England projects helping in lockdown

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Almost three quarters of the children in care looked after away from home are in foster care, and that is one reason why raising awareness of the phenomenal contribution of the fostering community is so important. And that’s where Foster Care FortnightTM comes in…

Our two-week campaign aims to push fostering further up the agenda than at any other time of the year and to enable a few extra column inches, tv and radio minutes or social media posts to be devoted to the vital, yet underappreciated role of the fostering community.

It is an opportunity for us to celebrate the outstanding work that is taking place around the UK be it within fostering households, fostering services and local authorities, or as part of The Fostering Network’s own projects and programmes.

During Foster Care Fortnight we take a day to focus on each of the four nations of the UK. Today (Friday) it’s the turn of England. The fostering community in England is huge – more than 56,000 children and young people live with 44,500 foster families or friends and family carers. Then there are the tens of thousands of social workers and other children’s social care staff, let alone the wider group of people who offer practical support and friendship to foster families.

Seeing as Foster Care Fortnight is a celebration of fostering and an opportunity to highlight the transformational power of fostering, why don’t we look at a programme which has taken an innovative approach to fostering and gone from strength to strength thanks to collaboration with our members.

The Mockingbird Programme began in England in 2015-2016 with the aim of strengthening the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families. The programme started with just eight fostering services using the extended family model to provide sleepovers and short breaks, peer support, regular joint planning and training, as well as social activities for all.  

There are now 38 Mockingbird partners supporting over 1,500 members of fostering families. And as if that wasn’t enough, findings published last year indicated that as a result of the support of being part of Mockingbird:

  • 87 foster carer resignations were avoided 
  • 115 children and young people have remained with their fostering family despite substantial risks of this relationship breaking down. 
     

The strong relationships and inter-household bonds which have been developed and nurtured as part of the Mockingbird community are perhaps now, more important than ever with Mockingbird carers finding new ways to support each other and the children in their care even at a distance. 

Another significant factor in living through the recent lockdown environment has been the need for foster carers to help their children with homeschooling.

Happily our education project Fostering Potential has been underway for some time and its aim to support foster carers’ knowledge and confidence in their role as ‘first educators’ is particularly apt in these present times. An initial evaluation of Fostering Potential showed that the greatest impact of the work was in increasing foster carers’ confidence to support the education of their fostered children. Thanks again to partnership with our members and other sector organisations there have been a series of webinars and a very popular early in the year event attended by foster carers, social workers and staff from virtual schools. You can also read our blog written by the Fostering Potential project manager, called ‘Supporting learning during periods of school closure: a guide for fostering families’.

The Mockingbird Programme and Fostering Potential are just two examples illustrating the outstanding capability, capacity and resolve of foster families, friends and family carers and fostering service staff to look after the children and young people in foster care. A huge thank you to them and to everyone in the fostering community in England and the rest of the UK.