This chapter on capacity in foster care forms part of our Staying Put Guidance.
The Fostering Network has a proven track record in supporting foster carers and fostering services. The Fostering Services Benchmark Survey(first collated in 2013) has proved to be an invaluable tool in assisting fostering services to focus on the recruitment and retention of foster carers in a time of economic austerity and changing demands of the types of foster placements needed. For the majority of children it is, first and foremost, through the skills and dedication of their foster carers that outcomes will improve. Foster carers provide an incredibly valuable role in society, caring for some of our most vulnerable children. Recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of committed, competent foster carers, with the skills, capacity, motivation, resilience and support to meet looked after children’s needs is a continual challenge for local authorities and independent fostering services.
All local authorities in England are required to ensure that they have sufficient accommodation for looked after children under ‘the sufficiency duty’. This means that all local authorities must demonstrate how they commission services for looked after children (and care leavers) via a number of providers including ‘a range of provision to meet the needs of care leavers including arrangements for young people to remain with their foster carers and other supported accommodation’.
Staying put should be included in each individual local authority’s sufficiency plan. This will serve to ensure that each local authority has identified the number of placements and staying put arrangements required to meet the assessed needs of the children and young people in the authority. We recommend that a needs analysis is completed to identify the numbers of children and young people requiring care, the types of placements needed to meet the assessed needs and projections in respect of care leavers and their care and accommodation needs.
The recruitment and retention of foster carers is a major challenge in the current climate. There has been some uncertainty about the ability of fostering services to recommend continued suitability to foster for carers who do not have vacancies and/or capacity to offer fostering placements in addition to staying put arrangements but whose intention is to return to fostering.
The regulations and guidance do not prevent a staying put carer (former foster carer) from continuing to foster. The good practice guide is clear that it is possible for a staying put carer to maintain their foster carer approval while they are caring for a young person under a staying put arrangement, if it is the carer’s intention to resume fostering in the future. The fostering service must ensure that foster carers can be fully supported to maintain their approval, and must meet the statutory requirements including regular visits by the supervising social worker, reviews of approval, provision of training, advice, information and support, and support for continued professional development. Diagram 1 sets out the staying put process to be followed.
Recommendations for fostering services:
- Staying put should be included in each individual local authority’s sufficiency plan to ensure there is capacity to meet the needs of care leavers in each local area.
- Fostering services should support their foster carers if they wish to maintain their foster carer approval while they are caring for a young person under a staying put arrangement.