The Fostering Network welcomes the publication of the Department for Education's Putting Children First: Delivering our Vision for Excellent Children’s Social Care, and in particular, we fully support the recommendation for a stocktake of foster care.
In order for the stocktake to give us a richer understanding of the status of foster care in England, and how good fostering placements can be made, it is imperative that the stocktake does not just include skills, expertise, and support but that it takes a more holistic view of how decisions regarding placements are made. We want the stocktake of foster care to examine foster carer pay, the status of foster carers as part of the team around the child, and placement stability. Foster carers face a significant challenge in balancing providing a loving, caring home for children while being seen as fellow professionals approach when advocating for children – this is a challenge that the rest of the team around the child do not face and this must be recognised.
In addition to this, and following the findings from the last State of the Nation report conducted by The Fostering Network, we know that the key areas where foster carers wished to see improvement include: investment and monitoring; recognition of the importance of relationships; a professional framework around fostering; and a new approach to social work – more detail can be found in The Fostering Network’s manifesto for the future of fostering.
The Putting Children First report makes a firm commitment to supporting foster carers in being actively involved in decision making and Sir Martin Narey referenced in his recently published report, Residential Care in England, that he believes that foster carers deserve to be financially well rewarded for their 'heroic efforts' in caring for children. These are positive noises being made – but we call for them to be backed up with action and not just side lined and left with implementation issues like Staying Put has been left in parts of the country. With an established leadership board for adoption, and a recommended one for residential care, we need to hear how Government will take forward any findings from their stocktake of foster care – and we will look at how we can support them in achieving this when more detail emerges.
What must be considered, as a priority, during any stocktake of foster care is how the Government can expect foster carers to have the required skills and experience when around half of them do not receive any payment for devoting their lives to caring for children on behalf of the state. Without giving foster carers the status that they deserve, the Government cannot expect to grow a workforce that will keep on delivering what children need.
We are pleased that The Fostering Network’s introduction of the Mockingbird Family Model to England, funded by the Department for Education’s innovation fund, has been cited in the report showing how stability can be achieved for children living in foster care. This shows that together Government and the experts in the third sector can create a better world for our children who deserve nothing less.
You can read the full report here.