For the last three months, I’ve been busy with an independent evaluation of a national fostering helpline which aimed to identify the contribution that Fosterline makes to the important government function of recruiting and retaining foster carers in England.
Foster carers are motivated to foster by intrinsic and altruistic drivers such as a desire to improve children’s well-being and long-term outcomes as well as more practical drivers related to their own accommodation and financial resources. Some are motivated by personal life experiences and prior professional experiences.
Key findings are that foster carers’ aspirations for children are concerned with children’s immediate social and emotional development as well as the influence of this on their future social inclusion, employment and family prospects. The main challenges reported by foster carers in their fostering role related to communication and relationships with Local Authorities, Independent Fostering Associations and social workers as well as the communication between professionals within these organisations.
Fosterline’s role in the recruitment and retention of foster carers as reported by participants in this evaluation is to provide impartial and independent advice about a range of sensitive concerns and issues when foster carers feel they have no-one else to turn to. Sometimes when foster carers contact Fosterline they are at crisis point in terms of their fostering career and their emotional resilience to cope with the situation. Fosterline responds by listening, encouraging, empowering and valuing foster carers’ perspectives and concerns in a way that enables them to act on the advice and support given.
Implications for policy and professional practice are discussed within the evaluation. Foster carers are calling for a ‘new deal’ in terms of working conditions and more effective communication between professionals, as well as a change in attitudes by professionals towards foster carers and children. A team around the foster carer approach is suggested within the evaluation as a way of working with foster carers in a more collaborative and respectful manner. The report and executive summary can be found on the Fosterline website.