Now that the general election is out of the way, there is a lot of government business that will be back on the table. Brexit may seem the only issue in town, but if you foster, you will have a particular interest in the results of an inquiry into fostering the secretary of state for education has instigated. Labelled as the National Fostering Stocktake, the Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, has commented that the ‘Stocktake’ would help the government to better understand current fostering provision –
“so that every child gets the stable, nurturing home environment they deserve”.
The exercise may not be about to bring much comfort to the government. Why? Because a lot of the problems that are affecting the delivery of fostering services, have been evident for quite a while. It could, for example, have been seen quite some time ago that recruitment and retention were going to be difficult issues. The fact is that experienced foster carers don’t go on forever, means it is vital that new people are being brought into fostering all the time. There are currently over 9,000 new foster care families being sought within the UK this year. Appeals are going out, but it is unlikely that this figure will be turned around anytime soon. The leading charity, The Fostering Network, has revealed the underlying structural nature of the problem by making an appeal for the under 35’s to consider becoming foster carers. The call was made during this year’s Foster Care Fortnight: Less than 5% of foster carers are under 35, despite this particular age group making up about 20% of the UK’s total population…
Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams said earlier this year: ‘“Older foster carers bring life experience and skills from other work to fostering, and do an amazing job in providing homes for thousands of fostered children. However, given the need for more foster families in 2017, it’s vital that we also reach out to more people under 35 who are heavily under-represented among foster carers. What is important is not age, but rather the skills and qualities to look after fostered children, and we believe there are many people in this younger age bracket who would make fantastic foster carers but may think they’re too young. Younger foster carers will also be in a great position to offer homes to the many children who need to live with a foster family for the long term, often until the age of 21.”
This may all be true, but will there be enough people in this group who will see themselves as potential foster carers. We have to recognise that the world we live in now, has changed out of all recognition to that inhabited by people in the nineteen fifties. The war and post war years were austere, and for all who came through them, perhaps a high proportion felt more of a sense of duty. After all, many people did not survive, and this would have set the mood of a generation. These were possibly more selfless times, and even if they weren’t, people probably had more time to think about doing good. Think of the average home – perhaps the most scintillating object on the horizon was the electric toaster: it’s not that people had more time necessarily with the advent of more labour saving devices, but people were simply far less distracted. A toaster may then have seemed a marvellous object; the promotional hyperbole of the era certainly didn’t hold back –
“Perfect toast every time, whether you make just one slice or two. And the exact browning you select–light, golden or dark brown. Every slice alike… no progressive darkening. New quiet cushioned pop-up, too! Toast pops up high for easy reach. Even small slices can be removed without burning fingers. No ticking… it’s silent. Should you forget to set browning control (or if you’re in doubt) just flip the inspection knob… toast pops up for a quick look.”
But compare this piece of ‘wizardry’ with that marvel of our age – the smartphone. Well, actually, there is no comparison: the interaction with a smartphone is; looking at the commuters around me, almost total. Smartphones are our world and we are their world: they make it possible, via social media, for us to have ‘cyber selves’ and all manner of interactions – depending on whatever apps we download. It might also be the sheer amount of information we are exposed to. “Information Overload” was a term coined a good few years back, but we are all experiencing the reality now.
Writers and technologists know about these things and today phrases such as “cognitive overload”, “information fatigue syndrome” and the more menacing – but increasingly apposite – “data asphyxiation” have become current. Data is the new Deity it seems and is all powerful: one fact to numb the mind is that every eighteen months, the amount of data being stored globally doubles!
For more information on the National Fostering Stocktake visit http://bit.ly/2pZvSpX
Can the appeal for fostering achieve ‘cut through’ in the digital domain?
So what does this mean for fostering; and more accurately future recruitment of younger foster carers? It’s likely it has got a lot more challenging as it shows people are hugely pre-occupied with the time consuming and the irresistible digital world they inhabit. The obsession might be most marked amongst the under-forties, but it seems no generation is entirely immune. In 2013, a study was produced by comScore – the media measurement doyens who, according to their own blurb – “provide the independent data, insights and expertise that the media ecosystem requires to plan, transact and grow in a dynamic world. It’s why we exist.” And they are telling us that more and more of us are taking up residence in this ecosystem. A 2013 study they produced found that the over fifty-fives comprise 20% of the online community. They are now just as likely as 35 – 44 year olds to possess a smartphone; 40% of people aged between 55 – 64 in this country are on Facebook with the figure being 18% of over sixty-fives. Because this digital distraction is all pervasive and liable to only become more compelling, we have to amplify key messages to recruit effectively. Fostering is a long, long way from providing the instant ‘hit’ that digital provides. But fostering does provide a ‘hit’; a unique one needing to be declaimed far and wide: what, ultimately, could be more rewarding than turning around the lives of vulnerable children – offering them hope and a future. We have to amplify this message at any and all opportunities. Getting this right will mean that we will be able to turn enough good hearted people away – enough of the time – from the entrapments of digital catatonia and embrace the real life enhancing rewards fostering can give.
Our ‘Rainbow Foster Rewards’ are always worth investigating
At Rainbow Fostering Agency we look to meet people who have been giving serious thought to fostering children. Some people have a preference for fostering babies or sibling groups – but whichever direction your interests may lie, Rainbow Fostering makes available high quality advice, as well as support twenty four hours a day 365 days all year long. Currently we will be happy to pay you £500 if you refer someone to Rainbow Fostering: the bonus is given once that person has been approved and received their first placement from us. Remember also that any approved foster carer wanting to transfer over to Rainbow Fostering Services, may also be eligible to receive a generous bonus. Call our fostering recruitment team on 020 8427 3355 to learn more about the benefits of joining our Rainbow community. If you live locally, or maybe not so locally, we would always be delighted to invite you to our offices for a friendly chat over a coffee. This will enable you to get a good idea about fostering in a relaxed atmosphere with no commitment expected: it might be the start of your future – as well as that of a vulnerable child or young person.
Our latest fostering news is out!
The Queen’s birthday honours recognises Foster Carers
June 22nd, 2017
The important work that foster carers do up and down the country taking care of vulnerable children and young people has been recognised in this year’s birthday honours list. It is heartening to see that the work of fostering has been given prominence. (cont)
And the good news at the end of this particular rainbow…our Youth Participation Officer has
put together an amazing series of events for the summer. Here’s hoping the good weather continues for our foster carers and children…remember always to be aware of the power of the sun and apply plenty of protection!