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Wed, 06 Jul 22 11:59

Foster care

Throughout the pandemic we’ve read about the doctors, nurses and staff in education settings going above and beyond to deliver essential services. Foster carers should be mentioned too, they like social workers, residential care workers and countless others, continue to provide vital support to the children and young people they care for in these exceptional times.

For the majority of children and young people who cannot live with their own families, foster care provides them with a family environment in which they can thrive. This may be for a very short period of time or on a longer term basis. Foster care can be the right route to permanence for some children but we are yet to see it given the same national policy attention and investment as adoption, despite these children having similar needs to those who are adopted.

The spotlight is well and truly on the care system with the forthcoming publications of the independent review and the Competition and Markets Authority’s study into children’s social care expected in spring 2022. Both the review and CMA study have pressing issues to contend with which stand in the way of securing the best outcomes for children and young people in care. There is much to be celebrated, care can and does change lives, but both pieces of work must not shy away from challenging the parts of the system that simply aren’t working for children and that stand in the way of local authorities meeting our statutory duties. For example, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure a range of placements are available locally but this is difficult to do in a mixed market of providers and in the current financial context plus there is a shortage across all types of placements, particularly for children with the most complex needs, which is being exacerbated by the current pandemic.

The challenge of recruiting enough fosters carers is significant. For many years ADCS has called for a national recruitment and retention campaign, funded by government, to encourage more foster carers, willing to open their homes to come forward. A national campaign would complement local campaigns being run by local authorities across the country. This is the only way to ensure the right foster home is available at the right time for every child who needs it. A bigger pool of foster carers means more placement choice which can only be a good thing for children.

In addition to these sufficiency issues, ADCS members are concerned about significant profits being made by a small number of organisations from fostering. Local authorities are the sole purchasers of these places and when demand for places rises so do costs. As a result tough decisions need to be made about the services we can provide, however, vulnerable children are most adversely affected by these practices because money is being taken out of the system which could otherwise be reinvested into improving their outcomes, this cannot be justified.

We need a system that works for all children and young people in care.

Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS President 2021/22

This column first appeared in CYP Now magazine

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