The fallout from the media storm on the plight of Syrian refugees continues to resonate. Over 9,000 members of the public pledged their support to helping a refugee or family.
Many of these and others who have contacted fostering services have expressed an interest to care for a child there and then, not appreciating or aware of the rigorous process required to become a foster carer. In addition we are not anticipating a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) from Syria as part of the 20,000 the Government has pledged to accept over the next five years.
Managing expectations, while harnessing and maintaining interest, is a significant challenge. Yet thousands of people have been compelled to act and are motivated to care. Explaining the existing need in the UK, and the record numbers of UASC from other countries as well as the older UK children who need skilled and committed foster carers, will hopefully translate to some quality applications.
The Fostering Network is working on providing support and information for fostering services already working with UASC. If your service would like to receive extra support in this area, please contact us to discuss.
There are promising initial signs for Staying Put in England, following a release of an analysis on its impact after the first year.
Approximately 5 per cent of 18 year olds stayed with their former foster carers under voluntary arrangements before the legislation was introduced. Since the previous Government introduced the new legislation, 25 per cent of young people stayed put when local authorities were supported to provide the option for them.
This percentage equates to around 2,300 young adults who have benefitted from maintaining the stability. The new report from data taken in 2015 shows that of the 3,230 young people who ceased to be looked after in a foster placement on their 18th birthday, 1,560 (48 per cent) remained with their former foster carers three months after their birthday*.
We are though aware that local authorities are not receiving adequate support to enable staying put arrangements to continue. Contact our campaigns team if you would like to share positive stories or challenges your service is facing on staying put, going the extra mile, after care or when I am ready.
*data is not directly comparable.
Many local authority fostering services are creating a ‘shared front door’ for adoption and fostering – Somerset County Council being one example. Information on both services is collated in one area to enable the viewer to consider the different options and potentially broaden their horizons. With long-term fostering now a recognised form of permanence in England, there is greater opportunity to explore combined messaging.
This new campaign by the care service, Daniel, is one of the few examples of joint campaigns to publicise the need for both foster carers and adopters that I have come across.
The black and white image of a challenging young person sets the tone for the blunt and to the point text, “I’m not an adorable new born. But I need a home.”
This approach is more reminiscent of an NSPCC campaign, and is in stark contrast to the traditional recruitment messages provided by services.
What do you think? Are there prospective foster carers who will be enthused to act as a result of this advert?
Coventry – fostering friendly
Congratulations to Coventry City Council for launching their new fostering friendly policy, which gives council staff applying to foster an extra five days of leave a year.
Originating in Cumbria and taken on by The Fostering Network, a number of organisations are signing up to be Fostering Friendly employers, including Tescos, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and O2. Applying to foster requires significant commitment to attend training, information sessions and other meetings. As one foster carer put it, the extra time ‘takes the pressure off’ enabling her to fulfil commitments to work and family.
When creating your own local policy, consider:
- the aim of the policy and why it will be beneficial to those involved
- who will be eligible to benefit and when
- how they will benefit, for example time off and the process for agreeing
It does not have to be a massive document, simply a clear, succinct agreement to demonstrate how your service values your foster carers and the extra support you are providing them.
When you have agreed your policy, contact The Fostering Network to be accredited with our Fostering Friendly logo.
Young people supporting their peers
Ben’s family has been fostering for 10 and a half years and in that time they have welcomed 30 children into their home and provided day care for many more.
Ben’s mum Christina says; “From the age of five Ben has accepted and adjusted to whoever joins the family home and is a huge support to myself and the children – frequently giving up his time to help me around the house or play with the children without complaint.”
Aside from this, Ben also volunteers at a regular group for the children of prospective foster carers run by West Sussex County Council, alongside assessing social worker Philip Clarkson.
Philip says; “Ben has been helping out on this course for the last four years, which involves coming in to talk to children of all ages about his experiences of fostering. He answers questions in an open, honest and accessible way, is extremely approachable and always willing to help out.”
Philip also praised Ben for his contribution to his family’s fostering, which has involved him welcoming some children with very challenging behaviours into his home and treating them like part of the family. “He recognises the importance of his role and wants children to have the best experience possible when they are placed with them. I have never heard him complain or moan, when at times his family are having to managing some extremely challenging situations.”
Christina adds; “Ben loves helping children anyway and has chosen to help out at our local Beaver scout group too. Whenever Phil asks if Ben can help at his groups, Ben immediately says yes and enjoys telling the young people what fostering is like, hopefully without putting them off!”
Lisa Cole, recruitment officer for the service ends, “Ben is a fantastic role model, both for the children he mentors on the Skills to Foster course and the children who come to live as part of his family. He is an inspiring young man with a calm and positive approach to his family’s fostering, through good times and bad. By supporting other birth children, Ben is helping to answer some of the questions people have about the potential impact of fostering on their family. Ben is making a valued contribution to both our work recruiting and retaining new foster carers.”
You may have a ‘Ben’ in your service who, along with all sons and daughters, should be celebrated and rewarded for their outstanding contribution. Sons and Daughters month in October is the perfect time.
Thank you to everyone who has passed on our foster carer retention survey to their foster carers. We have received around 850 responses, giving us a rich data set from which to analyse and report on. But we are of course keen to maximise the voice of foster carers and allow them to feed back ahead of the deadline on Saturday 31 October, so please do keep filling it in if you haven’t already.
Foster carers can access the survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCretention2015
A care leaver has been inspired to create a new gaming app based on their experience of the care system.
Pathos is a puzzle adventure about what it feels like to be in the care system. There are points in the game where the character’s world is literally flipped upside down; there are obstacles representing the barriers a child experiences – being moved, changing schools and so on; as well as animals popping up from time to time to represent the pets that fostered children often have to leave behind.
Games such as these do not trivialise foster care. They provide a gateway to young people in care to understand their situation and relate experiences on a level that engages them. They in turn help foster carers to talk about certain topics with the children in their care, strengthen bonds and hopefully leading to better outcomes for looked after children in foster care.