Fostering service providers and everyone else with an interest in foster care should welcome a recent report into kinship care. The MP Catherine McKinnell lead the cross-parliamentary taskforce that has been examining this most important area of fostering provision. It is a timely inquiry which will surprise many who will have been unaware of the scale of the contribution kinship fostering makes. The country has come to rely on a veritable army of grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings – sometimes family friends – to provide care and support for children unable to live with their birth parents. The numbers are not small: today over 180,000 children across the country are being looked after by kinship carers. In fact, far more children are being brought up in this setting than in the care system and many more than go on yo be adopted. The problem has been that awareness of this vital area of fostering provision has been low. Support for these families is often patchy, uncoordinated and far from consistent. For many, this vital part of the social care system appears to be little more than an afterthought.
Background: the parliamentary taskforce looking into kinship care is the first of its kind and is fairly recent. It was set up in 2018 by the MP Anna Turley. Her vision was to bring together a group of cross-party parliamentarians keen to identify solutions to problems faced by kinship foster carers up and down the country. MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum have contributed to the work of the taskforce – some with personal experience of kinship care. Others became involved after discovering just how little support was available for a sizeable number of these fostering families. Kinship carers from every part of England and Wales have contributed. Meetings were held regionally – as well as in Parliament – to enable the fullest participation.
Because so many children are being cared for by kinship carers at this time there should be wide acceptance of the vital role they are playing. This is because the country is confronting an unprecedented health crisis on top of the crisis many have argued child welfare was facing before the pandemic. The number of children in the care system now stands at its highest level since 1985. And because of the effects of coronavirus and the lockdown, the numbers coming into local authority care are accelerating. Barnardo’s, the leading charity, has stated there has been a 44% rise in children needing fostering families. And the government expects this worrying trend to continue. All the evidence is now pointing towards the potential for the wider family and community to be a key resource for children on the edge of care. There has never been a more important time to explore the kind of support that could; if given to families in a timely fashion, help avert even more children being taken into care. Fostering provision is coming under increasing strain across the country. Supporting kinship carers more effectively is in the interests of children, society and the taxpayer. The pandemic has imposed huge financial pressures on central and local government. The challenges are huge and not set to go away any time soon. Supporting kinship carers is an investment in early intervention that will reap dividends. This will reduce the burden in terms of social and economic costs and go a long way in improving outcomes for children and young people.
Fostering needs this kind of focus. This inquiry has made an effort to get the participation of a wide group of stakeholders. Charities, legal professional, policymakers and academics have contributed – as have many fostering professionals involved directly in kinship care.
The general aim of the inquiry was focused on raising awareness about children in kinship care who are unable to live with their parents. The report makes some specific recommendations which include: the government should extend the Adoption Support Fund. Doing this will mean that all the children and young people in kinship care will have the same rights to therapeutic support, as well as access to counselling services presently available to children who leave care and are adopted. The task force has also recommended that local authorities should make comprehensive information available to kinship carers concerning the options they have for getting additional support. This must also include advice and guidance linked to benefits they may qualify for.
Support for kinship carers.
The evidence that went into compiling the report as far as support services are concerned indicated orange of areas where improvements could be made. These included assistance with training and therapeutic support for dealing with children’s trauma issues, managing arrangements for contact and welfare and benefits advice. It appears there his wide variation with some local areas having well-established support groups offering vital peer support but provision can be a postcode lottery. The assistance that is available is generally dictated by a child or young person’s legal status or local authority procedures as opposed to the child’s actual needs.
One of the ideas contained in the report is the consideration given the use of the Mockingbird Family Model and Lifelong Links to give additional support to the cares and the children in kinship care. The Mockingbird Family Model is the initiative supported by the leading charity, The Fostering Network. It is a highly innovative approach to delivering fostering care which utilises an extended family model. This facilitates peer support, regular joint planning, short breaks for foster carers, training and social activities such as sleepovers. This has considerable potentilla as many kinship carers can find themselves isolated. Overall, the model improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the bonds between foster carers, children and young people, fostering service providers and birth families.
Rainbow Fostering: here to answer all your questions and present your options.
At Rainbow, we can provide immediate help with questions such as what is foster care? What does a foster carer do? Foster care pay and allowances? Foster care near me? And how does the foster care system work? Are there foster care agencies near me, is another common question and; in answer to that, Rainbow can offer opportunities in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire.
Fostering doesn’t suit everyone and sometimes when people have made inquiries with us, they decide not to proceed. And that’s perfectly fine. But if an applicant does decide to proceed and we are in agreement, the process of becoming an ‘Approved’ foster carer takes around 16 – 18 weeks as a rule. Call us on 0330 311 2845. We can then arrange an initial meeting with you over Skype – easy and straightforward.
Rainbow has been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. Many of our foster carers have been with us for ten years and more. We hope this provides the reassurance for any applicant that they will be on their fostering journey with an agency that never forgets foster carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for vulnerable children. And they come from all walks of life. We welcome everyone with a commitment to fostering irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, gender identity, race or religion.
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