As the calendar year draws to a close, this month’s Attracting and Keeping Carers blog reaches you a little earlier than normal to avoid being lost in the festivities.
December saw the launch of The Fostering Network’s Combining Fostering and Other Work report, drawing on research into foster carers’ experience of working outside the home alongside fostering, and our Transforming Foster Carer Recruitment event in Birmingham. Birmingham is also the scene of a new, pioneering foster placement scheme between the local authority and Outcomes for Children, a social enterprise within Core Assets Group. Details of the scheme and more are explored in this month’s blog below.
Combining Fostering and Other Work
Foster carers are an increasingly skilled, knowledgeable, professional and committed cog in the team supporting children in foster care. Many do not receive a fee for this work, and for those who do, payments cannot be relied upon consistently. A new report from The Fostering Network, Combining Fostering and Other Work explores these issues and raises questions as to how foster carers can be supported to foster and work outside the home while still meeting a child’s needs.
The report, which is part of the two year, Department for Education funded project to Support fostering services to recruit more foster carers, also introduces fostering friendly employers, those organisations that have developed policies to enable their staff to combine external work with fostering.
Birmingham City Council is embarking on a pioneering scheme to find foster placements for around 60 of their looked after young people who are currently in residential care.
Fostering services across the UK are developing specialist schemes to recruit foster carers in order to move children from residential care into family settings where appropriate to their needs, but this is the first of its kind involving a social enterprise and funding from a social impact bond. And it appears to be having an immediate impact with a young person moving from residential care into a foster placement.
Outcomes for Children, the social enterprise commissioned by the Council to deliver the service, is part of the Core Assets Group and therefore able to draw on the largest IFP in the UK’s extensive foster carer recruitment knowledge and experience.
This stands to be an excellent example of the potential for the local authority and independent fostering sectors to work together formally for the benefit of children in care. I look forward to seeing an evaluation of this scheme in the months to come.
Celebrating foster carers in East Riding
Awards were presented and tributes were paid to some of East Riding’s longest serving foster carers at the authority’s inaugural autumn ball for foster carers.
Among those recognised were foster carers Janet and Nick Dixon (pictured) who have fostered over 100 children in their 40 year career, and Helen and Paul Rawdon who have fostered since 1989. Recognising not only longevity, but also extensive skill and experience and what that means to your service is a key element of any retention strategy. As Helen acknowledges, “You have to treat every child as an individual because every one is different”, and this process can be aided by accurate and detailed notes on each child, leading to careful and effective matching.
Fill up on foster care
Gloucestershire County Council’s fostering team is utilising petrol pump nozzles in supermarket filling stations as a channel to raise awareness and generate enquiries to good effect.
Complemented by information leaflets in the shop, the promotion is generating a good number of enquiries referencing seeing the promotion which prompted them to make their enquiry.
Having always been highly sceptical of this channel, I’m pleased to see the team are proving me wrong! I’m looking forward to seeing how many of these enquiries progress through the approval process.
Positive signs at halfway point for Head, Heart, Hands
The Fostering Network’s innovative social pedagogy programme, Head, Heart, Hands is progressing well at the halfway stage.
Developed in Europe, social pedagogy is an approach to bringing up children that combines many elements and principles, such as allowing children to take appropriate risks, encouraging fostering professionals to reflect regularly on their work, and valuing foster carers as an equal part of the team around the child.
Seven services across six sites are piloting methods to incorporate a social pedagogic approach into various strands of the fostering process, and many foster carers involved are seeing the impact.
There is great potential to use social pedagogy in foster carer recruitment as well as retention. Aberlour are trialling social pedagogy in their training of foster carers, focusing on knowledge and understanding rather than a solely technical-rational application. This has proved challenging but it is hoped in future the approach will lead to a rise in quality of foster care and its professionalism.
IN FOCUS – Teenage fostering
Many fostering services have particular difficulty in recruiting foster carers for children aged 12 and above. Some are beginning to have success with highly targeted campaigns with specific messages to highlight the need. Others are having good success in expanding the approval ranges of existing foster carers, but this has to be managed carefully with sufficient support and training required.
This month’s IN FOCUS is a short report from The Fostering Network’s practice support consultant for the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside, Andrew Walker, focusing on the latter, a scheme being deployed in West Yorkshire to address the needs of foster carers for teenagers.
Teenage fostering course
Has your fostering service explored this option to expand placement availability for looked after teenagers and young people? What success have you had? And what additional training and support have you provided your foster carers with to facilitate their placement range expansion? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the details.
If you can look beyond the unusual circumstances and romanticised Parisian flourishes, this article paints an interesting picture of family and friends care, with an emphasis on the ‘friend’ aspect. Aged 23 and an editor for Vogue, Lisa Lovatt-Smith’s experience of fostering was formed on a specific bond with a young person. Although largely dissimilar to foster care, her journey does include salient points including creating a healthy routine and structure, facilitating contact with challenging birth parents and maintaining the young girl’s cultural identity.