The relationship between fostered children and their former foster carers is increasingly being recognised as extremely important to the development and wellbeing of the child.
In response to feedback from our members, we launched the Keep Connected campaign to make sure the importance of maintaining relationships between children and young people and their former foster carers is recognised. Last month we brought together leading voices from the sector to discuss the campaign and plan the next steps.
On 20 September, representatives including foster carers, fostering services, researchers, charities and the Department for Education came together at a meeting organised by The Fostering Network to discuss Keep Connected. We focused on potential solutions to the ongoing issue that when children move within and out of the care system their most important relationships can be damaged or lost.
Underpinning the campaign is a belief that children should be enabled to maintain the relationships that are important to them when it is in their best interests. However, in practice this does not always happen. At our meeting, we heard from foster carers who, after caring for children for many months, had had their relationship with those children severed as soon as they moved on. They talked not just of their own sadness, but recognised the trauma the children felt at losing someone they loved, often without understanding why.
In our recent State of the Nation survey four in ten foster carers said that their fostering service did not support them at all with maintaining contact with former fostered children. We discussed the fears, cultural barriers and historic practices that drive services and social workers to inhibit contact.
Some services are working innovatively to overcome this problem, and we spent some time talking about best practice. For example, Dr Mary Beek and the team at the University of East Anglia have been working with the local authorities in Southwark and Norfolk to develop and pilot a new transition to adoption model.
We finished the session by identifying the activities each organisation and individual can do to effect change and challenge perceptions. In the coming months we will be working together to raise awareness and change practice.
Support the campaign
You can support the Keep Connected campaign by writing to your political representative using our template. If you’ve been affected by the issue, adding your own experiences to your letter can make it even more powerful.
If you represent an organisation or fostering service that would like to be involved in the campaign, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org