Foster the importance of improving literacy 1

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Foster the importance of improving literacy 1

Foster children require support to read

Foster children need encouragement to read

As our summer ‘Foster Literacy’ campaign to promote the importance of reading gets underway, our Facebook pages will be featuring reviews of a number of books for children of different ages to enjoy during the long summer holidays. We hope our choices will delight, sometimes move – but always entertain. And there are Prizes! Our Youth Participation Officer will be running a special competition inviting our foster children to submit a short review of a book they have especially enjoyed reading this year. A range of book vouchers will be awarded for the best entries – with other prizes for all entrants. Hopefully this will ensure reading becomes a habit. The more bookworms, we have, the better!

Why are we attaching such importance to literacy? This is the introduction to a series of blogs that will reflect on what a vital skill this is. How it defines people’s life opportunities the world over. And not just opportunities, but people’s very life expectancy. A sobering thought: it makes you stop and think – as should the understandable importance UNESCO attaches to literacy:

“Literacy is a right. It is implicit in the right to education. It is  recognised as a right, explicitly for both children and adults, in certain international conventions. It is included in key international declarations.”

Foster political change

This means that literacy has a political dimension. Ensuring this human right is available to all in the developing and developed world, should create pressure on all politicians to see it is observed. It is, quite simply, a matter of life and death.

We will explore some of the many and various aspects of literacy by drawing upon a wide range of sources. The hope is to keep the pressure on those, who by their actions (or inactions), can make such a compelling difference to the life chances of our children. It was felt by many in the UK that this would be something of a landmark for foster care: the Government initiated an inquiry which came to be dubbed ‘The Fostering Stocktake.’ It was led by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers and reported earlier this year.

This Review for the Department of Education seems to have divided opinion. Of note is that although The Fostering Network, the leading foster care charity, welcomed some of the findings, but their view was that the exercise had been – “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.”

This reaction form our leading foster care charity should have provoked a far greater reaction. The charity has worked tirelessly on behalf of carers and foster children. The chief executive, Kevin Williams, at least has a sense of urgency. It is clear from the charity’s reactions that each year passing with key actions not being taken, represents more opportunities being lost for disadvantaged children.

The Reviews own comparative figures  – spanning 1971 to 2017 – show in the earlier year, the proportion of looked after children in foster care stood at roughly 35% with this rising to around 74% in 2017. This represents a dramatic and sustained increase over the years. And this year, predictably, the trend is still rising.

Our view has been that this Review was considerably overdue precisely because the numbers had been consistently rising. Once published, the Review did not demonstrate any sense of urgency. Such an attitude is in large part down to what information is accepted for consideration. And there would have been no shortage of submissions – with many certain to have been sounding alarm bells. Would the authors of this Review taken such a relaxed attitude if they had cogitated on the following:

  • statistics from 2014 show that one in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11,
  • research conducted in 2012 found that 17% of 15 year-olds in England do not have a minimum level of proficiency in literacy,
  • Analysis conducted in 2013 found that in England 16 to 24 year-olds have lower levels of literacy than young people in 21 out of 24 countries in the OECD. Literacy levels are higher in Japan, Estonia, Czech Republic and the USA.

Alarming: especially when it’s considered these figures apply to all children – not just those in foster care who we know are likely to be behind their peers.

Foster children should not be left behind in the literacy stakes

It is the vulnerable and the disadvantaged that are left behind when it comes to acquiring the skills of reading and writing. In our work in foster care, we see every day the inequalities foster children are likely to face. Many have come from damaged homes where there are no books – far less an interest aimed at inculcating a love of reading. How fortunate, are by comparison, the youngsters growing up in secure and stable families, where reading is prized as an activity. And these youngsters are further advantaged as, having been read to – usually from birth, they will benefit over their lifetimes from the secure bonds this will have created between them and their parents.

The process of learning to read in a loving and stable home environment creates the foundations for a life to be well lived. This is what success is built upon. It simply cannot be right that one in five children is unable to read well by the age of 11. What does it tell us? What should it be telling Messrs Narey and Owers? It is a bit of a stretch to think such luminaries were not, or could not, have made themselves aware of such facts. And what they might signify.

Consider further: DfE analysis suggests that if all pupils in England were to read for enjoyment every day or almost every day, there would be a considerable boosts in Key Stage 2 performance. This would be the equivalent of a rise of eight percentage points in the proportion of pupils achieving a level 4b (this from its current level of 67% to 75%). How can this be the experience of foster children entering a care system traumatised, and then likely to proceed to experiencing multiple placement breakdowns.

An approach to the Review might have been to start from such disturbing statistics and consider what they would be revealing about the life and experiences of foster children. This might have created the sense of urgency needed to address such examples of inequality. It might, of itself, spawned a very different view of foster care and the approach required to achieve change.

All blogs written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing

Investigate a career as a therapeutic foster carer with Rainbow – a leading agency?

Therapeutic foster care is a about providing a special kind of placement. This is for a child who has experienced significant neglect or trauma. Such children can benefit greatly from therapeutic care. If you could provide a child or young person with a supportive family whilst they benefit from therapy, we would love to hear from you. To be a therapeutic foster carer, you will need special training – after which you will be able to rely on support which is second to none. The training will equip you with skills that will enable you to deal with – amongst other things –

  • foster children who have difficulty building relationships;
  • foster children who find it difficult to trust others;
  • foster children who have issues connected with withdrawn behaviour or depression;
  • foster children who have problems with anger management.

Call our team right now on 020 8427 3355, or our National line 0330 311 2845 for a chat about therapeutic foster care. If this is not for you, we will also be happy to discuss opportunities in mainstream foster care. 8,000 new foster homes are needed this year so the career opportunities are considerable. Therapeutic foster carers attract enhanced rates of pay. We also need foster carers to provide homes for sibling groups and teenagers.

Rainbow’s News Page – for up to date coverage of fostering news stories

A new bursary for apprenticeships will benefit those leaving foster care

29th June, 2018

Care leavers who are aged between sixteen and twenty four can now look forward to receiving a new £1,000 bursary should they decide to take advantage of an apprenticeship (cont.)

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