Foster carers are the lifeblood of all fostering services. They are the ones providing security, stability and a nurturing environment for around 64,000 children in foster care on any one day in the UK.
The Fostering Network has completed extensive research on what attracts people to consider joining the 55,000 fostering households in the UK by becoming a foster carer. Most recently, the why foster carers care reports have demonstrated how a values-based approach can help recruit the future foster carer workforce. Once a foster carer has been approved, keeping them is an even greater priority.
Foster carer retention was the theme of the Transforming Foster Carer Retention event in London on Tuesday 1 March. The third in the transforming foster care series, this was the first time the spotlight had been shone on retention and the challenges and opportunities fostering services experience.
Participants from across the UK received and discussed the findings from The Fostering Network’s foster carer retention survey. Completed by over 1,150 foster carers, the survey highlighted the importance of the role of the supervising social worker, particularly in times of crisis. It was the importance of family during allegations, however, which foster carers selected as those who gave the best support. At the outset of their fostering, many foster carers are unaware of how important their social networks will be in the fostering task, and the relationships they build within their own communities.
Relationships and community
Relationships and communities are an integral factor in the success of the Mockingbird Family Model (MFM), another of the key topics discussed. Foster carers Yvonne and Gerry Godfrey from Greenwich Borough shared their first hand experiences of being a hub home foster carer as part of the MFM pilot being led by The Fostering Network. Heart-warming accounts of how potentially volatile placements were stabilised with their input and the sense of community and togetherness fostered by the couple, demonstrated the exciting potential this programme has to offer.
Gerry and Yvonne’s communication skills and ability to reflect on their contribution to their ‘constellation’ were apparent throughout their presentation, and echoed in the information shared by social pedagogue, Christine Spurk from her experience working with Edinburgh Council as part of The Fostering Network’s Head, Heart, Hands programme.
Relationships, communication and community were the key themes running throughout the day, all in the context of reflection to ensure foster carers are consistently receiving the support they need.
A report on the findings from the foster carer retention survey will be available in Spring 2016.