A view from the other side
Since Foster Care Fortnight 2018 Niki Clemo has joined The Fostering Network having previously worked as a senior manager in a children's trust. In this blog Niki shares her unique perspective on Foster Care Fortnight and our work in England.
For as long as I can remember as a senior manager in a local authority, Foster Care FortnightTM has been a major event in the annual calendar. I probably didn’t give much thought to how it had come about or whose idea it was in the first place but that it was always the time of the year when we made a very loud noise about fostering! It was the time to tell our foster carers how much we valued them, how they were critical to the recovery of so many children and how children’s ambitions and aspirations would be realised only by their tenacity and determination to make sure children in their care succeeded.
We also knew that the national spotlight on foster care meant it was the time to promote fostering and to highlight the rewards (as well as the challenges) and recruit as many foster carers as we could. To do this we needed to recognise the invaluable contribution made by our fostering services for all their hard work and commitment to providing the best possible care for children. Part of this is making sure they have access to the right level of support, training and expertise in navigating the foster carer journey. I knew that this was on offer from The Fostering Network and as members the benefits were numerous, but it’s only since I have been working with The Fostering Network have I got a real sense of how unique that offer is.
In England there are tens of thousands of foster families and even more social workers and other fostering service staff who work tirelessly to see the children in their care flourish.
Both foster carers and the fostering services they work for need to be supported to ensure we can make foster care the best it can be, which is something The Fostering Network understands. Our team in England works directly with members throughout the country, at a local and national level, through our practice support team, advice and mediation workers, and independent support workers. We deliver a wide range of events, training and publications and also comprehensive, expert support via our member helpline.
A great deal of our work to improve fostering is also done through our projects and programmes.
Our Mockingbird programme, has proven so popular in England that we are now rolling it out it in other countries of the UK. The programme delivers foster care, using an extended family model which provides peer support, regular joint planning and training, and social activities. Fostering services involved in the programme have reported:
- improved support for foster carers
- fewer moves between foster families for fostered children
- stronger relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families.
Foster carer retention
Foster carers remaining in their role is crucial in ensuring children in foster care experience stability and are not moved from one family to another – that’s why we designed our Foster Carer Retention Project.
The project explored the reasons foster carers stop fostering, and gathered information about good practice for exit interviews. Working alongside six fostering services we developed an exit interview toolkit to improve foster carer retention.
Once a child is living in a stable, loving home, they have the opportunity to thrive in other areas of their life. A key factor in this development is their education and, as the people who know the children better than most, foster carers are ideally placed to facilitate educational opportunities.
Our Fostering Potential programme aims to raise the educational outcomes of fostered children by increasing foster carers’ knowledge and confidence in their role as ‘first educators’.
Having now seen Foster Care Fortnight from both sides I am even more convinced of the transformational power of fostering and it's ability to #changeafuture.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all out fantastic members in England and to everyone not currently involved in fostering – I urge you to support Foster Care Fortnight and find out more about becoming a foster carer.
Director of operations – The Fostering Network