering the courage to do a zipwire during Big Weekend, I absolutely love doing it now. This year I went as a mentor to one of the children, and it was great to see everyone getting along as always.
I continue to live with Albert and Joyce through Staying Put and I’m now following my dreams. I used to think I wasn’t able to do anything with my life, but through my own determination and the support of my carers I got into the university of my choice and I hope to soon teach English as a second language in Japan.
I have always wanted to be a teacher of some sort growing up. Teachers are so important and there just aren’t enough of them. I like to help people and care for them, so I am absolutely determined to make my dreams a reality and become a teacher. Japan is a really fascinating country that I’m really excited to experience. I’ve already started to learn some Japanese and Chinese, and I intend to visit soon.
My advice to others in care is to reach out to your carers if you have a problem, no matter how or big or small. They are there to support you and it’s perfectly OK to admit you need extra help. I also think it’s really important that people have the belief in themselves to achieve what they want to achieve. I think the reason that so few care leavers go on to attend university is because they think that they can’t do it. I remember thinking that I would never get the grades I needed, and some college teachers even told me as much, but I did and I’m now in a really good place in my life.
Every year, Team Fostering promotes the national campaign as part of the agency's commitment to looking after young people as the get ready to leave care, continuing to invest in their futures post-18.
This year, IMO's theme for the campaign is future aspirations, following a successful 2018 focus on younger selves. Last year, young people about to leave care were encouraged to think about what they would say to their younger selves if they were given the chance, contributing to IMO's #DearYoungerMe. For 2019, care leavers all over the country were invited to contribute to a #DearFutureMe campaign, sharing what they would like to say to themselves in 10 years time.
Team Fostering held one of its residential activities for young people in care earlier in October, which proved a great opportunity to get those approaching 18 to contribute their own thoughts. They considered what their inspirations were for the future, employment and personal goals, as well as general kind thoughts that they hoped they would remember in 10 years. These were written across postcards provided by IMO, shared nationally as part of their campaign, and you can see our top Team Fostering picks below.
As an agency, Team Fostering is committed to offering support and guidance to children in care as they approach, and pass, 18. As well as working with foster carers to provide 'staying put' agreements up to the age of 21, we also have designated 'life skills workers' who work with these young people to support education and employment applications and interviews, independent living skills and more. What's more, the agency has a fantastic team of foster carers, many of whom keep in touch with young people they've looked after following their moving onto independence. In fact, throughout the week we'll be sharing some examples of young people that are still in touch with foster carers several years after leaving their care!
Team Fostering is an independent, not-for-profit fostering agency with ethical aims that strive to put children's futures first. Operating in this ethical way means that more funds can be invested in the support, services and benefits offered to our foster carers and the children that they look after.
To learn more about becoming a foster carer with Team Fostering, contact us by:
calling 0800 292 2003
submitting an online enquiry form by clicking here
Programmes totalling £19 million to improve support for care leavers announced ahead of National Care Leavers Week
Access to better housing, healthcare and employment opportunities are at the core of a new multi-million pound settlement to improve the life chances of vulnerable young people leaving care.
Marking National Care Leavers Week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has today (Wednesday 23 October) announced the new cross-government support available to young people leaving the care system, alongside £19 million of investment into programmes that directly benefit care leavers.
The new funding includes £10 million to create stable homes for care leavers as they become adults; £6 million to support young people leaving care to live independently and £3 million to help care leavers go into further education.
Alongside this, the Education Secretary has committed to delivering 1,000 internships for care leavers over the next two years to help secure long term, quality jobs for care leavers. This will include expanding the existing Civil Service Internship Scheme which has offered permanent jobs to 220 care leavers across Whitehall and working with other public sector bodies including the NHS, Ministry of Defence civilian roles, police and the fire service to support care leavers into new employment opportunities.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
"Young people leaving care face enormous barriers in their lives as they move towards independence, from not having a trusted person in their life to rely on, to not having a safe home to return to at the end of the day.
Housing, healthcare and education are three of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome. We all have a responsibility to do better for them – so I’m bringing together colleagues from across government to join me in transforming the support we offer care leavers in all of these key areas to make the biggest difference in their lives.
This starts immediately, because we must raise the bar for these young people, to give them greater stability and a strong sense of purpose in adulthood."
The new offer for care leavers builds on existing work by the Department for Education to tackle the root causes for children being taken into care, through projects designed to strengthen families and support stable home lives for vulnerable children so that they can stay with their birth families when it is safe to do so and in that child’s best interest. It adds to extra funding announced last week to help adoptive families build strong relationships and overcome past trauma, and practical support announced earlier this month for foster families in the form of short breaks, mentoring and social activities.
Chaired by Mr Williamson and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, the new Care Leaver Covenant Board will comprise of Secretaries of State from across relevant government departments and will meet three times a year to address the key barriers facing young care leavers as they adjust to independent life as adults: finding a suitable, safe place to live, supporting them to remain in education, employment or training, and helping them access appropriate healthcare. It will also look at how to support councils to employ adolescent mental health workers in every leaving care team in the country.
In addition to the new internships and ministerial group, the full package of new announcements includes:
This transformation in support for care leavers will help improve their outcomes, addressing the number of those aged 19 to 21 who are deemed ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET). Almost 40% of care leavers are NEET compared to 13% for this age group overall. The new internships, each being a one-year paid offer, are designed to lead to full-time job offers, and follows an expansion of the civil service internship scheme for care leavers from 2021, which is currently offering 220 internships across 25 departments in the next year.
Expanding the scheme is part of the government’s drive to provide care leavers with opportunities to learn new skills in a range of employment areas, whether the police, or other public bodies.
The ministerial group will agree key goals across relevant policy areas which will be scrutinised by members, which will include the Secretaries of State from the Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and Social Care and Home Office.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, said:
"My role in the Cabinet Office is to pull together all the different parts of government, so that they work together on the issues that really matter. Through better coordination we can massively improve the support that’s available to young people leaving the care system and make sure they can become independent adults with a bright future ahead of them."
Ian Dickson, Chair of the Conference for Care Experienced People which met with Mr Williamson on Monday to mark National Care Leavers Week, said:
"The Education Secretary listened very attentively and reflected that our commitment to ‘care experienced’ people should be a lifelong one – similar to the commitment we make towards members of the Armed Forces. We thought he really got it: care experience is a continuous lifetime experience bringing different needs at different stages that may not accord with the statutory definition of care and leaving care. Care does not end at 18, 21 or 25"
Practical and emotional support from communities of foster carers to boost their resilience
Foster families will benefit from projects offering short breaks, mentoring, emergency sleepovers and social activities with other families to help create stability as they adjust to their new lives together.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has today (Thursday 3 October) launched fostering projects in 10 new locations, helping hundreds more foster families with practical and emotional support and advice, helping them tackle the day-to-day challenges of taking in a vulnerable young person from care and create a stable environment for them to live in.
The ‘Mockingbird Family Model’, delivered by The Fostering Network, brings foster families together in groups, centred around one experienced foster carer who lives nearby to act as a mentor. This builds a network on which they can rely in difficult moments, in the same way that families who are together from birth often rely on the support of extended family, friends or neighbours, and helping them cope with challenging behaviour or problems caused by trauma before they escalate.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
"Foster parents give stability to children who have often experienced nothing but trauma and chaos at home, giving them opportunities that most of us take for granted. The unique circumstances they face in becoming a new family means they need daily support from people who understand the challenges, offering them much-needed advice and respite when they feel isolated or alone.
Expanding the Mockingbird Family Model into new areas builds on a programme we know has real value to foster families, helping them to form vital communities so that parents can rely on one another through tough times and vulnerable children get the safe, supportive home life they deserve."
The expansion to 10 new areas, part of the Department for Education’s Supporting Families; Investing in Practice programme, acts to keep families together safely and provides a community environment that understands and shares their experiences. It comes as findings from the Mockingbird programme show that foster families assisted through the programme built stronger relationships and became more resilient.
Alongside this additional help for foster families, the Department for Education has also today launched new projects in 18 council areas to support vulnerable children coping with chaotic home lives as a result of their parents’ problems with mental health, domestic violence or addiction. Announced in April and backed by £84 million secured in last year’s Autumn Budget, these projects reaffirm the core principle of the Children Act 1989 that where possible, children are best brought up with their parents.
Kevin Williams, Chief Executive at The Fostering Network, said:
"We’re delighted that the government is showing confidence in the Mockingbird programme and the difference it is making in the lives of fostered children and young people, as well as the foster families caring for them. This extra funding will allow us to bring the benefits of Mockingbird’s extended family model to many more foster families across England and to get further insight into the impact of the programme."
The expansion of Mockingbird Family Model builds on investment worth nearly £500,000 in seven regions to explore new approaches to fostering, helping local authorities understand and meet the needs of children in their area. The funding will help with recruitment and support in the seven fostering partnerships, making sure they are enough foster families, in the right place and at the right time, to offer children the best possible home to meet their needs.
Michael Sanders, Executive Director of What Works for Children’s Social Care, said:
"I’m really excited to be part of this project, which will see a large expansion of the Mockingbird model to 10 new areas, while continuing to build on an already promising evidence base that will help local authorities and young people into the future."
Mockingbird will be expanded into Sheffield, East Cheshire, Wakefield, Warrington, South Tyneside, Barnsley, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Stoke-on-Trent.
We’re pleased to be celebrating Sons & Daughters month again this October, a time when we truly acknowledge and thank the amazing contribution to fostering that the birth children of our foster carers make every day.
The children of our foster carers play a key role in the fostering household, and without their acceptance, energy and compassion, our carers would not be able to make a difference to other children’s lives.
Every year, The Fostering Network, one of the UK’s leading fostering charities, instigates this celebration – with a different theme each year. This year’s theme is based around what fostering teaches you. The ‘birth’ children of carers are encouraged to consider what they have learned from being a part of the fostering home.
The Fostering Network have launched a competition here. We have an internal competition, open to the children of all our carers.
We have had some wonderful entries so far. The art above, created by Isabelle, aged 11, is absolutely fantastic. She has chosen to include everything she has learnt within the letters of our name. Thank you Isabelle!
Jessica, aged 7, has drawn a brilliant picture of her home (below), surrounded by all the things that she has learnt within her fostering home. Well done Jessica!
So, a big thank you to all these children who play a vital role in helping other children, who listen to them, play with them – and generally welcome them into their family. You are amazing, and very much an integral part of the fostering team within your home!
Our staff are an integral part of our success and due to internal promotion, we are seeking to recruit a Principal Social Worker to join our West Midlands Team.
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire (B60)
We are a progressive organisation who promote a friendly and supportive working environment, where you will be rewarded for your hard work and results.
As well as a competitive annual salary (up to £43,495 dependent on experience) plus a very generous car allowance (£4,800 per annum) and out of hours allowance (£1,200 per annum). We also offer a comprehensive benefits package including 30 days Annual leave plus bank holidays, 35 hour week, up to 5% contributory pension, occupational sick pay, private health care, dental care, employee assistance programme, enhanced maternity pay, life assurance, long service awards, childcare vouchers and free office parking.
Based at our West Midlands office in Bromsgrove you will recruit, assess and support our Foster Carers as well as make placements in response to referrals from Local Authorities. Our low caseload management system ensures that we achieve good outcomes for our children and maintain a high-quality service. This role involves supporting the Registered Manager by supervising and supporting less experienced staff on professional matters and undertaking tasks delegated by the Registered Manager.
Please see the full job description listed below for further details.
This is an exciting opportunity for a HCPC registered Social Worker with at least 2 years’ experience in a social work environment that includes some fostering social work experience. Someone who can work flexibly as part of a busy team and wants the opportunity to provide a quality service to our children, young people and Foster Carers. Supervisory experience would be advantageous.
The Children’s Family Trust is an equal opportunities employer and committed to promoting the welfare and safeguarding of children, ensuring that they are kept safe. As you will be in an environment which involves child protection and working with Looked After Children, you will need to be covered by DBS clearance, which the Trust will undertake. This position is also subject to receipt of satisfactory references.
How to apply
To apply please email your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org. If selected for interview candidates will be required to complete an Application Form and Equality & Diversity Monitoring Form available from our website. We are a great company to work for and this is a rare opportunity to make a ‘real’ difference in children’s lives. To read more about our unique history, please click here.
Closing Date: 30th October 2019
Full details and application documents here
Location: Gloucestershire Services
Contract type: Permanent
Salary: £43,096.00 - £55,371.00 (Full Time Equivalent)
Closing Date: 1 November 2019
Interview Date: 25th November 2019
We have an exciting opportunity for an experienced Children's Services leader to help shape and support the Barnardo's regional strategy to work with even more vulnerable children and young people over the coming years.
You will be based and working in our Gloucestershire locality, where we are a key stakeholder and have a strong history. We are looking for an individual who is willing to get fully involved in supporting staff to deliver potential growth opportunities alongside playing an intrinsic part within the regional Senior Management Team to deliver a very ambitious development programme.
We are looking for someone with great interpersonal skills combined with excellent leadership and management capacity, with a passion to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people – is this you?
We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and we expect all staff and volunteers to share in this commitment. Our safer recruitment processes mean that the safety and welfare of the child is paramount at every stage of the process and therefore, we adopt rigorous scrutiny in our pre-employment checking. This post is subject to a range of pre-employment checks including a Criminal Records Enhanced Disclosure for the successful candidate.
At Barnardo's we believe in children – no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. Please read about our basis and values following the link below. You will be asked questions relating to them as part of the recruitment process for this role.
At Barnardo's we believe in children – no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. Please read about our basis and values following the link below. You will be asked questions relating to them as part of the recruitment process for this role.
Barnardo's is committed to having a diverse and inclusive workforce for staff and volunteers. We actively encourage applications from disabled, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and male candidates as they are under-represented within Barnardo's.
Our basis and values
Full details and application details here
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