Stocktake – foster care and education

The report issued following the national foster care stocktake is still being absorbed. And this is likely to continue to be the case for some time to come. The Fostering Network has recently dismissed much of it, venturing so far as to suggest it may have been a waste of taxpayers money. It is a poor state of affairs when the leading fostering charity comes to this conclusion. Why did the government need to expend the time and effort in commissioning a stocktake in the first place. The Fostering Network has worked tirelessly in the cause of vulnerable children and foster carers over many years. Surely their views; along with those of the other main organisations, can be trusted.  Could not many of their recommendations merely have been piloted – and the results assessed? It could be argued that this would have been judicious at such a time of straightened national finances. The cost of this particular exercise would not have been cheap. The end result is a rather timid set of conclusions – far from any call to radically overhaul the provision of foster care. This is what The Fostering Network had been expecting rather than the maintenance of the status quo.

Foster care: a key statistic examined

The report has some interesting statistical data, but sometimes you only need to think about one statistic –  or more usefully, the attitude toward it. For example, the report found that –

“In 2016, 25% of children in foster placements reached the new expected standard or above in the headline measure for reading, writing and mathematics at Key Stage 2 (KS2). Compared to children in need at KS2, attainment for children in foster care is slightly higher.”

This means that 75% of children in foster placements did not reach the new expected standard. In the Foreword form the Children’s Commissioner the view is expressed that “Our ambitions for foster children should be high” – they can hardly be that high if 75% of children are failing to meet such an important standard. There will, of course, be children in that group who have special educational needs, and quite a few who have suffered neglect causing them to fall behind with their education. Significantly, in the report, there seems to be an absence of hand wringing over a statistic that many will judge both revealing and damning. The need to resolve this should be urgent and could be a powerful force for a far greater degree of professionalisation of foster carers. The report instead steers away from the idea of professional status for foster carers with the curious assertion that this would make them dispassionate: consider – nurses as society certainly doesn’t want, or expect them to be dispassionate, as a consequence of being professionals. So it shouldn’t follow that if foster carers become professionals, they become dispassionate. But the authors of the report are quite adamant:

“Frankly, often the last thing we need is for foster carers to be dispassionate. We need them to get emotionally involved, we want them to be subjective, we want them to fiercely advocate for the child or children in their care. Because that is what parents do. Foster carers are not professional. But – and this crucial – they must be treated professionally.”

This line of thinking relates to an argument advanced by the ADCS President, Alison Michalska, who told the Education Select Committee:

“We can get hung up on the word “professional”. I would see that the foster carer is the absolute expert for the children they are working with and should be treated as any other parent, any other professional. Their views are incredibly important.”


“Do I think that we should attach a label of professionals to foster carers? I think it would be misunderstood and certainly many of the foster carers in my own authority, if they thought they had to be a qualified professional, would never have become foster carers because (of) what they provide – they are highly skilled at offering very loving, ordinary homes with extra skill on top.

What I am arguing for  is standards about what support foster carers could expect, rather than them being seen as a distinct employed profession because that would put off a huge number of people.”

The point is that is possible to be professional – be accorded that status – and still care deeply for children. What is required in the longer term is to recruit foster carers who fit that mould. This might be what is needed to address the fact 75% of children in foster placements did not reach the new KS2 standard. And improving significantly on this, is what ultimately matters when considering the future life prospects of children when they leave care.

Opportunities in therapeutic foster care

What can you achieve as a therapeutic foster carer? Simply so much! Certainly, as seen through the eyes of a vulnerable child who has been helped to overcome the effects of trauma. A therapeutic carer can change the direction of a young life for the better. This is because  being in a stable, loving environment and receiving consistent understanding and support enables  a child to develop socially. This means they are able to build relationships, gain confidence and ultimately succeed with their education. This can give them a future with real prospects. A therapeutic carer can make that kind of difference – what could be more rewarding?

Visit our fostering news page:

Bristol City Council is encouraging LGBT couples to foster or adopt

8th March, February 2018

The council is planning an event about adoption and foster care (more)

Good news at the end of our Rainbow… Spring is here at last and we can begin to look forward to our programme of Summer holiday events.