Agenda item

PROGRESS OF THE FOSTERING SERVICE

The Strategic Director, Children’s Services will submit Document “AF” which provides an update on the progress and development of the Fostering Service.

           

Recommended-

 

That the significant developments in the Fostering Service be noted.

 

                                                            (David Byrom – 01274 432904)

 

Minutes:

The Strategic Director, Children’s Services submitted Document “AF” which provided an update on the progress and development of the Fostering Service.

 

It was reported The Ofsted Inspection of the Local Authority Children’s Services in September 2018, recommended 10 areas requiring improvement of which there were the following key areas in relation to Fostering Service activity were specifically identified:

 

Sufficiency of local placements to meet the needs of children in our care.

           Completion of mandatory training for all foster carers.

 

Members were informed that the Fostering Service faced continuous challenges in identifying and resourcing good quality foster homes for  children and young people becoming cared for by the local authority. However, this was not just a local issue unique to Bradford but reflected the position nationally, not least because most children looked after were accommodated in foster homes.

 

It was reported that in relation to recruitment and assessment the service was on track to increase the number of enquiries from 2017-18 (432 enquiries) by 7%.  This was over twice the 3% national rise in the number of enquiries about fostering.

 

Members were informed that the national conversion rate for enquiry to mainstream / short break foster carer approvals was 4.19% (source DfE 2019) of 117,335 enquiries to 4920 ‘stranger’ fostering household approvals. Bradford Fostering Service projected conversion rate for 2018-2019 was 5.2% - 25 mainstream / short break foster carer approvals were projected by 31 March 2019.

 

It was reported that:

 

·         A more streamlined service for recruiting foster carers had been created with the addition of a temporary post of Recruitment and Marketing Manager supported by a Community Resource Worker.

·         The time taken to recruiting foster carers had reduced from 20 weeks to 16; most authorities completed the assessment process in 16 weeks.

·         The service was looking into speeding up statutory checks.

·         The service was looking at reducing the length of time taken to complete an assessment.

·         Needed a Fostering Carers charter.

·         Service needed to become more foster carer friendly.

 

 

 

It was reported that as part of the Journey to Excellence and the New Model of Care for Children Looked After in Bradford, the service had worked hard to train, develop and support PACE practitioners in order to help  embed the Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy (PACE approach).  PACE was a way of thinking, feeling, communicating and behaving that aimed to make the child feel safe to enable a trusting relationship to develop. The priority group for this training was children’s residential managers and workers and at least one foster carer in each household.  It was estimated this to be approximately 800 people that needed the course which was delivered half a day a week over a 6 week period.   

The progress made in training foster carers was detailed in section 2.16 (2) of the report.

 

It was reported that as part of the successful innovation bid by Children’s Services, the fostering service was one year in to supporting 2 Mockingbird hubs since February 2018. The model had proven to achieve greater resilience in placements and reduced the number of children and young people experiencing an unplanned ending in their foster home placement.  The model increased support to carers and was a whole family approach with the carer’s birth children all being involved too.

 

It was emphasised that Elected members support and promote the importance of fostering in their wards and opportunities for children who were looked after and their carers to access local facilities. 

 

Members commented on the following:

 

·         What was the reason for the difference in the number of people that enquire into fostering to the number of people that actually applied?

·         Were the number of enquiries about fostering similar to the national average?

·         How was the Muslim Fostering Network (Mercy Mission) working?

·         Aware of situations were potential foster carers did not meet the authorities assessments but had gone to an independent fostering agency and become foster carers with them; was there a trend that people not passing the authorities fostering assessment were getting through private fostering agencies?

·         Which community did the authority need more foster carers from?

·         Officers should look into the catholic churches as a way of helping to increase more foster carers from certain communities; churches would want to be part of the good work being undertaken.

 

In response to Members questions it was reported that:

 

·         Some foster care applications were lost to independent fostering agencies who offered a higher rate of pay.

·         The authority had local children who needed to be fostered by local foster parents.

·         The support offered to foster carers by the authority included social workers; foster carers felt that the authority offered good support but the fees offered by independent fostering agencies was a challenge; there was not a huge number of people going to independent fostering agencies.

·         The conversion rate from potential foster carers enquiring to applying had improved; the reasons for potential foster carers who attend information sessions but not move to initial home visit included wanting adoption rather than fostering, language barriers, expressing an interest but not able to foster at the current time, solely interested for financial reasons, not having a spare room to foster.

·         The service was looking to increase the number of fostering enquiries; 44 people were in the assessment process at the current time; the service was looking to speed the process up to make it quick and efficient and improve the conversion rate. 

·         The Muslim Fostering Network was a Bradford based organisation with huge national recognition; it had a good network in the community and could attract potential foster carers; it had cutting edge technology system to target the right people; the organisation was being contracted out to see if they could help the authority to get more foster carers from the community, the authority was well represented with foster carers from the South Asian Community.

·         The fostering assessment undertaken by the authority was the same as the assessments used by independent fostering agencies; some independent fostering agencies did not apply the regulations rigorously; records of those foster care applicants rejected by the Council could be cross referenced with appointments to independent fostering agencies.

·         The authority needed more foster carers from the Eastern European Community as there were a number of children in care from that Community.

·         Officers were looking at young people participating in the development of the service and having their views on it was important.

·         Exit interviews were offered to foster carers as it was crucial to receive feedback as to why they were leaving.

Resolved-

 

(1)       That the significant developments in the Fostering Service be noted and welcomed.

 

(2)       That the Committee requests that officers maintain records of those foster care applicants rejected by the Council, to cross reference with appointments to Independent Fostering Agencies, with a view to expressing the Committee’s concerns to OFSTED if necessary.

 

Action:           Strategic Director, Children’s Services

 

                                                           

Supporting documents: