The Department of Education has just produced a Report ‘Putting Children First’. The Report highlights the need for a safe and stable home for every foster child in the situation where their needs cannot be met by their birth family. It is acknowledged that it is the responsibility of the children’s social care system to provide the stable, safe and nurturing relationships that such children require. The home environment is the setting for this and the options are adoption, foster care, family and friends care or residential care. The state becomes the corporate parent and aims to ensure that the best in terms of outcomes can be achieved by looked after children. The report restates the ‘gravity and importance’ of this role: legislation is now in the pipeline, which will, for the first time, establish a set of ‘corporate parenting principles’. These are intended to guide the way that a local authority, as well as children’s social care is to act – as any motivated parent would – for children in care.
New ways to attract those who want to foster.
The report only makes reference to an improvement in recent years in finding secure and stable homes for children and young people who need them. In a brief snapshot, it states that through adoption, children are now finding homes four months more quickly than was the case in 2012 – 2013; Ofsted are now rating three-quarters of residential homes as being ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and councils have been funded to create new ways to recruit and retain people who want to foster from a wide range of backgrounds.
What the report has to say about Fostering seems slight – it acknowledges that there is still too much instability in the placements for looked after children. Mention is also made of the impact of this situation upon disabled children. It also refers to there being ‘too much of a focus on making a
single placement decision which works right now, rather than really working out what is needed to meet the complex and evolving needs of a particular child for the long term’.
Foster placements that work.
It is here that the report becomes significant in terms of what is acknowledged and prescribed.
There is a commitment to use the new national learning infrastructure being put in place, to learn from the best providers and authorities. Some local authorities are recognised as being better than others at matching the right foster placement to the right child. This means foster placements will be far more likely to be stable. Attention should be paid to the fact that in alluding to the potential of projects like the Mockingbird programme, outcomes (with particular regard to children from especially challenging backgrounds) are seen as improving. It is significant that this is identified as being the case when Foster Carers are trained properly, foster carers are supported, and young people have access to therapy and respite. The clear implication of this, is that funding and resourcing are linked to improvements in outcomes. There is also the following commitment:
‘we will undertake a national stocktake of foster care to give us a richer understanding of how placements are made. This will have as its central focus the question of what different foster carers need – skills, expertise, support – in order to meet the diverse needs of today’s looked after children.’
It will be worth scrutinising whether; once all these needs are identified, the correct level of funding is made available. For as far back as June 2010, researchers from Loughborough University’s Centre for Child and Family Research – together with leading charity The Fostering Network – identified a shortfall in funding for foster care: Figures detailed in ‘The Cost of Foster Care’, revealed that an additional £580 million was required across the UK to put in place a properly resourced fostering service. At the time Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of The Fostering Network commented:
”Services for children in care have been underfunded for too many years and to make cuts will mean a foster care system already creaking at the seams will become unsustainable and unable to cope.”
So if this was the situation in 2010, should we believe that this national stocktake will really make a difference. The Fostering Network quite rightly says that for a richer understanding of the fostering situation, and how more effective placements can be made, the stocktake should be holistic in its approach. This means not just generally, including skills, expertise and support – but also factoring in foster carer pay and the status of foster carers as part of the team around the child. There is marketing research available that profiles the types of individuals needed to come forward to foster challenging children. They are far more likely to expect that being a foster carer is a role with status as well as the perception of professionalism. Such people, already hard enough to recruit, will also expect a certain level of remuneration. To read the report in full visit https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535732/Putting_Children_First_-_delivering_our_vision_for_excellent_children_s_social_care.pdf
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…our programme of Rainbow fostering’s youth participation events for the summer holidays has been put together…some great choices ranging from the Oxygen Jump Croydon to the Hayling Island Funfair…
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