Putting the ‘corporate’ into corporate parenting

We all know how important it is to be a good corporate parent and in Derby, probably like in every upper tier local authority, we’ve been working across the council to challenge, help and support our corporate chums to promote and deliver high aspiration and secure the best outcomes possible for our children in care and care leavers. One of the ways we’ve done this is by the council taking a corporate approach to the recruitment and retention of foster carers and through establishing a Corporate Board with ownership from the Lead Member and Chief Executive, we have galvanised energy, capacity and crucially some new ideas around the perennial challenge of foster care sufficiency. It’s relatively early days but we’re already making an impact and currently have more people being assessed than were approved in the last two years.

The national challenge around the recruitment of enough foster carers in the right places is well rehearsed and this was recognised in the National Fostering Stocktake last year. One of our biggest challenges in Derby is that we don’t have enough of our own fostering households which means we are placing too many children with independent fostering agencies. As you can imagine this is having a real impact on the children’s services budget and not in a good way! Clearly ADCS is concerned about the significant profits made by some organisations from fostering and the Association has called on the government to revisit the ability of organisations to profit in this area.

One of the great things about establishing a Corporate Board is that it has connected me to the great work our foster carers do and hearing their stories has been inspirational. This work has particular resonance for me since I was in foster care until I was 10 years old. I was one of the lucky kids in care back in the 1970s since I was placed with my foster carers at 6 weeks old and they adopted me when I was 10, so I benefited from the things we know are important to children in care today - a stable placement with carers who support and advocate for them and always have children’s best interests at heart - and it’s probably worth noting that from the age of about 7 I had the same social worker until I was adopted and benefited from that consistent relationship and certainly both my mum and dad and social worker influenced my career path!

So while we live in hope that looking at the profit margins of some independent fostering agencies is on the list of ‘things to do’ for Kemi Badenoch MP, the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, we soldier on in Derby trying to increase the numbers of fostering households, never forgetting the invaluable role our foster carers play in the lives of our children in care.

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