Foster Care: Special Report
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
While the number of fostering households has gone up, the range of carers available is not always able to meet the complex needs of children, with the system described as being at "breaking point".
The foster care sector, like many aspects of the care system, is looking to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to set out a reform agenda when it publishes its findings in the spring. Since the launch of the review in March 2021, there has been much discussion and debate about the role of the “for profit” sector in foster care, the potential for moving to national commissioning of placements and whether family and friends foster carers are being properly utilised.
The review is likely to put forward recommendations on these and many other issues linked to fostering, but change, if it happens, is likely to be some way in the future. In the meantime, the foster care system is, according to a recent Ofsted report, at “breaking point” as a result of rising demand for places and insufficient supply of carers.
The shortage of foster carers is a long-term trend that is linked to the role becoming increasingly demanding due to the more complex nature of children’s needs and insufficient support offered to carers, issues that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Independent fostering agencies (IFA) have tended to offer foster carers the best terms and conditions but there are signs that the need to attract more carers has spurred some councils into action, including running better awareness campaigns, paying higher allowances and offering incentive payments, and developing support networks.
Despite these efforts, finding the right foster carer in the right place geographically to meet a child’s needs is likely to remain a challenge for some time. This is why emphasis has shifted to improving placement practice and doing more to find family and friends to place children with before searching the wider foster care sector.