I love Foster Care Fortnight!
As chief executive of The Fostering Network I spend a significant amount of time talking about, and trying to find solutions to, the many things that need to happen to make foster care the very best it can be for foster families and the children they care for – whether that be, for example, relating to the 15 extra hours free childcare being extended to fostered children in England, the introduction of a minimum fostering allowance in Scotland, or the status and professionalization of foster carers. Of course, that doesn’t stop during Foster Care Fortnight, but over these next 14 days the emphasis is rightly on celebration.
Foster Care Fortnight is an opportunity to focus, in a particular way, on the incredible life-transforming role that foster carers, their families and fostering services play in the lives of tens of thousands of children and young people ever single day.
It’s a chance for us, at The Fostering Network and throughout society, to simply say ‘thank you’ to you – the 55,000 fostering families across the UK - for the dedication, professionalism and resilience you show day in day out on behalf of the young people in your care.
We know that fostering can be challenging (to say the least!) and that the system you are working in can push you to your limits but the humility, expertise, commitment and humour you demonstrate are what make a difference in the lives of the children you are looking after. Foster Care Fortnight gives us some space to recognise that and to celebrate it. Do check out our social media during the fortnight to see the fostering community you are part demonstrating how they are ‘proud to foster’. It’s not too late for you to get involved either. You can find out more here.
In my role I am fortunate enough to meet a large number of care experienced young people. They are always inspirational – indeed it is these young people that keep most foster carers motivated to carry on fostering. A constant refrain from these young people is how appreciative they are of their foster carers and how much they have achieved because of them. So, I also want to thank you on behalf of the children and young people you have had such a positive impact on.
Beyond shining a spotlight on how amazing fostering can be, one of the aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to highlight the need for more foster families. There is certainly a need for substantially more foster carers – this year we calculate another 8,100 families across the UK - with the particular need varying from area to area. What is clear when I speak to services across the UK is that there is an almost universal need for more families to come forward who have the skills and experience (and room) to look after sibling groups and teenagers. What is also clear is that the retention of foster carers is at least as important as recruitment. That’s why my message to fostering services this fortnight is to thank you for what you do in an increasingly difficult financial environment and to urge you to do all you can to ensure your foster carers are part of the professional team around the child.
If you are part of a fostering family or a fostering service, during this fortnight please take every opportunity to reflect on the incredible task that you are fulfilling on behalf of our society. There are children, teenagers and young adults whose lives are vastly different because of the role you have played.
Thank you for being willing to rise to the challenge – we need people like you.
PS In the same way that Foster Care Fortnight is a great celebration of foster care, so are our Fostering Excellence Awards. Nominate someone you know today and help us to celebrate the transformational power of foster care!
Submit your nominations at thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/awards
Nominations will close on Friday 15 June.