Response to the England Children's Commissioner's Stability Index

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Responding to the England Children's Commissioner's second Stability Index report, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network said: 'The Fostering Network knows that foster care has the potential to transform the lives of children and young people living in foster homes, and the basis of that potential is stability. What research tells us is that foster care is a protective factor and that when we compare children in care with those on the edge of care their outcomes are much improved. Where a young person has a stable, nurturing foster home they will flourish; and we must remember that the vast majority of children in foster care – tens of thousands of children - have this experience.

'However, the figures produced as part of the Children’s Commissioner’s Stability Index show that too many children and young people are experiencing instability as a result of a move of home or school, or a change in social worker. This is of great concern and simply isn’t good enough. Everyone within the fostering sector must work to improve the situation as a matter of urgency.

'These figures reinforce the need for more people to come forward to foster – especially to foster teenagers and sibling groups – so that a child coming into care can be placed with the best possible foster carer to meet their particular needs at the first time of asking. Recruitment of foster carers is made all the more difficult because a lack of investment in the children’s social care system resulting in a paucity of practical and financial support for foster carers who are looking after children and young people with increasingly complex needs and traumatic backgrounds, as well as too high a turnover of children’s social workers.

'We welcome the Children’s Commissioner’s focus on stability – it’s an essential indicator for good outcomes for looked after children and young people - but hope that phrases like ‘pinball kids’ do not reinforce the erroneous negative stereotype of fostered teenagers. The primary issues that need tackling here are within the system, not with the children and young people themselves who desperately need the security, stability and input that fostering can offer. Indeed, we are concerned that austerity means that provision of services to looked after children themselves are being cut including, crucially, access to mental health services.

'As well as investment within the system, we would also encourage the fostering sector to continue to innovate, looking for new ways to improve stability and outcomes of fostered children and young people. For example, having recognised that stability is such an issue for fostering, The Fostering Network developed our Mockingbird programme, based on the Mockingbird Family Model. This is an innovative method of delivering foster care using an extended family model which improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families.'