Foster care stocktake polarises opinion

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March 15, 2018
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March 16, 2018
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Foster care stocktake polarises opinion

As a period of time has elapsed since the publication other foster care stocktake, the reactions of various organisations to its report are available. What is notable, is most have adopted a moderate tone and welcome, with a few caveats, its findings. The suggestion that the role of the IRO should be dispensed with is one recommendation that seems not to have found favour. There is a general feeling that the report has enabled the voices of children to be heard, and that is a good thing.

The CEO of Coram, Dr Carol Homden CBE, stated –

“The Fostering Stocktake is refreshingly child centred, and while raising important questions about the nature of the market and recognising that the sector is broadly supporting looked after children effectively, identifies specific and realisable improvements which can and must be made now.”

Leading foster care charity reacts.

The chief executive of The Fostering Network identified areas where the stocktake had fallen short:

‘However we are shocked that the report states that foster carers are not routinely underpaid and are therefore disappointed that there is no move to ensure that foster carers are properly paid for the work that they do. We fail to see how it is “understandable” that new carers and those caring for younger children should not receive a fee for their fostering. We are also concerned there is no recommendation to review the minimum fostering allowance and that it’s not recommended that it is extended to staying put.” continuing “Overall, we think this is an opportunity missed to create a foster care system fit for the 21st century and for the tens of thousands of children who live with foster families every day. We will however be responding in detail to the full report and look forward to ongoing engagement through the consultation process.” and “we are disappointed in the report’s lack of vision and ambition for the future of fostering. While we are pleased with a number of the recommendations we are concerned that overall we will be left with a continuation of the status quo.”

The chief executive, whilst being positive about certain elements of the report, such as the stocktake’s recognition foster carers should be treated professionally, and that recommendations from the report were in line with the charity’s ‘Keep Connected’ campaign, remained nonetheless disappointed in the reports “lack of vision and ambition for the future of fostering.”

This reaction is in many ways understandable. But what is interesting to consider now; as we have a range of reactions, is just why the exercise was termed a stocktake in the first place. This seems innocuous enough, but it could perhaps explain the lack of vision and ambition The Fostering Network has detected. Some may argue that the parameters that were set pre-determined the scope of the reports findings. The dictionary describes stocktaking as ‘the act of appraising a present situation, condition, degree of progress, etc., in terms of accomplishments and ultimate goals’.

Did the authors of the stocktake set ambitious goals? In the contents section of the Review there are recommendations, but no goals – a key distinction. In marketing ‘speak’ the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed) describes the elements necessary to achieve a specific objective or perhaps goal. Another useful marketing theory – another acronym – PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal) creates the framework around which all the considerations that need to be accounted for in relation to achieving a goal, or set of goals, are present.

A foster care review set in a broader context may have led to more ambitious targets.

The setting of goals is, for government, potentially more problematic. An example: had this exercise been given the title ‘Creating a foster care system fit for the 21st century’ – as one can assume The Fostering Network would have liked – a very different report would have resulted. This is certainly the case were a few goals to be included. In a national newspaper article from last year, it was reported –

‘Children in care are six times more likely than other young people to be cautioned or convicted of a crime, year-long inquiry by Lord Laming shows.’ It has to be acknowledged that a lot of children in care are; as Lord Lamming said, “sucked into the criminal justice system for trivial reasons.” The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, said: “By listening to children in care about how they have got drawn into trouble, this review provides practical and workable solutions to help break the depressing route from chaos to care to custody.”

Considering this, a goal that could be set that for a 21st century fostering system, would be that anyone who had been in care, would have the same chance of being cautioned or convicted as anyone else. There are quite a few other goals that might be included: perhaps one addressing those youngsters who do not get the support from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). The Stocktake deals with the issue of mental health support by stating – 

“The exception to that is the vital issue of mental health support for children in care, including fostered children. Much work was taking place on this issue as we conducted our review, and there was little to be gained by our simultaneously reviewing the subject. Suffice to say we are encouraged by the publication of the Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision green paper in early December 2017, and in particular the commitment to pilot a new 4-week waiting time for children and young people’s mental health services. Achieving that will be particularly vital for all children in care, not just those being fostered.” Four weeks…for a vulnerable child who might be at high risk!

If truth be told, a review is just that. Perhaps the next time fostering provision is investigated on behalf of the nation, we should first consider how we describe the exercise.

Rise to the challenge of therapeutic foster care with Rainbow Fostering.

Foster care, generally, faces new challenges: most significantly, there are increasing numbers of  referrals for children who have complex needs. This can lead to challenging behavioural issues. These often occur as a result of trauma experienced before coming into care.

We are looking for special individuals to train to become therapeutic foster carers. These will be people who will have the resilience to help such children overcome their experiences. 

Please call our recruitment team on 020 8427 3355 – or, you can call our National line 0330 311 2845 to find out more about the challenges and rewards of becoming a therapeutic foster carer. We can also answer any concerns or questions you might have generally – for example – foster carer pay? How long does it take to become a foster carer? Types of fostering. Foster carer requirements; can you foster a child if you are a lesbian and can you foster if you are over sixty years of age?

Go to our web link below for our latest Rainbow news –

More LGBT people urged to foster in Wales

16th March, February 2018

Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care in Wales, is encouraging more LGBT people to come forward to foster (more)

Good news at the end of our Rainbow…another run of birthdays to celebrate for some of our carers and children.

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