Attracting and Keeping Carers - September 2015

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FCA in Worcestershire is one of a number of services targeting the ‘empty-nesters’ of children who have left for university this month in their latest foster carer recruitment campaign.

As well as the over 500,000 young people taking part in Freshers’ week for the first time across the UK, a further 69,000 children will be heading back to boarding school this month.

Up until recently, the demographics between these two groups wouldn’t have been so different. But despite the removal of grants and the increase in fees, a broader spectrum of the population now attends university. Private schooling is still mainly a preserve of the wealthy. Yet we are all challenged to broaden the demographics of those who consider fostering, and these parents sending their children to boarding school experience similar emotions when waving goodbye to their offspring, sometimes for the full academic year.

Recruitment campaigns targeted at both of these groups can lead to positive leads. If you’ve had particular success in the past, and continue to invest resources in these campaigns, then I’d love to hear from you.

The blog below provides the latest news on the changes as a result of BAAF’s withdrawal, this time the impact in Wales, plus information about our free assessment material taster sessions and a bumper practice issue affecting recruitment and retention specifically in England but with UK-wide considerations.

News

Measures to secure fostering and adoption services have been announced by the Welsh government

The Welsh Government has moved to address the void left by BAAF in Wales, which up until recently maintained the country’s adoption register, as well as providing training, consultancy and legal advice for fostering and adoption through a helpline service.

As reported in last month’s blog, the folding of BAAF has led to the formation of CoramBAAF in England. Now adoption agency St David’s Children Society have set up the Association for Fostering and Adoption Cymru @ St David's to take on the helpline service.

Members of The Fostering Network across the UK can of course already benefit from our dedicated fostering helpline service on a range of subjects pertinent to the sector for both our member foster carers and member services. If you would like to clarify what support is provided by our service, then please do get in touch.

New Northamptonshire CC campaign

Ever more fostering services are investing in film content to help recruit new foster carers. With a good few examples available to reference, the standard is continuously improving.

While some feature adults, others are including children, as Northamptonshire Council have done in their new foster carer recruitment film.

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What I really like about Northamptonshire’s film is the involvement of young people, sharing their views, giving heart-warming credibility to the campaign. The messages also build to a crescendo before the call to action to contact the authority – if anything, they could be on screen a touch longer to allow a bit more time to re-read and cement them all.

Take a few minutes to watch Northamptonshire’s and others films I’ve shared in recent months. Look at them objectively, think about the subliminal messaging, targeting and how they relate to a local need. Invite your foster carers to watch them and think what messages will truly inspire the next generation of foster carers to come forward.

Assessment material roadshows

September saw the start of The Fostering Network’s series of free roadshows in England to give services an opportunity to take a look at our brand new assessment materials.

The materials have been completely rewritten to reflect national changes in legislation, and make it easier for assessors to include specific and concise information to better enable the approval decision by panel.

Forty eight practitioners joined us for our first session in Wigan, representing over 20 services from the region. There are still spaces to join members of our Practice Support Team in Leicestershire on 2 October, Leeds on 8 October, Chester-le-Street on 12 October and Walsall on 14 October. Numbers are limited though, so book your place at a session near you today. Dates in the south west and East Anglia are to be confirmed.

Foster carer retention survey

Please encourage your foster carers to spend 15 to 20 minutes completing our new foster carer retention survey.

The Fostering Network is keen to get their views on the support they receive, and ultimately, what keeps them fostering to support you to retain your best foster carers.

The survey closes on Friday 30 October.

Sharing resources

As those of you have been to a Foster Care Fortnight workshop in the past will know, I periodically, gingerly raise the subject of sharing resources across fostering services…

The logic is simple – economies of scale, better use of resources, foster carer workforce and ultimately outcomes for children. I appreciate the application is though culturally challenging.

Increasingly, however, services are realising the potential. I’ve covered the east midland’s and north east’s joint campaigning initiatives, as well as the You Can Foster partnership’s approach to joint working over the past five years. It is the latter group that is taking this work to the next stage, exploring the potential for regional recruitment hubs for processing enquiries.

By creating a single point of contact for phone enquiries, four to six services can share expertise and ensure a consistent and timely approach, among other benefits. Resourcing the hub and agreeing the process for allocation have historically been stumbling blocks to progressing the idea. In addition, as the values report demonstrated, the majority of foster carers prefer having a named contact, someone they can trust to discuss fostering from the outset, and flag questions throughout the process.

These aren’t though insurmountable challenges, and I am looking forward to being able to provide an update on the approach in future editions.

DBS issues one (England and Wales) – how to obtain a criminal record check for applicants from overseas

A few of you have been in touch recently to ask about the practicalities of obtaining criminal record checks for applicants from overseas – particularly when the applicant has lived in the UK for a significant period of time, or the country of origin does not provide helpful or timely information.

Fortuitously, The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has a report providing guidance on the best course of action to obtain criminal record checks in 63 countries. The report also contains information on the likely cost, turnaround time for the check and the language in which the report will be written.

If you are still having issues obtaining information for specific cases, please do contact me or if in England, your regional practice support consultant:

DBS issues two – new DBS guidance

Ofsted has provided new guidance for children’s social care providers explaining their evaluation process for the Disclosure and Barring Service checks. The guidance contains a section on what a children’s social care provider or manager must do with regard to DBS checks, as well as other relatively standard practice issues for services.

Smoking in private vehicles

While I am sure the majority of you will have robust local policies already, new rules about tobacco, e-cigarettes and smoking will make it illegal to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18 years old. From the 1 October, both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50 if caught and prosecuted.

The law applies to every driver in England and Wales, including those aged 17 and those with a provisional driving licence.

Rather bizarrely, the law does not apply if the driver is 17 years old and is on their own in the car.

Update

Mockingbird Family Model

Thank you to everyone who has shown an interest in our Mockingbird Family Model pilot on my recent travels. Lilian and the team behind the project are working hard to embed the learning in our eight pilot locations.

As a reminder, the Mockingbird Family Model uses the concept of a dedicated ‘hub home’ of specially recruited and trained carers offering respite care, peer support, regular joint planning and social activities to a ‘constellation’ of six to 10 families of foster and kinship carers living in close proximity. Like an extended family, the hub home empowers families to support each other, overcome problems before they escalate and offers children a more positive experience of care. The hub home also builds links with other families important to the children’s care plans and to a wider community of stakeholders who can provide them with enhanced opportunities to learn, develop and succeed.

The Fostering Network will be working with the Mockingbird Society to transpose the model to the UK, becoming a licensed provider of a UK model. In the first year, work will focus on the delivery of kinship and foster care for adolescents, raising standards of care and realising significant cost savings. We also have high hopes that the Mockingbird Family Model will significantly contribute to foster carer retention as well as recruitment.

We cannot unfortunately take more services with us at this stage in the project, but we are keen to receive your expressions of interest for further work and development. Please contact Lilian Stevens