One word to rule them all: innovation

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Melissa Green is director of operations at The Fostering Network.

If I had to pick a word that sums up what is happening in fostering at the moment I would choose ‘innovation’. This for me stands out over all the other words more prominent in the news: austerity, cuts, crisis, stretched services. It is not to say that these aren’t having an impact, we all know they are, but the response within fostering is not one of retrenching or reducing, but one of creativity and identifying new ways of ensuring the very best for young people in foster care.

I am continually impressed with the good practice, creativity and innovation I see from local authorities and independent fostering providers and from the young people and foster carers they work with. I feel saddened at how rarely these get publicity.

It was therefore with great joy that I opened the latest copy of Children and Young People Now to see what their message for Foster Care Fortnight was and found that they too had focussed on innovative practice. The magazine explores a range of examples from across the UK of the ways that fostering services are striving to constantly improve and develop the services they offer young people.

Creative ways of tackling the challenge

Alongside our own Mockingbird Family Model programme and Head, Heart, Hands the magazine looks at innovative practice in targeted foster care recruitment in Sheffield and South Yorkshire and the Fostering Capacity Scheme in Cheshire East. These are both creative ways of tackling the challenge of finding the right foster carers for young people. All of these programmes are examples of true innovation that build on years of experience, skill and evidence and aim to develop practice further – all with the needs of young people at their heart.

At The Fostering Network we see innovation and the development of new practice not as a nice-to-do but as a vital component of our work and the fostering sector. It is through the work we do with our fostering service partners, the Department for Education and external funders that we play a part in not only support fostering now but also contributing to developing a sector that is fit for the future and ready for the inevitable (but yet unknown) challenges that lay ahead.

In my role I have the privilege of working alongside the teams who lead the innovative programmes we are delivering in England:  Mockingbird, Head, Heart, Hands, London Fostering Achievement and Inspiring Voices. Each of these speaks to a different need for young people in foster care but are driven by the same desire to do something more and do it better; and each is delivered by fostering teams and The Fostering Network staff who always go above and beyond.

Thank you and well done

As I reflect on this year’s Foster Care Fortnight I want to take the opportunity to say thank you and well done to all those of you who are working to try new things and improve the lives of young people in foster care. Whether you are part of a large national change programme or quietly challenging yourself to be innovative in your own practice, you are making a real difference.

So next time you read news about the cuts, we should all spare a moment to remember that in the face of this we are still moving forward. Let’s continue to take the path of most resistance and try something new because it is from this that we will offer young people currently in foster care, and those who come after them, the very best start in life.

The Fostering Network brings together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children and young people to lead, inspire, motivate and support them to make foster care better. To support our work visit www.fostering.net/donate or to donate £10 text FOST37 £10 to 7007