Swim against the tide – I beg you!

16 November 2021

Swim against the tide – I beg you!

Mark Owers MP called for Foster Carer recruitment to be included in the Adoption Strategy proposal. Owers, chair of the National Adoption Recruitment Steering Group, said that the national campaigning model developed for recruiting adopters “is directly transferable to fostering” (Joe Lepper 04.11.21: CYPN Magazine).

My heart sank! 

Oh no! not this again. Mr Owers please don't rehearse again the need to recruit more Foster Carers when we have ample Foster Carers already approved but for their own reasons, unavailable. As echoed in the CYPN article published 24th November 2020, the key to meeting the gap in available placements is understanding Foster Carers needs. The same should be said of the 160,000 initial enquiries that resulted in only 10,000 applications – why?

I was approved as Local Authority Foster Carer in 1984, and we were talking about the same recruitment crisis back then, standing on windy street corners, holding coffee mornings at the local Family Centre and generally throwing money at recruitment campaigns, nothing has changed. We know now, as we knew deep down then, that the best way to recruit is through word of mouth and the best reason to recommend Fostering to a friend is a sense of satisfaction.

We must act now! As Josh MacAlister and the Case for Change Team puts it, this is our once in a lifetime chance. What ‘we’ do now at Assurance parents and Carers, and what we need to do on masse, is put a collective arm around those Foster Carers, Kinship Carers, Pre-Adoption Parents and Special Guardians on this, their amazing pathway choice, is to value them for what they have agreed to do, reward and support them satisfactorily and independently audit whether we have got it right on a regular basis. 

As reported by Ofsted (Fostering in England 2019 to 2020) of the 84,545 approved fostering places excluding short-break only places: 64% were filled (53,585) 16% were vacant (13,135) 20% were ‘not available’ (16,555). The shortfall figure which gets trotted out every year of 8,600 looks easily addressed when considered in this context. I implore you to take a different approach and to consider the following;

how many of your already approved Foster Carers are currently listed as unavailable?

why this is so? and 

what can be done to return them to the vacancy board? 

In the same way, what we know about Kinship Care is that it promotes better outcomes for children and young people, but that 70% of Kinship Carers felt unsupported by their Local Authority and that 70% of complaints made to the Social Care Ombudsman 2020 were upheld (The State of the Nation Survey, September 2021 by Paul McGrath and Lorraine Ashley). 

 Let’s not follow old familiar, tributaries that lead nowhere, lets stop, turn around and swim against the tide.  

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