We welcome Ofsted’s latest research on matching in foster care, published today. It finds that good matches are not down to luck and chemistry but are something that can be developed through good practice.
Stability for looked after children is vital, this is why matching in foster care is so important. When matches do not work, fostering arrangements breakdown which causes instability for the child and, sometimes, results in the foster carer taking a break from fostering or leaving the workforce altogether.
Ofsted’s report also highlights that the most significant challenge in making successful matches for children is the shortage of the right type of foster carers to match the needs of the looked after children population. However, there were several areas of improvement that did not depend on recruiting more foster carers.
The report’s findings show that best practice when matching children and foster carers includes:
- children being involved in the decision making and planning about where they are going to live
- basing the matching process on timely information sharing, a detailed understanding and analysis of children’s individual needs, and the foster carers’ skills and experiences
- foster carers feeling empowered and confident in their role as part of a wider professional team
- birth families and previous foster carers being involved in making the matching decisions, in order to support their lasting relationships with the children
- formal permanent matches being made (when in the best interest of the child and foster carer) which effectively address the longer-term support needs for carers and children.
We are delighted to have been advisory board members for this research project and hope that fostering services across England can incorporate the findings into wider organisational learning.
Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said: ‘We were pleased to see the importance of confident and empowered foster carers and how this improves the matching process and other aspects of the fostering experience for the child.
‘We also strongly welcome the consideration of maintaining relationships with previous foster carers in the matching process; relationships between children and their previous foster carers are too often overlooked, and more needs to be done to support these relationships.’
Read Ofsted’s full report here.