20 December 2016
Maybe it’s just me but it seems to have been a bumper year for stuff going on in the world of fostering so let’s take a look back at some of the highs and lows of 2016.
The number of children in care tipped well over the 70,000 threshold and the ongoing shortfall in carers continued with the Fostering Network suggesting that an additional 9,000 were needed in 2016 alone. January saw Community Care highlight the pressure on a small number of local authorities from the massive rise in numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in care. Kent alone had recorded more than 1,000 at one point in the previous year.
Also in January the Fostering Network’s Keep Connected report found that a third of foster carers were prevented from seeing children that they had previously fostered, while more than half of children in care and care leavers said their social worker did not support them to maintain contact with former carers. “The practice of cutting off the relationship between the child and their foster carer is damaging and social work practice needs to change as a matter of urgency,” the report concluded.
In March Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster became the first local authority children’s services to be judged outstanding under Ofsted’s single inspection framework. Meanwhile spring and summer saw controversy over recruitment and the practice of offering “golden hellos” to entice foster carers from one local authority or agency to another. In July Sir Martin Narey outlined a recommendation for a “staying close” policy for children in residential care as part of a wide ranging report – a recommendation that was followed up by the announcement of a government pilot scheme almost the moment the report hit the public domain. In the same month the Rees Centre highlighted the impact on the fostering profession of unproven allegations suggesting that three in 20 fostering households cease fostering after such an event.
In September Peterborough Council announced its decision to award agency TACT a contract to run its fostering and adoption services for the next ten years in a contract worth £126 million.
While some themes re-emerge year after year a first for 2016 was the launch of the Foster Carers Union prompted by rising concerns over foster carer pay and conditions and a host of other fostering issues. We also saw the announcement of the Parliamentary Inquiry into fostering, a rather all-encompassing review of the fostering system covering everything from recruitment of carers right through to placement stability.
A number of projects, some funded by the Government’s social care innovation programme, reached their conclusion. Among them was the Fostering Network’s Mockingbird Family Model of Foster Care which involved a ‘constellation’ of foster homes supported by a central hub foster carer who provided support, respite and advice. One finding indicated that the model had successfully prevented carers giving up fostering thanks to the support of the hub foster carer.
November saw the release of the first national study into blocked care or compassion fatigue among foster carers. While the concept is well-documented in other professions, there was little useful information on its impact in fostering and adoption the report authors found.
And finally, of course 2016 was the year that This Week in Fostering was launched. Its aim is to share information, inspire debate and ultimately help support high quality outcomes around foster care. In creating TWiF I set myself one goal – to publish weekly for at least six months from its launch in May using a simple blog platform to test the market. At first I thought there would not be enough going on to justify a weekly update – how wrong I was! In 2017 I would love to take TWiF forward – broaden its audience, professionalise its content and make it the go-to resource for everyone involved in and interested in fostering. If you would like to be part of this please do get in touch with me via Facebook, Twitter or the form on this website – it would be great to hear from you.
In the meantime I would like to wish you all a peaceful Christmas.
Our round-up is taking a break now until the second week of the New Year when we start publishing on Thursday 12 January. In the meantime do connect with us on This Week in Fostering’s Facebook page, and ‘like’ it to get notifications of new content. Keep following us @TWiFostering on Twitter too.
Photo: Caleb Woods