Study highlights positive impact of lockdown for foster children

Neil Puffett
Monday, December 7, 2020

Lockdown measures introduced as part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus has had a positive impact for many fostered children, research has found.

Increased family time during lockdown was seen as a positive for foster children, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock
Increased family time during lockdown was seen as a positive for foster children, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock

A study conducted by Research in Practice alongside fostering charity The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact), found that many young people and foster carers felt lockdown had given them “more quality time to spend with families or those they live with”.

Many young people and carers taking part in the survey said that virtual contact with professionals was the same or better than their contact prior to lockdown, with increased availability and convenience.

Some young people also described thriving in experiences of home-schooling due to the flexibility and one-to-one support from carers. Overall the survey found that 96 per cent of foster families’ relationships improved or remained unaffected during the lockdown.

However, some children reported struggling with the lack of routine and reduction in social contact from going to school and the lack of physical contact with professionals was an issue for some, as was the additional responsibility this placed on foster carers to help manage family time.

The first national lockdown, which started on the 23 March, meant that most children and young people were out of school for four to five months. While children in foster care were amongst those classed as "vulnerable" and therefore able to go to school, many did not attend during this period.

At the same time, social care services moved to a combination of digital and face-to-face interactions, while family time and contact with birth families often took place by phone or video call.

The survey was conducted in June following indications that some young people and carers were reporting improvements in wellbeing, particularly related to changes with social care contact, schooling and improved relationships in the home.

Young people’s views on remote learning were mostly positive, with many young people saying the greater flexibility and more one-to-one support from their carers was helping them.

One young person supported by TACT said: “I found it hard to trust them at first because I’ve had lots of foster families, but over lockdown they have shown me that they really care, even when I haven’t been nice to them. We have done lots of fun things together with the little ones, so now I hope I can stay with them.”

Young people reported mixed feelings about how the lockdown had impacted contact with their birth families. While some missed the physical contact of face-to-face meetings, others enjoyed the greater degree of control.

Another young person said: “I decided not to see my birth parents. I kind of like that as it takes the away the stress and anxiety that I have about seeing them. I have spoken to my brother though, we have played games together on video chat.”

A report on the findings suggests some potential implications for practice in the future, such as the use of technology to increase the frequency of communication between social care professionals and families.

Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT, said: “These are interesting findings and have important implications for the way the fostering sector operates going forward.

“For example, the findings suggest placements may be better served by emphasising more ‘family time’ at the start of a new placement, instead of rushing to establish a new routine and immediately sending them to school.”

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