Children and young people in and leaving foster care need and deserve the best we can provide. But some say that our care system is overwhelmed, others say it is a success story. Some say foster carers are satisfied with their support, others say they are treated badly. Can they all be right? Government is looking for answers - the Fostering Stocktake and Education Committee Fostering inquiry in England have both reported to a mixed response. Simliar questions are being asked in Scotland and Wales, and there is much to share and learn. Are we genuinely listening to children and young peope, and putting them at the heart of our decision-making?
Independent and voluntary sector fostering providers (IFPs) have raised standards across the board and offer some of the highest quality, best value for money placements available. Yet, many commentators still seem uncertain about the best role for IFPs. Are they an intrinsic part of foster care? Are they a top-up to local authority in-house fostering services? Are they best at caring for children with more complex needs?
Foster carers, the key people living with children at the centre of our care systems, want and deserve better - should that be through employment? How can we give them a voice that is as valued as others taking decisions on behalf of children? Is there a shortage of foster carers? Are we struggling to meet the needs of children in foster care with complex needs? And with over-stretched budgets driving decision-making more than ever, commissioning is often expected to deliver cheaper, not better value, services. But do we know how much care costs? Why do some fostering placements cost more than others? And, more importantly, do we know what spending achieves?
The speakers at this national conference responded to these national initiatives and policy changes, sharing what they know, what they believe and what they hope for with one shared aim - to make foster care the very best it can be.
Martin Barrow, foster carer, journalist and writer, formerly at The Times
Brenda Farrell, UK Head of Business Family Placement, Barnardo’s
Robert Halfon MP, Chair, Education Committee
Lisa Holmes, Director, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford
Mark Owers, co-author of the Fostering Stocktake/Review
Fiona Richardson, Assistant Director, Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University
Andrew Rome, Revolution Consulting, adviser to the Fostering Stocktake