In the last few days The director of operations at The Fostering Network, Melissa Green, has made a response to the recent publication of the Children Commissioner for England’s Stability Index:
“We welcome this report as it sheds further light on one of the major issues affecting children in care today. It is disruptive enough for a child when the difficult decision is made to take them into care, but if the system then causes further unnecessary disruption through changes in their home, school or social worker, then they are being let down by their corporate parents. It is surely not acceptable that 71 per cent of children in care in England experienced a change in their placement, school, or their social worker over a 12 month period.”
That is a disturbingly high percentage: Anne Longfield – the Children’s Commissioner for England -has made the point that the purpose of developing the Stability Index, will be to measure each year the degree of stability for looked after children in the care of local authorities. It is the role of the Children’s Commissioner to work toward bringing about important long-term changes and improvements for children. And one especially key group is vulnerable children in the care system. Her job has been described as being the ‘eyes and ears’ of children in the system and the expectation is for her to execute her duties ‘without fear or favour’ of government, the children’s agencies or the voluntary or private sector.
Positive fostering outcomes depend upon stability
Everyone involved in fostering will see the benefit of focusing upon stability – but how does this work? The ‘Stability Index’ is a fresh initiative intended to focus upon the issue of stability by closely monitoring trends and cooperating with the local authorities to provide support in making placements more stable. The index looks to measure three aspects of young people’s experience of being in care: these are –
changes in supervising social worker
The recent findings are described as being only exploratory at this stage. They are seen as representing the initial steps toward developing the Stability Index. The intention is then to collaborate with a number of local authorities, children and fostering agencies to determine the underlying causes of instability and address them.
Fostering children has always been about stability
The work of the Children’s Commissioner in this area is obviously laudable. The risk is that it will collect data over time when is an index actually needed if one starts from the fairly obvious premise that stability is a prerequisite? How would anyone describe the experience of children fortunate to be growing up in their birth families – where love and support are virtually guaranteed? In a word – stable. The views of children who experience fostering are clearly key, and it is obviously good that they are sought. But on examination, they are stating what is fairly obvious. In 2016 and 2017, four special workshops were run and children spoke of the effects of instability unsurprisingly impacting negatively upon home and school life. Significantly, they highlighted that when their social work professionals changed frequently, this contributed to feelings of instability. They also reported that frequent placement changes had an adverse effect on their education – as well as their ability to form trusting relationships. The result: overall instability leads directly to poor outcomes for children in care.
Positive outcomes in fostering depend on the mindset of foster carers
What has to be remembered is that whilst it is useful to measure the above categories, there are other important drivers that affect stability. And these have an altogether different dimension. For example: it is imperative our foster carers feel valued and rewarded. There have been reports of foster carers now ‘dipping into their own pockets’ to provide for the children in their care. Some foster carers have formed themselves into a union – proof that they are feeling as vulnerable and exposed as the children they are looking after. And the incontestable truth is, that as a society, we are failing to attract enough new people to come into fostering. Over 9,000 new foster families are needed this year alone – and this, it is important to remember, is against a backdrop of experienced carers lost through retirement. Then there is the issue of high case loads amongst social workers, which must affect morale.
In the ‘Stability Index – Overview and Initial Findings’ report, there is a promise to develop more refined stability measures and this will doubtless generate plenty of data. But everyone with a connection to fostering would agree that we have long been able to make reasonable assumptions about how to improve stability. And some of these have been indicated. Perhaps whilst the Stability Index is further refined, we could have the confidence to start pushing to implement changes based upon some well grounded assumptions (in part two the issue of stability will be explored further).
And the good news at the end of this fostering Rainbow…our director, Aijaz Ahmad, was presented with a special award at the NRI Institute in New Delhi on the 15th April. This was in recognition of the work being done by Rainbow International to establish the first ever National Foster Care Resource Centre in India – in conjunction with the Jamia Millia Ismalia university.
Aijaz received the NRI Divas Bharat Samman Award 2017 – in the field of ‘Social Change and Upliftment’.
Follow up on our fostering ‘Rewards’ bonus scheme.
Our Rainbow Fostering agency will pay a bonus of £500 should you be fostering and are in a position to refer someone new to be a foster carer with us. Once your referral has been approved and the first placement made, we will pay you. Remember: if you are already an approved foster carer and have a long term placement, it is easy to transfer to Rainbow and be paid a bonus.
Rainbow also advise on a whole range of fostering issues such as foster carer pay: how long does it take to become a foster carer? Or even what is fostering? We are happy to provide information on how much do private fostering agencies pay? As well as the fostering allowance that you will receive.
If you are a foster carer read our news section about fostering.
Remember to look in on our special news section on the web site. There are many interesting articles to absorb if you have an interest in fostering children. Just visit http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK