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Could your family foster a child?

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

I have always been interested in the issue of fostering and children in care, and as somebody who has spent over a decade caring for other people's children as a nanny, I know how much a stable, loving relationship with a carer can help a child (and their future life chances), especially those with behavioural issues, and how disruptive it can be for them to lose such a relationship. Will Saunders, Marketing/Creative Direction & Content Management at Rainbow Fostering went into detail for me recently about how fostering is more important now than ever. Will says:

"Fostering is a vital alternative for children and young people who; for whatever reason, are unable to stay with their birth family. Every set of circumstances is different. For some children, fostering can be a short-term solution to cover, say, the illness of a parent. In such cases, there may be some understandable upset, but it’s relatively short-lived. Many more children cannot remain with their families and so the next best thing for their mental and emotional development is to be placed with a family able to offer care, love and stability.

"Children, if they are to reach their educational potential, need to have stability. What is particularly worrying, is the rise in placement breakdowns. And each one of these can be emotionally wounding for a child or young person. They are already highly likely to be disadvantaged compared to their peers. This is further compounded by placement breakdown. It’s no surprise that this kind of disruption affects school performance. And many children in such circumstances become disruptive in the classroom. This places them at high risk of exclusion. They face other risk factors: in 2018, the head of Ofsted was warning of schools ‘gaming the system’ by removing their most troublesome pupils to boost exam results. Many of these young people ended up in Pupil Referral Units and were then at risk of being recruited by gangs. Others can just ‘disappear’ from education onto the streets. Many become caught up in petty crime or with county lines and drug dealing. Even when children complete their education the disadvantages suffered are clear: only 6% of looked-after children go on to higher education - telling enough.

"So, recruiting capable foster carers is incredibly important in mitigating these kinds of effects. And they need to be since the costs to society of lost, damaged lives are enormous. Care leavers are estimated to represent between 24% and 27% of the adult prison population. This contrast with the less than 1% of under eighteens entering local authority care each year.

"And as if vulnerable children were not already struggling, many will have been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. On the 7th July, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, produced a report setting out the risks affecting tens of thousands of the country’s teenagers. These include persistent absence from school, school exclusions, alternative provision or going missing from care altogether.

"Many at-risk children are invisible to the local authorities due to the lockdown. It has been reported that when the schools go back there could be a dramatic increase in children being referred to the care of the local authorities. Barnardo’s have stated that the numbers of children needing foster homes have risen by 44% during the pandemic. Crucially, the number of people inquiring to become foster carers during this period has fallen by almost half. A perfect storm.

"Even before the pandemic, an increasing number of children were coming into the care of local authorities after having been neglected or worse. 65% of children now in care have been traumatised as a result of their experiences. This has had profound implications for fostering service providers. In order for such children to be found stable, secure placements a new breed of foster carer is in high demand. These are carers trained to foster ‘therapeutically’. Such carers are trained to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons for a child’s behaviour. This enables them to play a key role in supporting a programme of therapy in the home. Therapeutic foster carers provide the kind of consistent care, knowledge, support and stability that guards against placement breakdowns. This is what all children need to fulfil their potential.

"In 2018 the Department for Education’s fostering stocktake was published. One of the sticking points that arose was the status of foster carers. Some contributors argued strongly that carers should, going forward, be regarded as professionals. This was not embraced, but it appears - and certainly accelerated by the effects of the pandemic - we are going to need far more highly trained therapeutic foster carers. This is the challenge. And the sector is responding. Everyone involved in recruitment understands and articulates this need."

For more information about fostering, visit If you care…foster care.


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