Attracting and Keeping Carers - December 2014

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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 Combining Fostering and Other Work report

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 partnership

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

Janet and Nick DixonAwards 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

The Department for Education Recruitment Consortium based in West Yorkshire and consisting of Leeds City Council, Calderdale Council, FCA and Fostering Yorkshire has recently run a two-day course around the issue of fostering teenagers.

Designed by Maureen Coogan-Williams, the foster carer training co-ordinator at Calderdale, the aim of the course was to encourage foster carers who are approved for younger children to consider extending their terms of approval to care for teenagers. Like many others, the four services have found it a challenge to directly recruit foster carers for teenagers and this innovative idea was an attempt to find different ways of providing those carers, while also helping carers who may not have had placements for some time to think about the reality of fostering teenagers.

The course had two strands – looking back at one’s own teenage years and getting in touch with what it is like for us, remembering the challenges and the excitement of those years, as well as providing information about what fostering for teenagers can involve. There were speakers from Lifeline, a drug and alcohol support agency, and Safe Hands, a local project working with young people involved in child sexual exploitation. Both of these provided information about the support they can offer to young people, and also to those caring for them.

With an overall theme of Help Me Help Myself – encouraging the carers from the four fostering services who attended to think about what the task of teenager carers really is, the course also showed the support that is available for carers. Initial feedback was very positive, with a number of carers reporting that it had made them reconsider their views about whether they had the skills to care for teenagers.

Andrew Walker, Practice Support Consultant, The Fostering Network

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 james.foyle@fostering.net with the details.

PS

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.