Benchmarks for foster carer recruitment and retention revealed

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Media release

The Fostering Network has released its latest statistical findings on the recruitment and retention of foster carers in England. The report Local Authority Fostering Services in England - performance benchmark report 2013/14, has been produced in conjunction with partners iMPOWER Consulting, and funded as part of a two year project by the Department for Education. 

First collated in 2013, the benchmark report uniquely combines data collected through Ofsted and CIPFA with the addition of pertinent fostering performance statistics, giving participating fostering services an exclusive snapshot on performance compared with other local authority fostering services.

Foster carer recruitment and retention remains a significant challenge for fostering services throughout England. A skilled, competent and committed foster carer workforce is the lifeblood for all fostering services, and many foster carers are credited as the greatest positive influence on the life of a fostered child.

Key findings from the Local Authority Fostering Service benchmark show that:

-    11 per cent of enquiries proceed to approved foster carers, and 31 per cent progress from enquiry to initial visit;

-    the journey to approval takes an average of 273 days;

-    65 per cent of children in foster care are placed with local authority foster carers;

-    12 per cent of foster carers left their service in the past year.

James Foyle, foster carer recruitment and retention consultant at The Fostering Network, said: “By collecting this data year on year we are building a clear picture, and identifying trends, which will provide a foundation to identify and determine best practice for recruitment and retention in the sector, particularly with the potential addition of data from more fostering services next year.

“It is clear though that the challenge remains on how to promote fostering to recruit and retain foster carers. There are multiple reasons why 69 per cent of applicants drop out before the initial visit. For many the initial information provided to them through advertising or on initial enquiry does not sufficiently address the challenging and complex job that is fostering. 

“By using the data to inform what we do going forward, and by working together as a sector to implement the best recruitment practice, then I’m confident that all fostering services can improve the quality and quantity of their foster carer cohort for the children who need them. 

Each local authority who contributed information has received an individual benchmark report, so that they can assess their performance compared with participating fostering services across the rest of England.

-ENDS-

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Notes to editors

1. Over 63,000 children live with over 52,500 foster families across the UK each day. The Fostering Network estimates that at least 8,370 new foster families are needed across the UK in 2015 alone. In particular there’s a real need to find foster carers for teenagers, disabled children and sibling groups.

2. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity. By working with foster families, and the services that support them, we help all children and young people who are fostered to achieve the very best they can.

3. 57 local authority fostering services in England completed the 2013/14 benchmark survey.