Foster Care and the need for reviewing the care system

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Foster Care and the need for reviewing the care system

Foster carer and the care review

Foster care and the care system reviewed

Foster carers are likely to be aware of the mounting pressures in the care system. The numbers of referrals they are asked to consider are rising all the time. Unsurprising when it is realised that the number of children in care in England now stands at a ten year high: 78,150. And there is not much to suggest that this figure will not go on rising. There is some important background: politicians – including David Cameron when he was Prime Minister – encouraged adoption seeing it as the panacea to the ills of a society seeing increasing numbers of children coming into care. Back in 2016, Cameron said, “vulnerable children had been let down by society”. He went on to promise “zero tolerance” of state failure in relation to social care. Cameron also stated that he was “unashamedly pro-adoption.” This was judged by many at the time a being overly simplistic. Most obviously because there have never been anywhere near enough adoptive parents to meet the demand. Fast forward to 2020 and local authorities are still being pressured to focus on adoption for children in care. The government is firm: age, sexuality, income, marital status and sexuality must not put off potential adopters. The government has now become concerned with a drop in the number of assessments that recommend adoption as offering the best option for a child or young person. 

More of a focus on foster care is needed.

Figures available from the Department of Education show that the number of adoptions in England has fallen by around a third in the past four years. This revealed a drop 3,570 in the year up to the end of March from a high point of 5,360 in 2015. The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has promised he will support local authorities one-hundred per cent when they believe adoption is the best option for a child. To stress the point, he stated: “Adoption can transform the lives of children waiting in care for a permanent, loving home.”

The climate, it can be sensed is becoming rebarbative. The chief executive of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, Andy Elvin has strong views that challenge this orthodoxy: 

“I had hoped that politicians had moved beyond this insulting language and unthinking devotion to adoption. Children in foster care are not ‘waiting for a permanent, loving home’: they are living in one. Long-term stability is vital and it is achieved in different ways for different children. For some it is returning to birth parents, for some it is going to live with a relative who has selflessly come forward, for some it is long-term foster care, for some it is residential care and for some it is adoption. There is no hierarchy to these options, it depends on the individual child’s circumstance.”

The most important point here is the reference to ‘waiting’ by both Elvin and Williamson. The former understands that as there is a clear and pressing shortage of adopters, children could wait in vain and still not find adoptive parents. To see children as the education secretary seems to as existing in a state of waiting until adoptive parents step forward, means large numbers of youngsters will be leading second class lives – effectively placed on hold. The problem arises because the Government has tended to sideline foster care seeing it as an interim solution. This is when for so many children, it is far from that. And this has led to unfortunate consequences. Cathy Ashley, the chief executive of Family Rights Group writes;

“Adoption is the right solution for some children. However, far more children who cannot live with their parents flourish in the care of wider family, yet the latter receives negligible recognition, support or finance.” 

It can be argued that a great many children in care can hardly be described as flourishing when only 6% per cent progress to higher education. But let that go for now. What is significant are the points made by Ashley in relation to recognition, support and finance. Even after what now appears; as viewed by some, to be the rather strange exercise of the Fostering Stocktake, foster care is still judged to be the poor relation to adoption. And this cannot be right as fostering provision is going to remain hugely important into the long term. Obviously it will be the experience of huge numbers of children and young people right now who are unable to return to their birth families or be adopted. They cannot wait for improvements to the system. Nor should they have to. And many argue the implications of this should be front and centre of the review of the care system promised in the Conservative’s election manifesto. We need to be spared contrarious debate. We need a review that will tackle head-on the negligible, recognition and support for fostering identified by Ashley. A Government that persists in viewing the nation’s foster carers as tractable instead of valuing their dedication and commitment, will not get much from a review. The review must take no prisoners, or ignore the inimical effects, legerdemain or credo of any apparat that comes in for criticism. Many argue a cursory glance at headlines over recent months is enough to indicate the brewing of a perfect storm. School exclusions rising and increasing numbers being referred to Pupil Referral Units means our education system is beginning to buckle. A recent press report highlighted that around a third of teachers will give up the profession within five years. Other reports point to the levels of stress teachers are experiencing. A review can only be effective if it recognises such issues and the crossover between all government departments concerned with children’s welfare. This is the only way of creating an overarching strategy that will deliver genuine results. 

Foster a different future through positive choice.

Whatever the future holds, there can be no doubt that pressure within the system will drive change. The choice is whether policy making is directing this or just responding to it in a piecemeal fashion. Fostering provision is changing. Far too many children are coming into care with severe problems that will not be addressed by simply providing a room and a bed. The best IFAs, like Rainbow, are leading the way. Therapeutic Training and support are now widely available. Change in the past may seem to have happened at a glacial pace. In 2020, this is no longer acceptable. More imaginative thinking is needed. In schools, fostering could be presented as a future career option. Especially as higher qualifications up to degree level are already being offered in therapeutic fostering. And the reality is we will need to be attracting more younger people into fostering. But given so few young people who have been in foster carer continue into higher education, it is important to remember this week is National Apprenticeship Week. For more information visit –

Find out some of the reasons so many choose to foster with Rainbow.

We value highly our Rainbow foster carers. Rainbow pays an extremely generous fostering allowance. Foster care can mean different things to different people. Caring for children and young people requires special skills. There are many agencies, but we take particular pride in the way we work in partnership with our foster carers to ensure the welfare of our children. Rainbow children are not adopted, they are fostered. Adoptive parents are different from foster carers as they have full legal responsibility for a child. Foster care and adoption differ as a child who is fostered is the legal responsibility of their ‘corporate parent’ – the Local Authority in the area they came into care from.

We build the parenting skills of our foster carers. This enables them to deal with the emotional demands a child may place on them. Children in foster care come in all shapes and sizes – children with disabilities need foster parents as well as youngsters who, sadly, have experienced neglect and/or abuse.

The foster care system can seem a confusing place for people when they first apply. We do our best to explain what fostering involves and answer all your questions. A foster family with Rainbow will always be able to count upon our commitment to providing the best support and training. This means we offer plenty of respite care. We have a highly successful recruitment record as we understand that to become a foster parent will need plenty of ongoing support and guidance.

At the moment there are many more foster families needed to provide foster homes. Over 8,000 additional families are needed to provide love, security and advocacy for vulnerable children. Becoming a foster parent with Rainbow could be rewarding on so many levels. And the professional career opportunities we offer – with our ongoing free training packages – means your earnings could rise up to £40,000 per annum as a fully trained therapeutic foster carer. If you develop the expertise to foster teenagers, sibling groups or manage parent and child placements, your earnings will also rise as your knowledge and experience grows.

Some of the children we have do go for adoption if a long term placement has worked out well for all concerned. At this moment in time, adoptive parents are also in high demand across the country.

Start your fostering journey with Rainbow today.

We are a close-knit team of experienced professionals looking to recruit new foster carers in London, Hampshire, Birmingham and Manchester right now. We aim to ensure anyone fostering with Rainbow can develop their career with us in any direction they like. Rainbow take the greatest care of our foster carers providing high quality, in-depth training and 24/7 professional support 365 days a year. You might have a career looking after sibling groups, teenagers or a disabled child with complex needs. 

We know foster parents – just like children, come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. This means we have foster parents who are single/divorced/married – as well as couples who live together – with or without children. Rainbow Fostering also has same-sex couples fostering children and young people. Our LGBT+ foster carers make a tremendous contribution to our community of carers here at Rainbow.

Visit these pages of ours for more useful information – and remember we’re with you every step of the way! and

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