Foster carers provide and receive valuable peer support through groups, including foster care associations (FCA). Such groups enable foster carers to talk about their experiences, share best practice and provide a formal mechanism to have their voices heard by their fostering service.
The Fostering Network helped to establish foster care associations acoss England as part of a project funded by the Big Lottery fund and the John Ellerman Foundation in 2006. Although the project has now finished, we continue to champion the role of foster care associations and similar groups in making foster care the best they can be.
Campaigning as a group
When an FCA or support group is working well, they are in a powerful position to improve foster care in their area in three ways.
Representing the views of foster carers. FCAs and support groups should have a good understanding of their members' views and priorities. This enables them to represent their foster carers in meetings with managers and advocate for foster carers and the children they look after.
- Challenging policies and practice. When a local authority, trust or fostering service has policies or practice that are negatively impacting foster carers it can be difficult for individuals to challenge, so FCAs and support groups have an important role to play in highlighting where change is needed and offering solutions.
- Working together. Foster carers are the experts on the ground. Therefore, FCAs and support groups are well placed to find solutions to problems and help their fostering services to implement them.
The Fostering Network can help FCAs and support groups to challenge and campaign for change locally, on issues such as Keep Connected, allowances and Staying Put. We can provide advice and resources, and may also be able to visit to support your work. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
FCAs and support groups also have an important role to play in improving foster care at a national level. Forums bring together representatives from groups across a region to talk about the issues facing foster carers and the young people they look after, and to share the innovative ideas and best practice that is solving them.
If you are on the committee for an FCA or support group and would like to be part of a regional forum, please email email@example.com.
In order to run effectively and to be able to apply for external funding, it is important your FCA or support group has a constitution. It should define the organisation and set out its aims and objectives.