SOMEWHAT belatedly we are catching up with the Government’s annual statistics on looked after children but before that I’d like share another stat that came my way via a library colleague. Earlier this year the Care Leavers Association polled care leavers and adolescent looked after children about their health and in the process found that 14.5% identified as LGBT+. The rate in the general population is thought to 7%. There may be all sorts of reasons for this figure but it has prompted the CLA and Three Circles Fostering to run another survey to find out how best to support LGBT+ looked after children and those who have left the care system.
BACK TO the government stats which cover the year up to the end of March 2016. Since their publication we have seen key headlines picked up: the Fostering Network was pleased that 10% of 19 year old care leavers are continuing to live with their foster carers under the government’s staying put provision. Meanwhile Adoption UK was “saddened, but not surprised” by the fall in the number of looked after children adopted in 2016. The drop of 12% was “largely expected, due to a significant drop in the number of children being placed for adoption in recent years”, reported family lawyer John Bolch. The fall in adoption placements is widely believed to stem from the ruling in the case Re B-S in September 2013, he goes on to say, in which the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said that local authorities must provide evidence that all alternatives to adoption had been considered before bringing a case to court.
The figures show that the total number of children in care is still rising with 70,440 looked-after children as of 31st March 2016. This is due to the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children which has grown by over 50% and UASC now represent 6% of the total. But, the report adds, “If we remove unaccompanied asylum seeking children from the count of looked after children, we see that there has been a decrease in the looked after children population of 500 (1%) since 2015.” And because UASC tend to be mainly older teenage males this has altered the demographic profile of children in care accordingly.
IN A tale of two local authorities Surrey was celebrated for being a fostering friendly employer in the Fostering Network’s fostering excellence awards while Norfolk was criticised for historic poor treatment of some of its foster carers. An independent review commissioned in 2015 by Sheila Lock then director of the county’s children’s services looked at eight cases raised by foster carers and found that in six the foster carers were not treated justly or fairly by the county council. In four cases the needs of the child were not paramount and in four cases the county needed to apologise to the carers involved. You can find details of the often heavily redacted reports into each of the cases on the county council’s website. They offer several learning points and particularly question the council’s matching process and finds that Norfolk failed to follow many of its own policies and procedures.
AND FINALLY the Commons education select committee has launched a rather all encompassing review of foster care covering everything from recruitment and payment of foster carers and the role of fostering agencies to stability in foster placements and the care of young people with challenging or complex behaviour. It asks for views on what should be included in the government’s stocktake of foster care.