Putting children’s voices at the heart of reform – response from The Fostering Network
The Fostering Network welcomes the report putting a clear focus on putting children’s voices at the heart of reform
This week the Children’s Commissioner for England has published a report detailing the responses from children in care and children in need to her ‘Big Ask’ survey conducted last year.
We are heartened to read that the vast majority of children who responded were happy with their lives and shared the same aspirations as other children. Yet this was not the case for all children and we must listen to the messages in this report as we strive to ensure all children have happy childhoods in safe, nurturing and loving homes.
We support the starting point of the report that services and support should be ‘local, agile and relationship based’ and welcome the child centred approach of children and young people shaping their care plan and being confident it will be delivered. The Fostering Network has long campaigned for children to be supported to maintain relationships with those most important to them.
Foster families provide three quarters of the children in care with the opportunity to thrive in a family setting. Foster carers offer a loving and stable environment, and the support to remain connected with their birth families. Improving outcomes for children in care must start with improving foster care. As detailed in the report foster care is not a single entity and for some children it will be a form of permanence through long term foster care. We support the report’s proposals that all forms of permanence should be recognised and supported to ensure the best outcomes for children.
Many of the messages in this report echo the messages from foster carers and fostering services in our State of the Nation 2021 survey. The report highlights the instability facing children in care and makes the direct link to the sufficiency of foster families. We support the report’s call for a national strategy to tackle instability and clearer accountability. The Fostering Network are calling for a national leadership board for fostering in England to sit alongside the already established board for adoption and special guardianship. We believe there needs to be more national oversight and leadership of the current sufficiency issues facing the sector and a national strategy to improve outcomes and stability for children in care.
The Fostering Network look forward to continuing to work with the Office of Children’s Commissioner for England as we digest the findings and proposals of this report.