BASW’s professional officer Wayne Reid was invited onto the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire to discuss declining numbers of carers in fostering, the issues surrounding it and how BASW is trying to promote the profession.
Reid highlighted the barriers to fostering, a void in the general public’s perception on fostering and the need to promote a positive image about fostering.
It is accepted school of thought from recent research that the number of foster carers has slightly declined in recent years, which on the surface is still sufficient to support the Looked After Children (LAC) population.
“However, the figures mask the real issues and do not account for the complexity of fostering,” says Reid.
The issues include age preferences that foster carers have; matching children with carers (as not every LAC is compatible with every foster carer); the type of placement needed; geography and regional/demographic discrepancies.
“The decline in numbers is a concern, but not just because of a reduction in volume, but more importantly the impact on wider matching considerations and the implications for ‘harder to place’ children/young people,” says Reid.
The Department of Health is currently undertaking a stocktake of foster carers and fostering services and the findings will outline exactly what fostering resources are available nationally, as well as highlighting regional and demographic discrepancies and deficits.
In anticipation of this, BASW has suggested an advisory group should be established involving all stakeholders – including foster carers, care leavers, social workers, local authorities, private and voluntary agencies – to develop a national recruitment and retention strategy for foster carers.
The group could also inform future policy developments and address some of the barriers to recruitment and retention.
“In my experience, foster carer applicants often want to foster younger children. But often, due to the reasons for a child coming into care, they may function below or above their chronological age – which can have a direct impact on foster placements,” says Reid.
“I strongly feel this is the real message the public needs to hear to enable them to understand the rewards and challenges of fostering and for them to be assured there is comprehensive training and specialist support available to equip them for most issues that arise.”
Reid adds: “I also think more promotion of the flexibility of fostering to accommodate most people’s personal circumstances and the pros and cons of public/private/voluntary sector fostering is needed to enable applicants/enquirers to make informed decisions about whether to foster.”
There are initiatives to promote the profession, such as Foster Care Fortnight, which is held every May (promoted by The Fostering Network).
Reid’s appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire show can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys4pCYQehEo