If you foster you should know, there is a new Minister in town: Robert Goodwill is about to take up the reigns as Minister of State for Children and Families in England. What can we expect? The Fostering Network, the leading fostering charity, has welcomed the appointment but they are guarded. In many ways they are right to be, for the new Minister has had his remit expanded to encompass early years and childcare policy. Those with a vested interest in making sure that a priority is given to fostering, will not be pleased that the Minister’s responsibilities have increased: the timing for this is poor – The Fostering Network has called for “a greater emphasis on foster care than under previous parliaments”; hardly a ringing endorsement in terms of what we can now expect. The ever present worry stirs about there being a lack of joined up thinking in relation to new appointments and departmental responsibilities. Given the publicity surrounding the disillusion affecting many foster carers up and down the country, was this the time to expand a new Minister’s remit. The Fostering Network is clear in their concern that –
“the expanded remit could decrease the focus on looked after children and signal a dilution of the attention given, in particular, to fostering. This is of specific concern as the children’s social care sector is currently facing significant challenges which will require the Minister’s undivided attention if a crisis is to be averted.”
Some people, and not just foster carers, think there already is a crisis. A shortage of over 9,000 new foster families this year must be very concerning to say the least. It is the effect that this shortfall is having that needs to be considered. Pressure has built up within the system and this is causing placements to come under severe strain. Experienced foster carers who are retiring are not being replaced quickly enough and, in any case, their experience is what is cannot be replaced overnight. This means that inexperienced foster carers are having to contend with referrals which can be extremely challenging. Is it surprising that there is a reluctance to accept such children and is it fair to expect them to do so. This is why it is so important to protect the cadre of experienced foster carers that we do have. They are, after all, the best protection we have against soaring rates of placement breakdowns. Protecting their position will surely be central to a great deal that the The Department for Education’s national fostering stocktake will reveal. And this is the point: expanding the new Minister’s remit in the year of an overdue and landmark exercise such as this has to be questioned. Many problems which affect fostering service providers and have long been endemic within an outmoded system of children’s social care will be coming under scrutiny later this year. When the national fostering stocktake reports later this year, the Minister should not be weighed down by a burgeoning in-tray – the consequence of an expanded remit. The Fostering Network are quite right to be concerned about dilution and a lack of focus around what will be crucial findings. There has been a mass of evidence and opinion fed through to the stocktake: the charity has itself submitted over 10,000 words replete with recommendations that could bring hugely positive results. As in so many things, perception is what matters. If the new Minister perceives this stocktake as a watershed, then the focus will be there. If it is seen as just another exercise in fact finding and reporting then we will be facing a crisis.
If you have been thinking that fostering might be for you – it’s worthwhile considering…
Would you have the capacity to love a ‘looked after child’ as if it were your own?
Would you have the time and energy – with training and support – to care for a challenging child?
Are you the owner of a good sense of humour – it will be needed if you want to foster?
Can you efficiently keep up to date records about the foster child(ren) you care for?
Do you have it within you to be a team player?
Whatever the background, life experiences or ethnicity of an individual, the decision to foster will definitely be life changing. It’s a unique job that brings with it all sorts of different pressures: but it’s also true to say fostering brings unique rewards. So, considerable thought is required if you decide to go ahead and foster: an example – you may already have your own children, so you have to consider what effect might it have on them. This is just one of the many and various issues that we are always happy to provide guidance around.
Simply contact our specialist Recruitment Team on 020 8427 3355 and they will offer advice covering foster care and what it involves. We are frequently asked about the fostering allowance and benefits, fostering children and fostering babies as well as foster care pay rates and tax.
For a lot more background information on fostering children; or indeed transferring to Rainbow if you are already approved to foster – visit http://bit.ly/2pc8SEc