Greater awareness of foster care needed

Part of the task of content management and communications for a foster care agency is to be aware of significant trends and fostering issues attracting news coverage. For a considerable period, councils up and down the country have been busy putting on special events to encourage people to become foster carers. Today’s item on our news section illustrates this: “We have been speaking to individuals in the community about what they think fostering is and there are a lot of misconceptions.” This is the view of Glynis Tinsley – fostering lead for North East Lincolnshire Council’s fostering and adoption team.

Is it sensible to expect people to seriously consider foster care when there is such widespread  unawareness of what it involves? The recent Foster Care Stocktake – the response to which has been decidedly lukewarm –  appears to acknowledge this by suggesting:

“We believe that greater regional cooperation could concentrate marketing expertise and make better use of marketing budgets and we surge local authorities to consider combining their recruitment efforts.”

Further on the Foster Care Stocktake report states:

“We recommend that the Department for Education consider re-branding and re-launching First4 Adoption (F4A) to improve foster carer recruitment. The Department for Education would have to provide a substantial amount of funding but local authorities and IFAs might be expected to contribute to a service which should help them to reduce their own marketing spend.”

This seems to be an example of the “tinkering” The Fostering Network alludes to in the report. What is needed is a nationwide publicly funded awareness programme which could play a huge part in addressing misconceptions about foster care – and done properly – drive recruitment. This is so important when you consider what is happening in society at large – and all the elements that affect fostering provision.

The world in which foster care provision now has to operate.

Nowhere in the Foster Care Stocktake is there a sense of urgency – certainly not to match the recent excoriation of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, vis-a-vis the crisis of funding in children’s services he has identified. A recent report from the Labour Party has focused on this. It draws conclusions that sit uncomfortably with the somnolent world of the Foster Care Stocktake. The report was launched at the Liz Atkinson Children’s Centre in London – its findings are bleak:

  • Last year saw the biggest rise in the number of children in care for seven years;
  • Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children assessed by social workers as being in need rose by 5 per cent, the number of children subject to a child protection plan increased by 29 per cent, and the number of children in care went up 10 per cent;
  • Children’s services are facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020;
  • Since 2010 there has been a real terms decrease by 40 per cent in local authority spending on early intervention;
  • Three quarters of English councils exceeded their budgets for children’s services last year, totalling a huge £605m overspend;
  • 41 per cent of councillors with responsibility for children’s services felt unable to fulfil at least one of their statutory duties as a result of funding pressures.

The leading charity, the Fostering Network, criticises the stocktake for failing “to address key issues that the sector is currently  experiencing” and “there is nothing radical or brave within the report, nor anything that your department did not know about before the stocktake. It is a missed opportunity and we fail to see how this is value for taxpayers’ money nor a good use of our and the wider sector’s time over the past year.”

Perhaps the most disturbing statistic is the real terms decrease by 40 per cent in local authority spending on early intervention. And this poses a direct risk to vulnerable children – had far more children been taken into care that needed to be, the system would have been tested. This may have resulted in a very different picture drawn by the report. It should have been possible, at least, to produce a very different report: one which started by fully acknowledging this wider context of financial strain and privation. Recommendations should have been made against this background, not the narrow parameters the authors seem to have chosen. Doing this would have to have produced the kind  of “radical and brave” measures The Fostering Network and many others would have liked to have seen. The protracted, and in some ways now pointless debate about the professional status of foster carers, looks to have been a blind alley. In the ‘Introduction and Summary’ (Outcomes), the Foster Care Stocktake concludes “The reality is that fostering is a success story.” If this is the case why are opinions so divided with battle lines drawn?

The challenge of therapeutic foster care.

The world of foster care faces new challenges: there are many more referrals for children and young people with emotional problems which can lead to behavioural issues. Considering these often arise as a result of abuse and neglect, it is understandable. We need some special people  to train as therapeutic foster carers who will have the resilience to help such children recover from their experiences by providing a loving and supportive home. As the problems of such children can be particularly deep seated, helping them overcome them, and make a success of their lives is uniquely satisfying.

Please call our recruitment team on 020 8427 3355 – or our National line 0330 311 2845 if you want to find out more about the challenges and rewards of becoming a foster carer. We can answer your inquiries on a whole range of topics – for example – foster carer pay/how long does it take to become a foster carer? /Types of fostering and foster carer requirements.

Rainbow News Report –

Misconceptions about foster care

14th March, February 2018

“We have been speaking to individuals in the community about what they think fostering is and there are a lot of misconceptions.” These are the words of Glynis Tinsley, who is the fostering lead for North East Lincolnshire Council’s fostering and adoption team. Not surprisingly, then, the council is holding an event this week on Thursday, to provide information to those who might be (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK

More good news at the end of our Rainbow…congratulations to our trainee social workers who have completed their work experience programmes.