To consider the report by the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Corporate Parenting Board considered a report by the Executive Director of People – Children on the Annual Fostering Service Report.
Officers confirmed changes had taken place during the last couple of years, they were still working closely with Whitehead-Ross Education and Consulting (WREC) whose role it was to recruit new foster carers over a two year contract period. A booklet had been designed for training foster carers, each carer having their own personal development plan. A recruitment and retention strategy had been developed to encourage recruitment of foster carers and gain enthusiasm for people locally to look after children. The format of support groups had changed to ensure foster carers had time out and their children who were particularly supportive had been recognised at the Awards Ceremony.
The Foster Carer Representative commented that although WREC’s marketing was excellent they were a little behind the projected two year target on delivering 70 new foster carers with 21 approved and 14 more this current year. Officers confirmed this was so and mentioned a number of carers had retired and would need to be replaced. It was confirmed the contract was a payment by results contract and there was a close partnership between the fostering team and WREC. It was considered that the Authority was comparable with the private sector service with the range of support carers required, if a family had difficulty with a placement they would have support and a short break away from the family could be arranged. Supporting our foster carers was paramount.
The CLiCC representative asked what was meant by “mainstream”. Officers explained “mainstream” would be someone looking after a child they did not know and “connected” they would be looking after a child they were related to eg, grandchild.
One member asked if the Authority advertised in schools or colleges. Officers confirmed the opportunity to advertise in schools and colleges should not be missed.
The Chairman mentioned she had looked at the summary in the report and wondered what success looked like and considered it was about foster carers staying with the Authority, having the right person and the right number. Success was getting it right so that everyone was happy and settled.
The Interim Executive Director of People – Children confirmed that of the 297 foster carers 203 were in placements. All our carers provided good care. Where people were located was important as it was hugely disruptive for a child not only to leave their family but also to leave the locality they lived in and move away. The CLiCC representative asked how long the process took to become a foster carer and whether there was a minimum age. Officers confirmed the process took approximately 6 months and explained that some applicants may not be suitable for various reasons. It was confirmed there was a minimum age and officers asked the CLiCC representative what they thought it should be. The CLiCC representative thought it should be approximately 20 and felt the child needed to go to a home where it would be loved regardless of whether they were middle-class or lower-class carers. Officers confirmed 21 was the minimum age for someone to become a foster carer and the Authority wanted people from all backgrounds, faiths, LGBT community etc. The CLiCC representative asked whether the Authority promoted the various backgrounds as they might not be shown in advertisements. It was confirmed that getting the match right was important lots of foster carers were over the age of 50 and older parents could be brilliant with children.
One member asked if the Authority looked at service families as she was aware of several army families who did not think they were eligible to foster. The Interim Executive Director of People – Children felt they required people who could provide respite and provide shared lives. Working people who could provide supportive lodgings for older children.
The Foster Carer Representative asked whether the Authority currently specifically targeted diverse groups. One officer confirmed the Authority did and there had also been conversations with service families.
The Chairman mentioned having considered both the independent report and the service report she was a little worried there was no mention of the point made regarding lack of administrative support in the service report and would hope the report would reflect where there were challenges. The Fostering Panel Chair confirmed her report was written up until April 2019 and they had lost 2 panel members in the last 2 months, when the report was written there was no issue, but in the meantime felt there should be some help.
The Chairman hoped there were plans for promoting foster caring next year as the Appendix only related to the Foster Carers fortnight. Officers confirmed there was not only the Foster Carers Fortnight but a strategy with WREC about how things were progressed.