Attracting and Keeping Carers - August 2015

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Many of you will have already seen the news that as of 31 July 2015, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, BAAF, has closed. The Fostering Network has been proud to stand with BAAF and their staff in campaigning for changes in legislation and guidance that will have a positive effect on children and young people for generations to come.

The changes will primarily affect adoption, with the National Adoption Register for England and other services set to continue, some under the umbrella of CoramBAAF. The Fostering Network of course remains available to answer fostering queries, and we are as committed as ever to improving outcomes for every child, every carer, every day.

On a lighter note, apologies in advance for the terrible pun further down. Answers on a postcard if you spot it…

Supporting fostering services to recruit and retain foster carers: a directory of case study resources

A directory of foster carer recruitment case studies​A new directory summarising the best practice originating from the Department for Education-funded project, Supporting fostering services to recruit more foster carers, has been published this month. The project, which ran from April 2013 to March 2015, included four consortia based in West Yorkshire, the North West, the South and North East. Each consisted of at least one LA and one IFP; a number of the case studies focus on the challenges and opportunities presented from joint working across the sector.

The directory also contains case studies from Surrey, Essex, Redcar and Cleveland, Lincolnshire and Walsall Councils, which worked with The Fostering Network during the project, on a variety of areas to improve local recruitment activity. Each case study outlines the action, objective, process, challenges and top tips for other services to investigate the potential for implementing similar actions locally.

Download the Supporting Fostering Services to Recruit and Retain Foster Carers: a directory of case study resources to read more.

Foster Care Fortnight™ 2015

The dust has well and truly settled on Foster Care Fortnight™ 2015, and The Fostering Network has produced an evaluation on this year’s Foster Care Fortnight™ campaign, informed by your responses to the survey (thank you to those who responded).

But what of the enquiries you received? Those who responded to the survey saw an uplift in the quality of enquiry, but has that materialised into prospective foster carers entering Stage One of the assessment?

Quality of enquiries

Please get in touch to tell me about the impact of your local Foster Care Fortnight campaign. A number of you have run fantastic campaigns this year and it will be interesting to see which have had the best outcomes so far.

Kent struggling to place young asylum seekers

At the start of the month The Fostering Network was asked to comment by the BBC on the strain to Kent Council’s children’s services due to the numbers of young asylum seekers entering the county.

As reported in a number of national newspapers, including this report in the Guardian, the Council has calculated a £5.5 million shortfall in funds to meet the increased demand. Around 100 young asylum seekers have arrived in the county, needing foster care, in each of the past three months. The latest figure stands at over 600 children and young people at the time of writing.

With around 1,800 children already looked after in foster care in Kent, The Fostering Network believes strongly that this is a crisis to be shared across fostering services, not just Kent given its position as the main point of entry into the UK from mainland Europe.

It’s not just numbers of foster carers, it’s the support services necessary to help them care for children with a very specific set of needs. It’s also the necessity to provide consistency and continuity to existing foster carers and the children in their care as services continue to be stretched. Foster carer and journalist Martin Barrow eloquently outlines the issues faced in this article.

The Fostering Network is clear that a needs analysis is a fundamental starting point from which a fostering service conducts it recruitment and retention activity. But situations such as these are unprecedented, requiring Government intervention and co-operation between services to help ensure these children, who have had an unimaginably tough journey to be where they are, are cared for in the best possible manner.

SGO consultation

The Department for Education (DfE) is undertaking a review of Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) in England in a consultation which closes on 18 September 2015.

The Wade review found initial positivity towards SGOs, but the DfE is keen to understand whether they are continuing to be used effectively/appropriately, asking if there are any changes needed to the legal and/or practice framework in which special guardianship decisions are made, or whether the current framework works well.

There is also a concern that SGOs are being approved with incomplete information due to pressures on timescales. The DfE is therefore seeking your opinion on how well assessments for special guardians works at the moment, and whether this could be improved. Feedback is also welcomed on what the best practice in special guardianship looks like so that the DfE can support all practitioners to deliver this.

Take the time to share your views and concerns by completing the DfE’s consultation response form or feel free to pass on any information to us at The Fostering Network.

Not just a simple act of kindness

Scroll down this article, beyond the Ed Sheeran tickets and luxury hotel rooms, and you’ll come across an all too familiar story. Chelsea, now a care leaver, experienced disruption and multiple moves between fostering households from the outset after being placed in foster care. Her traumatic experience, “I would come home from school to discover my bags packed and that was it”, serves as a reminder of how important it is to match the right foster carer with a child, first time.

Eventually, when Chelsea moved in with Sharon, she found a home, not a house, which gave her the stability and confidence to stay in education and start her teacher training.

What stands out for me in this article is Chelsea’s decision to move at 18, even though she could have stayed longer, but retaining contact with her former foster carer and living only 10 minutes away. “Having someone like (Sharon) in my life also makes me want to do my best, not just for me, but for her, too.

While Staying Put is enabling young people to stay longer, respecting their decision to leave while maintaining a familiar network of support is a positive step, although often unfunded and ‘beyond the radar’.

Your service will have foster carers like Sharon, and care leavers like Chelsea, who have an empowering and inspiring story to tell. Make sure you tell them, either as blogs on your website or in person at information sessions as fostering goes beyond a ‘simple act of kindness’.

Muslim community bowled over in Lancashire

Many services are trying, some with mixed success, to encourage specific religious communities to consider fostering.

Photo credit: Lancashire Evening Post​Lancashire County Council engaged the help of foster carer and cricketer, Graham, to speak with and engage members of the local Muslim community about fostering. Graham, who plays alongside 10 Muslim players, was invited to the mosque to talk about fostering by a fellow player.

Using your foster carers to identify a ‘warm lead’ to help gain access to a local community and better communicate the message is one of the key recommendations of The Fostering Network to help achieve your service’s recruitment and retention objectives.

As Graham found, he was made to feel extremely welcome by the 150 men present, who were very receptive and positive about fostering. The presentation was also transmitted to around 40 women in the mosque.

It may take time for his efforts to translate to enquiries, but branching out into local communities, having identified a specific need for more foster carers from it, and utilising the skills and connections of current foster carers, is a positive step forward by the authority. Once these channels have been opened, think about the message given (introduce fostering as a concept?), the person delivering it (are women allowed?), and what happens next (follow up, group session with foster carers?).

PS Growing up in a pinball machine

Growing up in a pinball machine by Alex Burghart, director of policy at the Centre for Social Justice gives an insight into what happens without stability in foster care.

The article’s title comes from a quote from a young person in reference to her exams and education in general, “I’ve been living in a pinball machine. You try doing your exams in a pinball machine.”

Her education outcomes were a symptom, a primary cause was instability in foster care.

The facts are stark. Around a thousand children in care move schools each term. Instability is compounded by the constant rotation of social workers; “I’ve started calling them all Sally, I’ve had so many.” When we acknowledge that some older children in care can be difficult to look after, is it any wonder?

We can all be guilty of being led by statistics in our daily roles, but I include articles like this to remind us of what we’re all trying to achieve – to give young people stability, trust and a brighter future.