Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people

The importance of one interested adult

There are two important ways that a child-focused fostering service can offer secure and caring relationships to children and young people:

Foster carers

Secure attachments underpin the physical and emotional ties that support and sustain us as we grow and develop and can console us in times of distress. (48,49) Throughout our lives, we retain the need for support, encouragement and consolation. For children in the care system, it is not always immediately obvious that they have a secure base in the world. (12) Living in care may mean fragile relationships are broken, some never to recover. (34)

Recruiting and retaining foster carers

Recruitment and retention strategies are the key means of finding and keeping the right kinds of foster carers, that is, foster carers who genuinely care for the children in their care and who, in some cases, are able to persist with and manage 'disturbed attachment behaviour' without the child or young person feeling rejected. (8)

There are over 76,000 children and young people in public care on any given day in the UK, around 50,000 (64%) of whom live with 38,000 foster families. (8) The Fostering Network, a charity that represents foster carers, estimates that a further 8,000 foster carers are needed across the UK. (50) As part of the Choice Protects review, the DfES funded the Fostering Network to publish a guide to the recruitment and retention of foster carers (51), which examines the successful, and not so successful, recruitment and retention strategies used by local authorities across England.

Many black and minority ethnic children and children of mixed heritages are over-represented in the care system and have to wait too long for permanent placements. The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has launched an initiative aimed at recruiting black and minority ethnic foster carers. BAAF has been funded by the Association of London Government to actively support family placement professionals within local authorities and voluntary agencies in London to improve levels of recruitment of black and minority ethnic foster carers. (52)

Link: British Association for Adoption and Fostering

Successful recruitment practice based on word-of-mouth, small cash incentives and targeted schemes (such as the initiative identified above) appear to work best for the recruitment of foster carers. The involvement of foster carers in recruitment campaigns has also been shown to have a positive impact on recruitment. (7)

Practice example

Small cash incentives are increasingly used to boost recruitment of foster carers. Local authorities such as Southampton City Council pay their foster carers £20 for introducing a potential foster carer and a further £200 once they have been approved and a child has been placed with them.(53)

Research suggests that loss of foster carers is quite low, at 10% or less a year, which reflects the high level of commitment which carers have to foster children and the fulfilment that they get from caring. Support is crucial to the retention of foster carers, both on an everyday basis and in times of crisis, such as in the event of an allegation of abuse by a young person. Research studies highlight the importance of the following factors to foster carer retention:

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"If prospective foster carers could meet. with more than a just a couple of people. they could see that we actually support each other.. I think that if new people coming in realise that they don't have to do it by themselves, because foster carers talk to each other, [then] that is helpful." Foster carer in consultation group. (54)

Next in this section: Birth families