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Foster carers bring value to society – and they need to know it

The latest State of the Nation’s Foster Care report from The Fostering Network has collected views from more than 4,000 foster carers in the UK to create a picture of foster carers’ experiences. Although we recognise the problems highlighted in this report, we feel that so many examples of good practice and positive outcomes have been forgotten.

At St Christopher’s we already follow the majority of the report’s recommendations for fostering services, so it is disappointing that the experiences of some carers in the sector are not positive. As an independent, not-for-profit fostering agency, we know the value foster parents bring to the table and appreciate their dedication to changing young people’s lives. Our own carers have given us positive feedback about their fostering experiences and always emphasise that they find their role rewarding.

We do not want people reading headlines about this report to be put off from fostering. In fact, we want to show how fulfilling it can be and how St Christopher’s foster carers are respected, valued and have a genuine impact on children’s lives. This is why we support the report’s recommendation for foster carers to have more authority to make day-to-day decisions about their foster child’s care. Children and young people have consistently told us that they feel different to their peers, and we work to remove that stigma wherever possible. Through our commitment to partnering with child-centred organisations who share our values, we make sure that young people’s needs are at the heart of our care.

We welcome the focus on the data showing that one third of foster carers experience unplanned placement endings that they feel are not in the best interests of the child. Young people in care experience more instability than the general population, and with every move they have to start over again. Our own figure for unplanned endings is less than what is quoted in the report at around 20%, but we are always striving to reduce this. We listen to children, young people and foster carers through our participation programmes to ensure their views on placements are taken into account.

'My carer listens to my wishes all the time and she knows how I’m feeling because if I’m upset I’ll be in a bad mood. She will talk to me about it and see if there are any solutions. She asks me about stuff and we’ll talk about these decisions.'
Jess, young person in foster care

However, there is one key area of the report where our own experiences differ from The Fostering Network’s findings: approval range. We aim to only recruit carers who meet the current needs we see in our referrals data. We are proud of how closely we work with our carers on matching placements, and they welcome the opportunities to learn, develop and challenge themselves to support and empower every child they care for. When they ask for additional support before or during a placement, we provide bespoke training and therapeutic support so that they can be as prepared as possible and focus on building a positive relationship with their young person.

We understand that the experiences of foster carers vary and acknowledge that the findings in this report do highlight difficulties that we also wish to see addressed. However, we are passionate about raising awareness of the benefits of becoming a foster carer. As a charity we re-invest any surplus straight back into our services so that we can continuously improve the experiences of our children and foster carers.

We hope that more people consider fostering with a charity like St Christopher’s. Get in touch with us today to find out how you can create brighter futures for children and young people in care.

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