The leading charity, The Fostering Network has written an open letter to its foster carers about the governments ‘Fostering Better Outcomes’ report. This was the government’s response to the foster care stocktake and the education select committee’s fostering inquiry. The chief executive has pulled no punches – it is damning:
“the report glosses over the primary issues facing fostering, how it fails to set out an ambitious plan that will create the much-needed systemic change in the fostering sector, and how we do not believe that it will achieve the improvements that are desperately needed to ensure that foster care is the best it can be for children and the families that look after them.”
Foster care report scrutinised
This is a critique that should be made. The report; as the charity says, sets out some “very good ambitions”. But will these address some of the fundamental problems in fostering. The answer is no, because, as the chief executive clearly believes, what has been produced is mere rhetoric. What we have is a reworking for our times of ‘The Emperors New Clothes’: set before us is a work that induces its readers to believe that a real attempt has been made to get to grips with deep-seated problems in fostering. We should congratulate the chief executive for nailing his colours to the mast and questioning whether what has been created is of any value. “Fine words butter no parsnips’ and; certainly in this context, what is needed is action and a plan. The chief executive continues:
“Encouraging, urging and exploring will not get things done – there needs to be a concrete plan of implementation with an accountability structure in place.”
The chief executive concludes by questioning the worth of the report writing:
“Ultimately, we believe that the report has let fostered children and young people down. They – and you – need and deserve a modern, radically overhauled fostering system that is fit for purpose as we head into 2019 and beyond. The recommendations in the report will not provide such a service and that’s why our response to the report has been as robust as it is.”
What is interesting is how the government will respond to this. Many of the responses to the report have been exactly what the government hoped for. Many organisations and interest groups; if not exactly falling over themselves, looked for the positive in the report. And this was easy as much of the rhetoric, no one would disagree with. But the need for real change, and its accomplishment, has to be articulated and then signed up to. There has then to be a timetable – one that makes it possible to keep a check on progress and that the goal(s) will be achieved. Governments of all persuasions have been knee deep in consultants for decades. It is therefore inconceivable that they won’t have been introduced many times to the idea of a SMART plan. This simply incorporates five characteristics of a goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Not the kind of thing governments find comfortable when engaged in ‘kicking the can down the road.’
That the foster care stocktake looks to have been an exercise in being seen to do something is highlighted in the following observation form the chief executive:
“We were disappointed with the recommendation in the report that the training, support and development standards should be reviewed. We thought that this was what the stocktake would be doing – after all, what is the point of taking more than a year to review fostering if it doesn’t look at the standards all foster carers are expected to complete?”
Foster carers as professionals
So the contrarian stance of the chief executive should be applauded. What is less clear will be the effect on foster carers themselves. There could be a risk in promulgating the idea we have a purblind government unwilling to engage with the “much needed systemic change in the fostering sector” called for by the chief executive. But this will likely be mitigated through recruiting more foster carers attracted by the idea becoming professionals – something the charity calls for. This; given the recent debate that has swirled around the notion of ‘professionalism’, has run the risk of being regarded as an idée fixe. But there are very good reasons why government should be encouraging this move, rather than appearing to accept the stocktake’s view foster carers should not be classed as professionals. That they don’t is revealing: could it be that; as is likely, individuals viewing themselves as professionals will want more financial rewards? And such folk will be more, rather than less, likely to exert pressure on avoidant governments of whatever political hue. Reclassifying the status of foster carers has the potential create the kind of transformation across the fostering sector that would not be cheap. As the chief executive writes:
“In particular we are surprised at how little you, as foster carers, are seen as key childcare professionals within the report.”
Perhaps we should not be quite so surprised. Fortunately, the small boy in Hans Christian Anderson’s Tale put has reappeared in the guise of the chief executive. Most significantly, the chief executive has gone on the record stating that “the report has let fostered children and young people down.” As time passes, it will be harder for the government to face down pressures impacting on the system. Quite apart from children unfortunate enough to be coming into the care system, there are many others who are seriously disadvantaged in today’s society. Only a few days ago the National Literacy Trust took to the radio waves to make an appeal for funds: 150,000 of the UK’s poorest children begin school each year with language skills that are nineteen months behind their peers. Furthermore, this is a gap most will never recover from – one which devastates their chances of success in school, work and life. There will be many children in foster care caught up in this cycle of educational disadvantage. Even allowing for the claims in the foster care stocktake the numbers in care with special educational needs account for low rates of attainment, should we be content with only six percent in England going on to higher education? And if the most vulnerable – children – are being let down, then we need to go back to the drawing board.
Rainbow – a force in foster care–
Join one of the leading fostering agencies in London, Manchester and Birmingham. With our training and 24/7 help and support, you can bring opportunities to life for some very vulnerable children. There are different types of foster care and we will guide you to realise your particular goals. Rainbow have been finding loving foster carers to improve youngster’s lives for decades now. We take great care of our foster carers so that they can do the best job possible for the children they look after. We’re more than happy to answer any questions you might have, such as the fostering allowance – or how long does it take to become a foster carer?
If you have the time now, give us a call on 020 8427 3355. We also have a National Line you can use, which is 0330 311 2845. On the Rainbow website, you can fill out our contact form and arrange for us to call you back at a time that suits you. Existing foster carers take note: Rainbow foster carers are rewarded when they refer a friend who is successful in becoming ‘Approved to Foster’ and receives their first placement. When this happens, we will pay a special foster carers referral bonus. Please call for details – as well as for information if you are a foster carer considering transferring.
Remember, when children cannot be found a loving foster family, they all too often have to be placed in residential care units. Youngsters always do best in stable and secure foster homes. If you can provide one – and have a spare room for a foster child – you will be making all the difference in the world to a child’s life and prospects. Every one says they go the extra mile – we do too – but always with a smile which is what makes our foster care community so special.
More good news at the end of our Rainbow…staff are now benefiting from our regular mid morning exercise programme devised by Richard, our Youth Participation Officer. Literally setting light to all those unwanted calories.
Foster care industry now available at –
All blogs written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing