Attracting and Keeping Carers - July 2015

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I’ve managed to catch up with a number of you post Foster Care Fortnight™ and have been delighted to hear about all of the activity that took place. Please spare 10 or so minutes to complete the Foster Care Fortnight™​ evaluation survey if you haven’t already done so.

Many of you have reported a significant uplift on the monthly enquiries you’ve received as a result of campaigning, as well as an improvement in quality of enquiry. I’ve no doubt a combination of either explicit targeted messaging or subliminal messaging through the use of imagery has helped contribute to this, as has the greater involvement of foster carers in recruitment activity.

Thank you again to everyone who has sent through examples of the Foster Care Fortnight materials you’ve produced – the puzzles in particular are great! As you enter a programme of summer activities, I really do hope you can continue to use these to ‘make a connection’ with new audiences.

Fostering Service Benchmark released

The Fostering Service Benchmark survey template is now available to download and complete for services in England.

Created as part of the Department for Education project in 2013, the Fostering Service Benchmark is aligned to service performance in England, but with a significant amount relevant to fostering services in other countries.

Due to its origins, the benchmark has been open to just local authority fostering services in England. The Fostering Network has though committed to continuing the benchmark survey and this year will be free to both our local authority and independent fostering provider members in England to complete.

A number of questions within the benchmark relate to those required as part of the Ofsted return, hopefully making data entry straightforward. These sit alongside additional questions pertinent to fostering performance, bespoke to the benchmark.

Each participating service will receive a detailed report charting their performance against over 30 key metrics, providing invaluable trend data to services that have completed previous returns and a solid foundation to those new to the benchmark with which to influence practice. Headlines will be summarised in a national report – previous national reports are available on our website.

It is hoped that this year’s benchmark will provide an accurate view of performance across the fostering sector, and an opportunity to identify the very best practice in England. Our aspiration going forward is to secure additional funding and resource to develop country-specific benchmarks in order to provide a comprehensive view of fostering service performance in the UK.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss further.

Alfie’s Journey

Fostering films are becoming ever more prevalent in the marketing mix to attract new people to become foster carers. I was recently invited by Coventry City Council to speak at the launch of their new film, Alfie’s Journey.

Alfie's Journey - Coventry City CouncilSix months in the making, I could appreciate the team’s desire to keep it under wraps until the big reveal. Watching it for the first time, I can understand why; this is one of the best fostering films I have seen.

The three minute film shares Alfie’s story, voiced over by Jamal, a care leaver and an integral part of the team producing the film. Poignant moments, such as stepping into a new home for the first time are captured, as is the process of becoming part of the family. Content for the film has been informed by our research on Values Modes, with messages appealing primarily to Pioneers and Settlers and Prospectors to some extent.

Yes it does focus on the positives, but it is a feel good introduction to what we all hope foster care can provide. The film is a worthwhile investment and the whole team can take great credit in its quality – I still feel compelled to clap after each viewing.

Planting the seed in Glasgow​

Planting the seed - Glasgow City CouncilGlasgow City Council has recently launched a new campaign drawing inspiration from the botanical world. Let Glasgow’s Children Flourish is aiming to help children in the city put down roots.

Celia Gray, families for children service manager said, ‘These days, our families have all sorts of buds and branches – family isn’t just about DNA. Across our city children need families who will help them to flourish and to grow.’

All carers and adopters at the Celebration Day were gifted a plant, with the message Let Glasgow’s Children Flourish. And all in attendance left their fingerprints in brightly coloured paint to create a unique Carers/Adopters Family Tree as a memento of the day.

Staying Put… to 25

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has called for children in care to receive support up to 25, in a new report. A survey of nearly 3,000 children and young adults found nearly a third had felt forced to fend for themselves too early after leaving care. Over half were also unaware how to contact an advocate, a service to which they are entitled.

Of course a child ceases to be looked after at 18, but I’m surprised by the lack of acknowledgement of Staying Put, designed to aid the transition into adulthood, in Longfield’s response, “When a child reaches 18, a parent would not wave goodbye to them for good and close the door to them, so we shouldn’t do so for children in care…”

Staying Put, When I’m Ready, Continuing Care and the GEM scheme all make provision in varying forms for children up to the age of 21. We recognise the need to iron out processes and investment, particularly for Staying Put and When I’m Ready, to make it work for all involved. I agree wholeheartedly that children in care need more support when transitioning into adulthood, and the idea of a passport for children to access services, is a positive recommendation. There are also many informal examples of children staying with their former foster carers beyond the age of 21. But without a radical transformation of current provision and accessibility to both child and adult services, for me, 25 is sadly too aspirational an age at this stage.

Foster carer taskforce in Wales

The Fostering Network team in Wales has recently written to all Welsh foster carers to announce the creation of a Foster Carer Expert Group. The group will be supporting the work of the new Wales advisory committee and ensure we have a strong representation from foster carers in all that we do.

A call for expressions of interest is currently out and closes on Friday 31 July. A workshop for foster carers will be arranged for September to consider how the group will operate effectively and be of real value, with the group itself starting work in November.

Please encourage those foster carers who would like to participate to respond.

What young people thinkWhat Young People Think - TACT

 

Fostering and adoption agency TACT has released a new report entitled, What Young People Think: and why it’s important to us.

​Informed by 84 face to face interviews with children in care, the findings cover a range of issues, including the importance of belonging, with 95 per cent of young people interviewed feeling part of their carer’s family.

The report also contains some really interesting quotes from the young people surveyed, particularly around carer respite, “She needs to have time to herself because she works really hard looking after us.” and communication, “It is important that I am trusted by my carer. My carer does this. Communication with people around me is most important.”

Foster care safeguards vulnerable children, but many young people will have an opinion on decisions which affect them or their siblings. Supporting our foster carers to provide a safe but nurturing environment is vital for young people to develop and also help services retain the best foster carers.

PS

Events

Permanence in Foster Care: Improving choices and life chances for children and young people, is taking place in London on Thursday 17 September.

The event, essential for children’s and supervising social workers, IROs and team managers, will focus on permanence, the different options available and the impact of the changes in legislation and standing of long term foster care in England. Ofsted will be presenting on how the changes will affect the inspection framework, with the the National Independent Reviewing Officers Partnership looking at the role of the IRO in achieving permanency. There will also be presentations from The Fostering Network, while the afternoon session will include discussions on Staying Put.

Fostering Achievement is the theme for our annual conference this November.

Drawing on innovative new approaches from our Fostering Achievement programmes, virtual schools and other leaders in the field, the conference will focus on the key issues is education for children in foster care. Dr Karen Treisman will be presenting a session on strengths based approaches and solution focused techniques; virtual school head, Bernadette Alexander, will talk about the impact of attachment and trauma on learning, and there will also be presentations from young ambassadors involved in London Fostering Achievement. Social workers, team managers and foster carers will all benefit from attending.

We are also in the planning stages of another Transforming Foster Carer Recruitment event, likely to take place in December. More details to follow.

Book places at any of our events from our website.