A charity which supports for some of the most vulnerable children in the region has issued an appeal for more foster carers to come forward.
Break Therapeutic Fostering has been caring for hundreds of young people and families in East Anglia for more than 40 years.
A team of 300 staff and 800 volunteers provide children in need a shoulder to lean on and a place to call home.
Now they are urging more foster carers to come forward, as well as social workers and respite carers from west Norfolk and Norwich.
Hilary Walshe, manager, said: “We need full time carers as well as carers who could offer respite care – one or two weekends a month and some days over the holidays. We are looking for people from all walks of life who are enthusiastic, caring and motivated – with a desire to learn.”
Working in partnership with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire County Councils, the charity runs seven family homes providing safety and stability for young people who cannot live with their own families.
They categorise their care into four departments - young people in care and moving on, children and young people with disabilities, families in need of support and children at risk.
Factors including parental ill-health, relationship problems, substance misuse and family breakdown lead to the need for foster care, with abuse and neglect the most common reasons.
Could you be a respite carer?
Respite carers offer full-time foster carers short breaks. After building up a relationship with the respite carer, youngsters eventually stay for weekend breaks.
Anne Olivant has been a carer with Break since June last year.
She provides young people regular breaks at her home in north Norfolk, encouraging hobbies and sports.
She said: “I thought I might be too old, being a grandmother, and being on my own, would prevent me from fostering. But I realise the different experiences these children want and that Break has brought out what I have to offer.
“I learn so much from the training and from others in the team. The full time carers tell me how much the child enjoys having a weekend with me and I enjoy it too.”
The Norwich-based charity, which has Jake Humphrey as its patron, holds fortnightly therapeutic support groups for carers, led by psychotherapist Jim Rymer.
He said: “It is a place where we facilitate, in an open and friendly environment, a willingness to be curious about ourselves in the process of getting to know and understand these young people in our care.
“Through the group we reflect upon our own emotions and experiences and how these might impact upon the developing relationship, in so doing we better prepare ourselves to engage more fully with whatever problems and joys we experience along the way. “
Mrs Walshe added that potential carers didn’t “need to be an expert”.
If you are interested or would like more information, contact the fostering team on 01603 670110 or email email@example.com
Information on vacancies and application forms are available from www.break-charity.org/opportunities/vacancies
EXTRA holidays for council employees who foster children have been agreed amid concerns about a rise in the number of youngsters in care.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet yesterday agreed to initiatives to encourage more staff to become foster carers.
These include giving council staff who foster children an extra five days paid holiday each year.
They are to also increase the £250 sum a foster carer receives for recommending someone who is later approved to become a carer.
It comes after the number of children entering its care rose by 11 per cent in the last six months to 521.
But foster carer numbers have remained static, now 301, leading to children being put in care homes or sent to foster carers outside the county.
Councillors hope the scheme could be extended to Thames Valley Police, district councils, businesses and the health service.
They want Oxfordshire’s district councils and Oxford City Council to explore giving foster carers a council tax discount.
In October, 343 children in care in Oxfordshire were with foster carers, 94 were with independent fostering agencies and 88 were in care homes.
A further 80 were placed outside both the county and neighbouring local authorities, a rise from 71 at the start of September.
The moves were backed by Kidlington’s Jenny and John Barney, who have fostered more than 50 children since becoming carers 19 years ago.
Mrs Barney, currently looking after two children, said: “We have got to be realistic.
“A lot of people are looking at fostering as a carer and I think you need to look at the financial aspects of it.
“I think there has to be a good financial package involved and a good support network.
“If people are thinking about fostering I would encourage them to do it.”
Cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley said: “I cannot stress enough how much better it is for children to be in foster care rather than a care home.
“If children are kept closer to their original home they do a lot better and have much better outcomes.
“I think extra holidays are a great idea.
“I think we need to give incentives to people.
“I think that most foster carers do not do it for the money but I think if you can give them incentives to encourage more people to join up then it is a good thing.”
Mrs Tilley said she did not know why the number of children in care has risen.
She said: “We do not have any idea. It is a nationwide rise.
“We are asking other councils but they are all in the same position.
“Nobody seems to know why it is."
NFS needs your help and, before your wallet starts to groan in anticipation, it won’t cost you a penny!
Donate a photo to NFS
We use loads of photos at NFS; on the website, on Twitter and Facebook, in the magazine, in presentations and on leaflets. We buy most of the photos we use from photo libraries but the choice is very limited and we’d love to have our own stock of photos and real adopters, foster carers and their kids, and also of real LGBT people.
We understand the issue around keeping kids’ identities private so we welcome shots of your child in e.g. silhouette, from behind, from the side, in a mask, in face paint, an old photo that you no longer mind sharing etc…
Do you have photos of:
By sending us a photo, you are agreeing to the following;
Many thanks indeed if you’re able to help.
Please email pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fostering Network is calling on fostering services and employers in England to help increase the range of skills being brought into fostering by providing flexible working conditions for foster carers, in a new report published today by The Fostering Network.
Combining Fostering and Other Work, funded by the Department for Education, includes ﬁndings from a survey of foster carers who combine fostering with another job – the first of its kind in the country.
It explores foster carers’ employment before and after approval to foster, sheds light on their experiences throughout the approval process (including the support they receive from their fostering service and their employer), shares their opinions about combining fostering with other work and identiﬁes what kind of support would help them.
The report highlights that:
52 per cent of foster carers who were required to give up work to foster think stopping work was the wrong decision;
29 per cent of foster carers who work outside the home were expected to reduce their working hours by their fostering service.
Foster carers also reported that they felt pressured to give up work before they were approved as foster carers.
Dr Lucy Peake, director of development at The Fostering Network, said: “To recruit, and more importantly retain, foster carers with a wide range of skills, fostering services should not impose blanket bans on employment outside of the home.
“We know that it can be difficult to combine fostering with another job and it is not always realistic nor in a child’s best interests for a foster carer to work outside of the home. But we also know that some foster carers will have the time, capacity and energy to combine fostering and another career, while meeting their fostered children’s needs. This report shows us there is much that both employers and fostering services can do to make this work successfully for all involved.
“Moreover, where foster carers are told that to foster they have to give up work, they need assurances that they will be financially supported throughout the year and whether or not they have a placement.”
The Fostering Network is developing the Fostering Family Friendly Employers scheme and will support employers to develop good practice. We will also be encouraging fostering services to improve flexibility and support for foster carers who also take on additional work.
Children and families minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with over 80 fostered brothers and sisters said: “I want us to recruit more foster carers from a wider range of backgrounds and to remove barriers that may stand in their way.
“It’s perfectly possible to combine fostering with work when backed by a supportive and flexible employer. There are many excellent and supportive employers as well as fostering services out there, and I want all to now consider how they can go further in supporting employees who foster.”
You can download the full report, Combining Fostering and Other Work, from The Fostering Network’s website.
Today (27 November) the National Audit Office released its report Children in Care. The report provides an assessment of the effectiveness of the Department for Education (DfE) and Local Authorities in meeting the needs of looked after children.
The headline assessment is worrying. It says that ‘The DfE cannot demonstrate that it is meeting its objectives for children in foster and residential care’. The consequences of this are poorer care and greater cost.
More detailed analysis shows where the principal concerns lie. One issue which TACT has consistently raised as having a huge impact on children in care is quality and suitability of placement. The report says that ‘Local Authorities often base decisions on children’s placements on short – term affordability rather than on plans to best meet the child’s needs’. Poor placement results in breakdown, and the report shows that 34% of children had more than one placement in the previous year. Eleven percent had thee or more moves. Short term cost based decisions greatly affect placement success, stability and, ultimately the life chances of the child. As the report points out 34% of care leavers are NEET at age 19 (compared with 15.5% of all 19 year olds). The estimated cost of a young person being NEET is £56000/year.
TACT has also frequently expressed concern that, while broadly supportive of government initiates around adoption, the emphasis placed on adoption was leading to other forms of care being treated as less important. This belief is borne out by the report, which states that the DfE recognises that ‘in recent years it has prioritised managing local authorities performance on adoption over foster and residential care’
A consequence of this is that the DfE lacks the indicators to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the care system. Another common theme in recent times has been that the DfE has worked hard and with a genuine desire to improve outcomes for looked after children. However, the gap between policy and practice has remained wide with, for example, TACT social workers frequently expressing concerns that in areas such as delegated authority, the use of Special Guardianship Orders and placement decisions, local authorities are too frequently making decisions that are not in line with central policy, practice or guidance.
The report makes a number of recommendations, such as the DfE developing bettering indicators of care efficiency, working more closely with local authorities on effective commissioning practice and improving placement commissioning by developing a national standard contract for foster carers.
TACT argues that more needs to be done to ensure that children in care have the best possible chance of enjoying successful and stable placements, helping them towards success after leaving care.
Whenever possible children should have a choice of care placement and the opportunity to meet carers before a placement is agreed. This is consistently the message we receive from young people placed with TACT.
All decisions made by local authorities and other agencies must be made with full awareness and compliance with children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Act 1998.
Local Authorities should always seek to work in constructive partnership with independent agencies so that suitability of placement, rather than cost, is the prime consideration.
As the report points out, without action the cost not only to the public purse but critically to the long term welfare of children placed in care, is far greater than any short term saving.
Find out about TACT’s involvement in the Care Inquiry that looked at how society can best provide stable and permanent homes for children in England who cannot live with their birth parents.
Today the National Audit Office has announced that the Department for Education cannot demonstrate that it is meeting its objectives for children in foster and residential care. The long-term consequences of such children not getting the right care are poorer outcomes for them and increased costs to local authorities and taxpayers.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children said: “Today’s figures confirm what Action for Children has feared, that something is going very wrong for our most vulnerable children. Those who have experienced the most traumatic early lives, the children who were neglected, beaten up and left for dead or dragged into criminality, are being failed by the state.
“Whether they need a safe home, mental health care or just a person they can consistently rely on to feel loved and valued, these young people are falling between the gaps in our complicated and over-stretched care system.
“It’s clear to see that a huge amount of time, energy and money is being put into these children’s lives, but we need a big rethink because children are still being failed.
“From our own experience it is crucial that we really understand why a child has come into care in the first place and that we work with them as early as possible to give them love and the chance to heal. This is crucial in giving them back their childhoods and a brighter future.”
Gateshead Council is producing a television advert to help attract foster carers for teenagers and to tackle negative views of young people.
The council says there is a specific need to increase the number of carers for teenagers as this is the age group they find the most difficult to place:
"We have a diverse range of teenagers, and want to be able to offer suitable placements, keeping siblings together and offering choice where possible.
By being placed with the right foster carers, teenagers have the opportunity to continue with their education and the stability to thrive."
– GATESHEAD COUNCIL
The Fostering Service will run the advertising campaign on ITV from 26th November, followed by a carer careers event at Gateshead Stadium in January next year.
Team Fostering has been working with BAAF to develop new forms to be used in a foster carer's annual review.
Once approved, a foster carer attends an annual review where they have a chance to consider any training and development needs, to ensure their approval category is still appropriate and to appraise their previous year as a foster carer.
Last year our Yorkshire and East Midlands region was involved with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), along with five other fostering agencies, in piloting new forms (Form FR) to be used in the foster carers' annual review process. Prior to this pilot there had been no national approach to gathering and recording the necessary information for a robust and thorough foster carer review. As part of the pilot, staff in our Yorkshire and East Midlands region used these documents over a six month period and provided invaluable feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of the paperwork, leading to further changes and developments.
BAAF's book outlining the requirements of a review and explaining how to use Form FR acknowledges the contributions of the fostering services involved, including Team Fostering.
These forms are now available across England and Wales on a licensed basis and Team Fostering are using them across the agency, enhancing the foster carer review process to support them in improving outcomes for children.
The only co-operative in the UK offering homes to vulnerable children has just celebrated its 15th anniversary.
In October 1999, Laurie Gregory set up the Foster Care Co-operative after over 30 years working with local authorities as a senior social worker. He took early retirement and saw the opportunity to offer an alternative to private agencies who had been poaching public sector foster carers.
“Quite apart from the morality of it, we saw no point in poaching existing foster carers,” he said. “We wanted to add to the total number and give more children the chance of family life.
“I instinctively did not wish to start a ‘for profit’ company and, after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company. We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering.”
Laurie, whose personal experience of fostering saw him look after a child with disabilities for a total of 13 years, was executive director of the agency for its first 10 years and is still chairman and one of four non-executive directors.
The co-operative, whose head office is in Malvern, Worcestershire, has grown steadily with offices now in Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow and London, and contracts with 59 local authorities.
Registered with Co-operatives UK, it has more than 50 employee members across the UK and 120 carers looking after around 160 children in London, the West Midlands, Bristol and the South West, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and throughout Wales and Scotland.
Its current executive director is Ian Brazier, an ex-Army officer with 34 years service around the world. Shortly before leaving the Army, he became a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, with a strategic planning and development diploma from the Manchester Business School. He has a wide-ranging experience in military and family welfare issues.
“I was lucky enough for the board to take a punt on me,” he says, of his decision to join the co-op in 2009.
“I was looking for something where I could give something back. What interested me were the aims and aspirations of the co-operative. Rather than talking the talk, it was walking the walk and really making a difference.
“Although it might have seemed a change of direction, during my time in the services I had direct responsibility for military families, too, supporting charities and a broad spectrum of welfare challenges.”
Mr Brazier finds it hard to understand why there are not more co-op fostering agencies in the UK – although there are a number in the US.
“I honestly don’t know why that is,” he says. “I have talked to several local authorities and asked them to consider the co-operative model because we know it’s viable.
“In the last 15 years, over 3,000 registered independent foster care agencies have been set up in addition to local authorities, and the service is sadly fragmented.
“The difficulty has been that private providers come into it, recruit foster carers, train them and provide placements. Unfortunately the majority are doing it for profit – although there are some very large organisations and charities like Barnardo’s who do not.”
He warns: “Where it’s a private business matter, a lot of the money ends up supporting shareholders and profits which is a waste of resources.
“The declared profits from some of these organisations run into millions of pounds and you have venture capitalists investing in care in the same way as care for the elderly. I think that’s a fundamental ethical problem.”
Under the terms of foster care regulations, the co-operative has regular Ofsted inspections and must conform to strict legislation.
Surplus income is re-invested to provide more foster care support and training, and to recruit more foster carers; 52% of income is paid directly to carers, 24% goes on funding for support groups and training and 24% goes on agency costs, salaries and office overheads.
Staff and users are always consulted about processes and the FCC operates eight support groups for foster carers and staff.
Mr Brazier adds: “All employees are full co-op members and, although fostering regulations prohibit pecuniary interest by carers, what we’ve done is make sure there is an employees’ constitution for carers.
“In order to maintain compliance, they are associate members of the co-operative.
“For everything we own, they are collective owners of assets – and, in the event of ceasing to operate, everything we own defaults to another children’s charity.”
There is also crucial support in place for the carers, he added. “We recruit and train carers and provide them with a social worker who supports them throughout – because there is enormous pressure helping children settle into family life. We also do additional training to increase knowledge.”
Carers are offered 24/7 support from professional social workers, with local support groups, training and web-based guidance and administrative support. The co-operative also carries out health and safety assessments in homes and offers 14 days respite to carers.
The actual process of becoming a carer usually takes between four to six months, with visits to homes from a social worker who talks through the challenges with potential carers. There are CRB and Local Authority checks, training and introductions to current foster carers and social workers. The process ends with an interview and panel assessment
It is a measure of the co-operative’s success that its placement stability is nine times above the national average – which is just four months for children with foster parents.
Ian says: “It is a sad fact that many children do get shuffled from pillar to post but the average for us is three years and foster caring is increasingly becoming a longer-term option. Some children stay with a family for up to eight years, graduating from university with the same family. It’s not necessarily short-term.
“I do believe in the co-operative model. All staff who work for us are members and are paid the equivalent or slightly above public sector pay rates. It’s a very challenging time, with local authorities under such financial pressure, but we believe this is not only a sustainable model but one which deserves to grow. We are still small and we have to grow by word of mouth and by results, but our view is that this is the way to deliver care.
“We know it can be done and my message to the co-operative sector is please come on in and join us. We believe, across the care sector, that it’s a highly sustainable model. It’s accountable to the community in which it operates and has been proven by time and opportunity – which is why Laurie Gregory chose it in the first place.”
For more information visit www.fostercarecooperative.co.uk.
Kasper Fostering is delighted to announce that we are now proud members of the Fostering through Social Enterprise consortium. As one of 14 charitable and not-for-profit fostering agencies in the UK, Kasper is thrilled to be part of a group that promotes good practice, shares ethical values and puts excellent child care before profit.
What is Fostering through Social Enterprise (FtSE)?
The Fostering through Social Enterprise consortium was established in 2007. The group represents the views, perspectives and experience of 14 charitable and non-profit fostering agencies whose members provide high quality foster care over 2,000 children in care of all ages across the UK.
FtSE’s aim and role
FtSE’s main goal is to promote the elimination of discrimination against children in care. The consortium has a lobbying function that aims to advocate for children in respect of regulation as well as representing its membership at central government level.
To promote the elimination of discrimination against children in care, we will:
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