HAMPSHIRE County Council has backed the idea of forming Regional Adoption Agencies as part of a government revamp.
New government legislation aimed at making adoption easier has been welcomed by county bosses but say work still needs to be done on finalising the details on how the model would work.
Councillor Keith Mans, executive lead member for children’s services, has said the new Education and Adoption act will make it easier for local authorities to join together so they can gain the benefits of working in partnership.
He added: “As a result, the Department for Education has asked local authorities to submit expressions of interest in formalising regional partnership arrangements between local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies, to support the adoption of children nationally. Hampshire is keen to forge partnerships in this way, however, there is still work to be done in finalising details going forward.
“As far as we are concerned, the children come first and we do all that we can to do right by them.”
“In Hampshire we have always worked in partnership with other local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies to ensure that children who are unable to live with their birth family are placed with an adopted family at the earliest possible opportunity.”
The act, that is due to go before the House of Lords to scrutinise tomorrow, will allow councils to form Regional Adoption Agencies.
The act is aimed at helping to tackle the problem of long waiting times for children looking for adoption as they will have a bigger area to find parents.
It is a boost to the Daily Echo’s Give a Child a Home campaign which was aimed at highlighting the need to find loving homes for dozens of youngsters across both Southampton and Hampshire.
Cllr Mans added: “Hampshire Children’s Services is performing well against the Government’s adoption scorecard, with children being placed for adoption in Hampshire spending less time in care than other areas of the country.
“In Hampshire the percentage of children who wait less than 21 months between entering care and moving in with their adoptive family is 58 per cent against the national average of 55 per cent.
“As an individual authority Hampshire has a strong track record of performance in finding suitable homes for children.”
Foster children do better in school than their peers in other forms of social care, a new study has shown.
The joint study by the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol found that children who live with foster parents did better than those who remained with their own families with social worker support.
Researchers found that children living with foster families gained GCSEs that were at least six grades higher on average - with students performing better the longer they were in care.
The research - which was funded by education charity, the Nuffield Foundation - studied the GCSE results of over 620,000 pupils across England.
Of these students 13,599 were living at home with their families but deemed "in need" of support from social workers and 4,849 who had been living in care for at least a year.
They also interviewed 26 young people in six local authorities across the country about their educational experiences.
David Berridge, Professor of Child and Family Welfare at the University of Bristol, said: "In interviews, young people said they could only do well at school once they felt safe and secure, that they mattered to someone and that their birth families were also being supported.
“If all this was in place then teachers could help them make progress. Carers, teachers and social workers need to work together to achieve this."
Children’s minister Edward Timpson MP said: "As someone who grew up with over 90 fostered brothers and sisters, I’ve seen first-hand just how education coupled with a stable home environment can transform the lives and futures of some of our most vulnerable children."
A Surrey County Council highways worker who fosters child asylum-seekers has welcomed the authority becoming a fostering friendly employer.
Mark Davies will get more help to balance his work and caring responsibilities now the county council has begun formally recognising the needs of staff who give a loving home to vulnerable children.
Mr Davies, of Merstham, has been fostering with his wife Hayley for four-and-a-half years. The couple permanently foster a child and have looked after six others.
This summer he was approved to foster unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and has already looked after a boy who fled religious persecution in Eritrea. A permanent home for the child has now been found.
Mr Davies says the council’s fostering friendly policy, signed off by its People, Performance and Development Committee, will help him fit essential meetings and appointments for the children he fosters around his work as a highways engineer.
The policy entitles staff to a set amount of paid leave to undergo the assessment process to become a foster carer or a friends and family carer and attend key meetings. It also allows them additional unpaid leave if needed or to deal with unexpected emergencies.
There is also a set amount of unpaid leave for prospective adopters and prospective special guardians as they undergo the assessment process.
Mr Davies said: ‘This will be a huge help to our family. Fostering is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. You can make a tangible difference to these children, even if they are only with you for a short time. It can be challenging at times, but the rewards more than compensate for this.’
The county council is now urging other employers across Surrey to adopt similar policies and help in the drive to find loving homes for children in need.
Surrey County Council leader David Hodge, who was brought up in an orphanage and a boys’ home, said: ‘People who are willing to open their homes and hearts to children in need can transform their lives and we’re proud to give our staff extra support to undertake this important role.
‘We are always looking for more foster carers, as well as those willing to adopt, and I would urge other employers to follow our lead and help their staff combine their work and family responsibilities.’
For more information about fostering call 08000 96 96 26 or visit surreycc.gov.uk/fostering.
FtSE Member News: Spending review – children’s social care is still the poor relation to education and health
TACT Fostering and Adoption is disappointed that after all the post-election talk of reforming failing children’s services, strengthening special guardianship assessments and David Cameron’s strident rhetoric on willful neglect and adoption, the government’s comprehensive spending review and Autumn statement passed without mentioning children’s services.
Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT Fostering and Adoption says the spending review shows: “As ever children’s social care is the poor relation to education and health.”
There will be relief for some service users from the reversal of tax credit cuts, and that may have a positive impact on relatives who take out special guardianship orders. However, TACT had hoped for something definitive on the post-adoption support fund.
“TACT would like to see this extended to those taking special guardianship orders as well, but at the very least it is vital that the Department for Education give local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies certainty on this to allow for planning of service provision capacity,” Andy Elvin says.
For more information, interviews, quotes etc., please contact Laura Luxton – TACT Communications on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0208 695 8133 or 07793 580 418.
We are delighted that Sue Wise has chosen to join Young People at Heart as our Placements Officer and Sue is already hard at work finding matches for our available foster carers.
Gary Cox, Founder and Chief Executive of Young People at Heart, said that matching was the most important factor in making placements and Sue’s years of experience as a Placements Officer, coupled with her early career as a Legal Secretary, made her the ideal person to liaise with our Local Authority customers because of her attention to detail and ability to ask the right questions.
Gary added that while many agencies were centralising their placements function, he believed strongly that matching was best achieved by the Placements Officer understanding and knowing the foster family. Sue would therefore be visiting new foster families so she could get to know them and would stay in regular contact with foster carers while a suitable match was found, thereby giving a young person in care the best chance of being placed with the right family.
He concluded by saying that Sue was a great addition to the Young People at Heart family and he wished her well as she rekindled old friendships with Local Authority placement teams.
Sue can be contacted on or our dedicated placements email address, email@example.com or our daytime Placement enquiry line 07518 173085. We also have an out-of-hours placement line 07518 173084.
The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) was delighted to have supported and presented the award for Outstanding Contribution by a Social Worker category at 2015 Fostering Excellence Awards ceremony last night (17 November).
Speaking at the ceremony, which was organised by The Fostering Network and attended by HRH Duchess of Cambridge, Martin Clarke, TACT Learning and Development Manager said: “TACT is pleased to be supporting the Social Worker category of the Fostering Excellence Awards. As a leading UK charity offering adoptive and foster families for vulnerable children and young people, TACT is all too aware of the incredible personal and professional contribution, dedication and commitment that social workers make every day to help a fostered child or foster family to succeed. TACT welcomes the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the vital role that social workers play in the fostering community.”
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “We are proud to have TACT supporting the Outstanding Contribution by a Social Worker Award at the 2015 Fostering Excellence Awards. This prestigious event has recognised the commitment, dedication, and skill of the whole fostering community, and it goes a long way to highlighting the positive work of foster carers right across the UK.
“Without the support of TACT we would not have been able to recognise the achievements of these social workers who have gone above and beyond to serve foster carers, and the children and young people that they care for.”
Outstanding Contribution by a Social Worker Award winners
Debbie has over 25 years of experience as a social worker and she gives nothing but her full effort and attention. She has a knack of supporting the foster carer, while also being able to view the situation from the young person’s perspective. She goes above and beyond her duties, visiting often, ringing, texting or emailing, as well as being known to sleep overnight to support a struggling family. She is also a respite foster carer, which she does alongside her full-time job.
Jacqui, a foster carer who Debbie supports, nominated her and said: “Because of her long experience, you always know that Debbie’s advice comes from hard won experience. She never makes you feel you have failed and is ready to catch you if you stumble along the way.”
Kerry is extremely committed to her role as a children’s social worker and tries to ensure that every young person gets the right support and is settled and happy. She is always ready to receive calls from the young people she is a social worker for and has been known to sit with young people until 1am when they have run away or been upset.
Steph, a young person who Kerry works with and who nominated her, said: “Kerry goes out of her way to make sure every child is treated properly. She treats every young person like her own. She is the kindest, most hardworking woman in the world. And she is still able to get down with the kids!”
Roger is a fantastic support to the foster carers he works with, always treating them as professionals, listening to their concerns and suggesting strategies which work. He always goes the extra mile to support his foster carers when placements become difficult and there are a number of foster carers who say that they would not still be fostering were it not for his support.
Robert, a foster carer who Roger supports, nominated him and said: “One evening we had a serious issue and when we contacted Roger he came straight out. He stayed until late evening to get the issues resolved even though he was supposed to go out to dinner with his family.”
Martin Clarke was joined in presenting the award by TV presenter and host of the ceremony, Holly Willoughby.
FtSE Member News: Community Foster Care - Foster agency gets Ofsted’s ‘good’ rating, Gloucester Citizen
OFSTED has awarded a Staunton-based fostering agency a good rating in its latest inspection.
Community Foster Care provides professional foster care for children in Gloucestershire.
After his visit, Ofsted inspector Paul Clark said the firm provided “a good level of care for children and young people who report that they feel safe and well cared for”.
He awarded ‘good’ ratings in four categories: outcomes for children, quality of service, safeguarding and leadership.
He singled out the hands-on support which support workers provided children with good therapeutic care and a large range of community activities.
“Consultation forums for young people give them a voice in service provision and development”, he said.
Chief executive of Community Foster Care Hugh Pelham, pictured, said: “We pride ourselves on the level of support we provide to both carers and children and to our family ethos. It’s good to see that recognised from the highest regulatory authority.”
The Duchess of Cambridge has been given handmade quilts for Prince George and Princess Charlotte by two fostered children at an awards ceremony in London.
She was presented with the gifts by Rowan, aged seven, and Ambrose, 11, both of whom she met at a tea party thrown by the Fostering Network in January.
"You've grown since I last saw you," Kate said to Rowan.
One of the two quilts, created by the Helping Hands Quilting Group, was made up of cream and floral patches, while the other was blue with cartoon aeroplanes.
The group makes many more similar blankets every year for children going into foster care.
Kate attended the Fostering Network's Fostering Excellence Awards tea party, hosted by TV presenter Holly Willoughby, at the British Medical Association House in London.
Wearing a knee-length blue dress with a black buckled waistband by Saloni and black court shoes, Kate met a number of children and their foster parents who are in line for awards, despite dealing with often traumatic backgrounds.
Sian Connolly, 19, from Staffordshire, Emily Bowyer, 19, from Bedford, and Adam Howlett, 17, from Doncaster were all presented with a Fostering Achievement Award.
Sian was nominated after she was taken from her turbulent family home and, despite being moved to a number of foster placements, moved on to begin a beauty course, find her own place, and even become a carer for her birth mother.
She was one of the first to be greeted by the Duchess at the tea party of scones, finger sandwiches and French fancies, decorated in the Fostering Network's signature orange colour.
Sian's foster mother, Kathy Nouse-Clayton, said: "It was lovely to meet the Duchess, she was so personable and took an interest in each of the children - it was very heart-warming.
"I know what Sian has been through and she has been incredibly resilient. I am so proud of how she found the resilience to be able to support herself, live independently and then support her mother after everything."
In a speech during the presentation of the awards, Kate said: "It is such a great opportunity to pay tribute to the incredible achievements of the award winners, who represent the tens of thousands of dedicated foster carers, social workers and inspirational young people who make up the fostering community.
"It is fantastic that we are all gathered this evening to celebrate fostering and the truly transformational care that is a lifeline to so many."
The awards aim to celebrate extraordinary achievements of people within the fostering community, including foster carers, young people, social workers, civil servants and other young organisations, as well as of young people aged 16 to 24 who have been fostered.
Kate learned of the world of fostering in January this year during a visit to the Fostering Network, which brings together everyone involved in fostering to help improve their lives and make sure fostered children and young people are given the chance to achieve the best they can.
According to the charity, more than 64,000 children live with 52,500 foster families across the UK every day while they are unable to live at home. These children have often experienced neglect and abuse, or have witnessed domestic violence or substance misuse.
In 2015 there is a need for at least 8,370 new foster families in the UK, particularly to offer homes to teenagers, disabled children and groups of brothers and sisters.
Industry News: The fall in placement orders is not a problem, but government rhetoric on adoption is
Andy Elvin argues that a rise in special guardianship is not as big a problem as the government's promotion of adoption as the only good permanence option
David Cameron recently said on adoption: “It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family – we have made real progress but it remains a problem.”This comment is inaccurate and insulting. Children in excellent foster homes are not waiting to be placed with a loving family – they are with a loving family who are meeting their needs, caring for them, helping them recover from trauma and offering stability and continuity. The same is true for children placed with relatives.
The narrative of ‘adoption is great and other options are lesser’ is unhelpful and inaccurate. Many children who come into public care go on to achieve amazing outcomes whether adopted, fostered, placed with relatives or in residential care.
Adoption legislation untouched
The latest Department for Education (DfE) statistics show that 75% of children in care are in foster placements and only 5% are in adoptive placements.
Each case before the family courts is complex, unique and comes with its own set of options for the child. The capacity for change of the birth parents, the strength or weakness of the extended family, the age of the child, ethnicity, whether it is a sibling group or only child and additional needs all play a part in circumscribing the permanence options available. It is the family courts’ role to pick carefully through these complex situations and find a solution that is in the best interests of the child over their lifetime.
The truth is that the rise in special guardianship orders (SGOs) is not a problem, nor is the fall in placement orders for adoption. There is no call to do anything about adoption legislation. The DfE should instead be concentrating on supporting all forms of permanence to make sure they last positively throughout childhood and on into adult life.
Measuring local authorities’ success in terms of adoption numbers is ludicrous. They need to be measured in terms of outcomes for all children and young people entering care, and how they are doing in achieving permanence in all of its forms. Adoption is just one great option. An SGO with committed grandparents or uncles and aunts is another, as is an SGO with foster carers and stable long-term foster care, especially if the DfE engages intelligently in sorting out the implementation problems with Staying Put.
The family courts would be greatly assisted if they knew that whichever permanency option is right for each child could be chosen safe in the knowledge that timely, expert and assured post-order support would be available for each family, no matter the legal order.
Critical of foster and kinship care
The current focus on adoption ignores the 95% of children who come into the care system for whom adoption is either not appropriate or available.
This weighted promotion of one form of permanence is not doing adoption any favours, as the Prime Minister’s rhetoric is implicitly critical of foster care and kinship care in its efforts to promote adoption.
I fear the tone of the present debate is counterproductive, especially in the reaction it provokes in local authorities and the wider care sector. I also suspect that the proposed new regional adoption teams which will separate them from teams dealing with SGOs and foster care will not help in this. Pre- and post-permanence work needs to be joined up to ensure excellent outcomes for all vulnerable children.
What is needed is a national post-permanency support fund available to all supporting a permanent placement. Local authorities should be required to set up permanency teams that cover foster care, adoption and SGO placements. These teams will assess potential foster carers, adopters and extended family members to care for vulnerable children. These teams will also offer high quality post-placement support which will be available as a right. Adopters, foster carers and relatives are looking after the same cohort of children, so they should all be equally supported.
The government should bring into England and Wales the permanency order available in Scotland that legally recognises that long-term foster care is an excellent permanency option for many children in care, and one that should be valued, protected and supported. The extension of Staying Put to all children in care is also a must – and it will be a scandal if Martin Narey’s review into residential care does not recommend this.
The DfE must also focus on children subject to multiple placement moves, and bring in a requirement that any case of a child who has more than three placements must be notified to Ofsted. A formal case review could then be held to ensure that the right placement is identified and resourced. Some placement moves are in the best interests of children but too often they are a consequence of not identifying a permanent placement soon enough. Multiple placements are toxic to children and lead to poor outcomes.
Achieving great outcomes for vulnerable children is not a competition between adopters, foster carers, extended family members and residential care – it is an endeavour in which each of these plays its part.
Andy Elvin is the chief executive of TACT Fostering & Adoption.
Fostering News: Launch of What is Needed to Enable Looked After Children to Achieve in Education report in Wales
The Fostering Network Wales has launched a report into the views of foster carers regarding what they believe is needed to raise the ambitions and educational outcomes of the young people in their care.
The report, entitled What is Needed to Enable Looked After Children to Achieve in Education? was commissioned by Welsh Government and follows consultations and a survey with foster carers carried out by The Fostering Network.
The report highlights the role of foster carers as first educators for the young people they are caring for, and the desire of foster carers to be increasingly involved in their fostered children’s education. Other findings of the report include:
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