Member News: Barnardo’s declares ‘state of emergency’ as number of children needing foster care during Coronavirus pandemic rises by 44%
The number of children needing foster care has risen by 44% during the coronavirus pandemic while the number of people looking to become foster parents plummeted by nearly half compared to the same period last year, according to the UK’s leading children’s charity.
From March 1st - April 23rd 2020, there were 2,349 referrals to Barnardo’s fostering services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a figure which shot up from 1,629 for the same period in 2019. Meanwhile the number of enquiries from people looking to become foster parents for the charity fell from 302 to 161 - a dramatic 47% drop.
Barnardo’s says this has created a ‘state of emergency’ as children who may have experienced abuse and neglect wait for places with loving foster families. Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.
The UK’s leading children’s charity believes that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown. Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the crisis continues.
At the same time Barnardo’s believes that the change in circumstances experienced by many because of COVID-19 and uncertainty about the future has resulted in a drop in enquiries being made to the charity from people looking to foster.
Barnardo’s is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to get in touch and consider fostering a child. Barnardo’s welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, including single people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
The charity also wants to make it clear that foster carers will be supported every step of the way by Barnardo’s, and will also be eligible for financial support including carers’ allowance.
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, go to https://www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 07712402312 or 0800 0277 280.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“The Coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable families the hardest, with many reaching crisis point. This has created a state of emergency, as more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family, while fewer adults are coming forward as potential foster carers.
“Barnardo’s has over 100 years’ experience bringing vulnerable children together with loving foster families, who provide the vital love and support children need to thrive. If you become a foster carer with Barnardo’s we will support you every step of the way with training and a dedicated social worker. You’ll also receive financial support, including a carer’s allowance.
“Today, there are hundreds of children who have been referred to Barnardo’s and are waiting to be placed with a foster family. If you’re over 21, have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child in need, please do consider getting in touch today.”
Nichol Garcia is 50 and has been a full-time foster carer for the past nine years. She lives in Nottingham with her teenage son and three foster children.
Nichol says: “I felt I had space in my heart and life for more children, and after talking to my family and most importantly, my son, I got in touch with Barnardo’s and have not regretted it since. I’ve done so many different things in my life, but foster caring is by far the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Over the past nine years, Nichol and her son have fostered 11 young people, mainly teenagers but also younger children, most of whom have stayed with them for long periods of time.
“I was worried I would feel upset when the children left, as I invest so much into each child, but we keep in touch with all of them as they are a part of our family now and we sometimes meet up too. I am a part of their history and they are a part of mine.”
Nichol acknowledges that fostering has its share of challenges too.
She says: “Sometimes children may have had difficult experiences and need additional support such as therapy to help them make sense of what they’ve been through, and it’s important for foster carers to support them with this. I really fight for all of my foster children and young people to get them what they deserve.”
Nichol believes that the constant support and ongoing training offered by Barnardo’s has enabled her to deal with any difficult periods.
“My social worker from Barnardo’s is like a professional friend,” Nichol says. “I meet with her regularly, but if I ever need any advice or support, day or night, there is always someone there to give me everything I need. There is always lots of different training on offer too, and I go on several courses each year.
“Before you are approved to foster, Barnardo’s does some really intense training to ensure potential foster carers are fully aware of what they may experience. They don’t just have the child’s best interests at heart, but also the foster carer’s too.”
Nichol’s advice to anyone who is considering fostering is this: “If you go into foster caring for the wrong reasons, you won’t last long. It’s not always easy, but it is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. For those who already have their own children and may be worried about whether fostering is the right decision for them, in my experience, by keeping my child involved every step of the way, he loves it just as much as I do and we wouldn’t have it any other way now.
“Some of my favourite times are when we all sit outside together chatting around the log burner and I feel really lucky to have them all and love seeing them so happy.”
Notes to Editors
Data shows the number of fostering referrals and enquiries to Barnardo’s from people looking to become foster carers from March 1 - April 23 in 2019 and 2020 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only.
Last year around 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.
We work to change the lives of vulnerable children in the UK and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.
Member News: Action for Children - ‘However challenging it is now, it won’t be nearly as challenging as when we start recovering’. The impact of Coronavirus on early help for children, young people, and families.
This was the warning Action for Children and the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) were given by a headteacher, while carrying out research for our new report.
With coronavirus impacting almost all areas of life, we wanted to learn how the virus had affected early help services. These include children’s centres, parenting support and early mental health support. We also wanted to understand the concerns of practitioners involved in delivering it. To do this, we carried out 28 interviews with heads of early help services, lead practitioners, and headteachers across England.
Action for Children’s Recommendations
We are calling on the government to urgently respond to the crisis, and prioritise support that helps children early.
The government must:
Local authorities and their partners:
With so many children likely to need support as the country recovers from coronavirus, it is important that their needs are not forgotten. The government must act to ensure that vulnerable children can get the right support early, before problems have the chance spiral out of control.
 EIF is an independent charity established in 2013 to champion and support the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing poor outcomes.
 Early help refers to support for children who do not meet the threshold to receive statutory help, i.e. they are not a child in need or at risk of harm. Support is delivered by a range of organisations and could include family or parenting programmes, and help for families affected by substance misuse problems and domestic abuse.
You can read the full report to find out more
June is LGBT Pride Month and TACT is very proud of its LGBT foster carers, so we are sharing stories of how they have transformed the lives of children and young people in their care.
Today is the turn of Rob and Bob who became instant foster dads of three when they began fostering young siblings – 2 little boys and their sister. While it was a steep learning curve for them all, they soon settled into happy family life. It has been such a successful placement that the children are now with them permanently and will remain until adulthood. Read their story here
Please follow our news section and twitter page as we bring you these stories throughout June.
Industry News: Exploring experiences of life at home during lockdown for young people in care, carers and birth families
TACT and Research in Practice have developed three linked surveys – for young people in care, carers and birth families – to explore their experiences of life at home during lockdown. The surveys aim to explore how people have spent their time, experiences of home schooling and relationships with social care over the lockdown period.
The findings will be used to inform practice as we move towards exiting lockdown, so that we can learn the lessons of the past three months and retain anything that carers, birth families and young people in care found beneficial, and address that which was problematic.
The survey will run from 9-21 June and all responses will be anonymous:
Survey for young people.
Survey for carers.
Survey for birth families.
Please share widely with children in care social work teams, local authority foster carers, independent foster care providers, residential care homes, special guardianship teams, special guardians themselves and birth parent networks. The more widely the surveys are shared the more robust picture it will give of life in care under lockdown to allow learning for the future.
Action for Children has announced that its interim Chief Executive Melanie Armstrong is to remain as CEO of the charity until December 2021.
She was appointed in March following the departure of Julie Bentley for personal reasons.
Recruitment for a permanent CEO was put on hold recently as the UK was hit by the pandemic and the country was placed in lockdown.
Action for Children Chair of Trustees, Sarika Patel said: “The country has been through the biggest crisis of our generation yet despite that we have continued to operate the majority of our services across the UK supporting the children, young people and families who have needed our help most.
Melanie has been steering our organisation through these difficult times and is the best person to lead us out of this emergency. The Trustees and I agree that now is a time for continuity, stability and leadership and I have asked Melanie to prepare Action for Children for a post Covid era”.
Melanie Armstrong said : “My immediate mission will be to drive forward our response to the pandemic. We have had to react quickly to safely deliver the majority of our services throughout this emergency and I am immensely proud of the commitment and creativity our teams have shown. The Covid crisis is hitting all charities hard and my aim will be for Action for Children to emerge stronger so we can continue to reach the children, young people and families who need us more than ever”.
Before she was appointed interim CEO in March of this year, Melanie Armstrong was the Interim Managing Director of Corporate Shared Services at Action for Children until December 2019. She has previously held senior roles in both the commercial and not for profit sectors.
As we all know, family life over the past few months has been challenging. Everyone has had to alter the way they approach life and everyday tasks such as work, play and communication. Ever-changing rules and regulations from the government have inevitably caused stress and confusion, with a sense of having to ‘cope’ under such bizarre circumstances.
Many companies and organisations have either ground to a temporary halt, or are existing using limited resources. Many people are still currently working remotely, where possible, with no date yet on the horizon as to when society will return to relative normality.
So where does fostering fit in with the current pandemic?
Well, fostering doesn’t just stop. It can’t. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, or an activity that can be resumed at a later date. Foster carers are, in effect, Key Workers – providing an essential care service in a variety of situations. They are also amazing, highly skilled and highly adaptable people who make a difference to children’s lives every single day.
All of the foster carers here at The Foster Care Co-operative are wonderful, but we have a few specific ‘shout-outs’ to these incredible people:
Laura & Glenn are currently home-schooling six children, three of which are children in care.
Dawn has also home schooled and kept her 4 young people busy with home activities.
Jane & Chris have worked closely with their local school to maintain the education of a child placed with them. They are currently home-schooling this young person, and are using their skills to help maintain the placement.
Two couples, Keith & Tracy and Lisa & Wayne, accepted newly fostered children into their homes during lockdown. They have worked closely with local authorities to ensure smooth transitions for the children, and have supported contact between the children and their parents via Zoom conference calling.
Marie has managed to complete essential training online.
This is just a snapshot of achievements, of our foster carers adapting to a temporary new way of life in order to continue to provide care, guidance and education to vulnerable young people.
Thank you to the daughters and sons of our foster carers, who have had to share the care and guidance they get from their parents with other young people in their home, more than ever before.
And thank you to the young people we provide care for, who have shown time and time again how adaptable they are in such unusual circumstances. Circumstances that were already unusual for them from the outset.
Fostering doesn’t stop. If you feel that you could make a difference to a child’s life, why not make a no-obligation enquiry here.
For quite a while now here at Team Fostering, we’ve been considering our impact on the wider world, especially with consideration to environmental issues; a concern close to the hearts of many of the young people we work with. We asked Non-Executive Director Walter Young to discuss the changes we are making as an agency to respond to this.
“Team Fostering’s purpose and values have always been summed up in four words: Putting children’s futures first. Over the years we’ve become increasingly aware that the one thing that is putting children’s futures at risk more than anything else is climate change. Global warming is already affecting our environment, health, food supply, economy and security. If we do not take action, the effects will be far worse in the future.
What can one organisation do about this? The Directors of Team Fostering have listened to the views of children and young people via the Eco Task Force, as well as suggestions and actions from employees and others. We have explored what changes could make the most difference in the shortest time, and whilst the challenge still feels overwhelming, we believe that we can at least ensure that the agency operates on a carbon-neutral basis.
For example, one of the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis has been to make every meeting a virtual one, using video conferencing instead of meeting face-to-face. We’ve learned that it’s often possible to share information and make decisions without travelling to attend a meeting. In the future, we will cut our carbon footprint by making much more use of virtual meetings. Over the next few months, it is our intention to go through everything we have learned from the current crisis and work out how we can use that learning to make Team Fostering a better and more environmentally efficient organisation.
As well as reducing our carbon impact by burning less fossil fuel, we can mitigate it by supporting the creation of forests in the UK. We are investing in this financially in partnership with Forest Carbon, an organisation that has already planted 7 million trees in the UK, in woodlands independently audited and certified under the UK Woodland Carbon Code. By supporting the creating of UK woodlands, we are helping to capture CO2 as well as delivering other benefits for biodiversity, landscape, flood management, water quality and recreation.
We are currently creating our next 3-year strategic plan, which will cover the period 2021-2024. One of Team Fostering’s strategic objectives will be about ensuring an effective response to climate change, particularly reducing our output of greenhouse gases. This will lead to further initiatives and changes in our behaviour that we cannot necessarily predict today. Our approach to this needs to be about continuous improvement, not just a one-off change.
Everyone can do their bit in trying to reduce the impact of climate change. Rather than feeling helpless or hoping someone else will sort it out, we believe that even the efforts of one organisation are worthwhile and will make a difference."
To help Team Fostering continue making a difference to the lives of many more young people, you can contact us in the following ways:
send an online enquiry by clicking here
call us on 0800 292 2003
email us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoom, the teleconferencing company, have recently reported that profits are soaring as workers across the world are conducting their meetings and briefings using the online tool.
The Covid-19 pandemic, as we are all aware, has resulted in social-distancing, working from home where possible, with rules and guidance from the government changing week-by-week. It’s therefore hardly surprising that organisations on a global scale have embraced the technology, meaning that you can look your colleagues in the eye (or at least in the general direction of the eye, due to the camera position!) rather than settling for the traditional telephone conference call arrangements. It’s a way of establishing a consistent communication tool that is inclusive of those still working in an office environment, and those working remotely.
Never has this technology been more useful than in the fostering sector. In times of crisis, such as the current pandemic, fostering doesn’t stop – and the need for new foster carers is just as great. Maybe even greater.
Here at The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC), the Zoom technology has played a huge part – and has helped us continue to operate as normal. While FCC has three main offices in Worcestershire, Cardiff and Greater Manchester, the majority of our social worker staff teams have always worked remotely – enabling us to cover wide areas of England and Wales. Even outside of the current pandemic, this video conferencing technology has proven useful.
But we’ve gone much further than that. We’ve been able to facilitate virtual foster carer support groups, involving our foster carers and social workers. These support groups are a chance for foster carers to share their thoughts and experiences with other carers, as well as FCC staff. During one such session, one of our student placement social workers was able to deliver some training she had prepared on gang culture. She was able to screen-share her electronic presentation with the other participants using the Zoom facility, making the training just as engaging and interactive as if the participants were sat in the same room.
Elsewhere, we are able to continue to recruit new foster carers, replacing the traditional initial social worker visit to the applicant’s home with a virtual visit. Meetings between applicants and the social workers conducting their assessments can also continue in this way – as well as panel meetings that have the final say on foster carer approval. All can be achieved virtually using this technology.
Of course once lockdown has ended, and we all go back to relative normality, those traditional face-to-face meetings and visits will be resumed. But we’re so proud of our staff, foster carers and the children they support for the adjustments they have made during these challenging times, along with the embracement of teleconferencing technology as a communication tool. This has not only enabled foster carer recruitment to continue, but has ensured that we can continue to provide care and support to our foster carers, children and staff.
Member News: St Christopher's - The journey to employment: how our specialist team help young people to thrive at work
Cassie was supported by our Aftercare service on the Isle of Man from the age of 16. Initially she was in an unhealthy relationship and had fallen into a lifestyle of drug and alcohol misuse. Her life was moving along a trajectory where she felt unhappy and had little hope for her future.
She then started working with Support Into Employment, our specialist team that help care leavers learn workplace skills and find the right job for them.
Cassie was interested in a career in banking but her only experience was in waitressing. She wanted to make changes to her life but struggled to see how to get to where she wanted to be.
The team supported her to complete a trial at a local restaurant to build up her confidence, which led to full-time work as a waitress. Meanwhile, Cassie started an online banking course to develop her skillset for the career she dreamed of.
However, within a few weeks the negative influences in Cassie’s life put her under pressure, impacting on her performance and attendance at work. Part of Support Into Employment’s remit is to work closely with the employer to help them understand reasons behind a young person’s behaviours. Although the workplace offered many chances to Cassie they could no longer sustain her employment, but the support of our team helped the role to come to a positive end.
Cassie took some time out to reflect and access emotional support. Support Into Employment then found a contact at a bank, who was willing to offer a contracted period of employment. Cassie felt motivated and seized this opportunity with both hands.
Since then Cassie has quickly adapted to working at the bank and found a new peer group. She is on a permanent contract and has been working from home as a banking associate during the coronavirus outbreak. Her life is far from what she imagined it could be even just one year ago, thanks to Support Into Employment giving her the tools and self-belief to achieve her goals.
We want to help more young people like Cassie. Can you support us by making a donation to St Christopher’s today?
Member News: Team Fostering - How has our Education and Support Service helped our carers and children through homeschooling?
One of the undeniable things about caring for children during lockdown has been the need to keep them occupied and active, often alongside many other household commitments.
When schools closed completely at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, this meant that many parents and carers encountered a whole new set of challenges, having to provide routine, teaching, play and more to young people who were used to the structure of a school day.
To ensure that that this went smoothly and that our Team Fostering carers had the support they needed during this time, our brilliant Education and Support Service worked hard to move the work they do online, as Steve Elliff, Education and Support Service Manager (Yorkshire and East Midlands) explains; “We deliver most of our support face to face, so lockdown has been a bit of a challenge! In the early stages of lockdown, we tried to support our carers as they adjusted to home schooling, with a host of links, suggestions and ideas for how to keep children busy. For some of our children, engaging in schoolwork at home has gone really well, but for others this has been particularly tricky.“
Lisa Leggatt, Education and Support Service Manager (North East) continues: “The Education and Support Service has continued to provide the support our children and carers expect from us; albeit in a different way.”
“Every week we’ve been posting activities to keep our children and young people of all ages entertained and learning. We found that we didn’t need to keep posting curriculum-based learning activities as schools were doing this, we could just concentrate on the fun stuff. Many of our young people and carers have sent in photographs of what they are getting up to in the lockdown period; their creativity and imagination never ceases to amaze me.”
A large part of the Education and Support Service’s face to face work includes their monthly Life Skills sessions – they include cooking a meal together followed by a short group session on a topic related to independence. As Steve explains: “We contacted some of our young people who attend these sessions and worked with them to come up with an online version of life skills delivered through Microsoft Teams. Friendship is a key part of the life skills group, so the final format included 15 minutes of socialising at the start, a 30 minute life skill session, followed by a 15 minute game at the end.” Topics included health and wellbeing, budgeting, workplace advice and registering with a GP, and they even managed to include some baking in the virtual sessions too!
There’s been the opportunity to have some more targeted support for many of our young people as well. As Lisa recounts, “Some young people need some direct support while being home schooled. We are still ‘meeting’ these young people one to one via video link and thanks to the help from our fabulous IT guru Dave this is going really well. I can share my screen which we can use like a whiteboard you would see in any classroom across the country. So far we have delivered sessions on; science, maths, GCSE poetry, French, RE and history.”
With the help of digital tools, a ton of adaptability and a lot of creativity, the Education and Support Service has met the challenges of providing development and support to the children and young people we work with, head on. The service will continue to provide guidance and advice to the foster carers supporting these young people through this complicated time, and we look forward to being able to combine our diverse programme of face to face activities with our new virtual sessions in future.
To learn more about becoming a foster carer with us, you can contact us by:
Submitting an online enquiry form here
Calling us on 0800 292 2003
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