Social enterprise Link Maker has launched Placement Link, a new matching service for local authorities to list children seeking long-term fostering. This will be supported by The Fostering Network, who will provide expert advice and support to foster carers accessing the service.
Link Maker is a social enterprise founded in 2014 by two adoptive parents. Its first service, Adoption Link, quickly became responsible for the majority of inter-agency adoptive placements in the UK, as well as providing a safe, online space that is already used by over 1,000 families for support. Over 400 children have been matched with new families so far.
Placement Link will allow foster carers to view the profiles of children who need long-term fostering, and carers' own profiles can be made available to aid matching. Practitioners from local authorities and independent fostering providers can register and use the system to support their carers in finding placements. The Fostering Network will also play an active role in this online community, contributing to forum discussions and sharing information.
Co-founder of Link Maker, Andy Leary-May, said: “We have been delighted with the difference Adoption Link has made, but there is enormous room for improvement in how children are matched with foster carers. There is a shortage of foster carers, and yet many carers wait for months without placements.”
The Fostering Network estimate that 8,370 foster carers need to be recruited during 2015 to offer proper placement choice, and to support the rising number of children coming into care. 6,900 in England, 170 in Northern Ireland, 750 in Scotland and 55 in Wales.
Leary-May continued: “Adopter-led matching has been around for years, and helps to find placements that adopters are comfortable with, and feel invested in. We think there could be benefits if this was more common in fostering too.”
Melissa Green, director of operations at The Fostering Network, said: “The Fostering Network has spent almost half a century at the forefront of foster care. We talk to foster carers every day and understand the importance of ensuring access to peer support and expert guidance. Working with Link Maker on Placement Link to take this support online is the natural next step in serving the fostering community.
“We have been leading the way in the creation of peer support networks across the UK, with our Head, Heart Hands programme, the introduction of the Mockingbird Family Model to England, and Scotland’s Fostering Champions, and we’re delighted to be developing another way for foster carers to access this support.”
All foster carers in the UK can register for free to find other foster carers in their area, to build their local support network. Early next year, Link Maker will introduce new features for the commissioning of short-term fostering and residential placements, which will help to put children’s needs at the centre of decisions around placement provision.
Find out more about Link Maker by visiting their website.