Retaining foster carers - ideas from practice

FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN, is one of the few fostering agencies to have established an opt-in pension scheme for foster carers to which the agency contributes. Secondly, as a reward for long service, families who have fostered for five, and ten years, receive the sum of £1,000 each time. Also, the agency emphasises the importance of looking after carers by providing personal knowledge and support.

Well-equipped and planned centres for foster carers have been established in both the local authority and independent sectors. For example, OUR PLACE is a centre for foster and adoptive families in Bristol set up in 1998. A core team, consisting of an educational psychologist, a researcher, art, play, music, dance and occupational therapists, and social workers, staff the centre with sessional staff. It is a non-profit making trust which provides a wide range of organised and informal activities for all family members in 'a community that understands and accepts the joys and the difficulties that arise from looking after and adopting children of all ages.' There is a full programme of workshops, after school and summer activities, and a range of groups for the centre’s different users. OUR PLACE is open throughout the week and some evenings and Saturdays. All activities are free. It aims to provide a therapeutic environment, and encourages families to meet and support one another. The multi-disciplinary staff group enables families to have access to a wide network of therapeutic, educational, social work and other professional advice and support within the centre, and in the community by connecting with health, education and social service agencies.

BEXLEY provides foster carers with a 'buddying’ scheme of fellow carers, and BEXLEY, SOUTHAMPTON and LEEDS provide its carers with loyalty payments and certificates.

FOSTERING NETWORK, Northern Ireland, has four regional advisers who are themselves foster carers. They provide independent information, support and advice to other foster carers on a sessional basis. It is also developing a peer-mentoring scheme for the children of foster carers.

Attracting and Keeping Carers is a project managed by the FOSTERING NETWORK, and funded by the Department for Education and Skills. It explores good and innovative practice in both the recruitment and retention of foster carers amongst fostering services. The project focuses on supporting the development of local capacity in the recruitment and retention of foster carers and facilitating the sharing of good and innovative practice.a href="">To find out more click here.

In order to assist carers as their foster family grows, STOCKPORT has an allocated budget to provide financial help, in exceptional circumstances, to extend their property.

ENFIELD has offered foster carers group support to explore the emotional challenges of parenting looked-after children. Enfield carers also have direct access to child psychotherapists and a senior teacher with responsibility for looked-after children.

DERBYSHIRE links new foster carers with an experienced carer who provides them with 'buddying’ and mentoring. It has also developed an out of hours helpline for all Derbyshire foster carers which supplements the 'emergency out of hours’ service. Specially trained and experienced carers run the helpline.

NORTH WEST FOSTER CARE ASSOCIATES offer stress management and aromatherapy sessions.

WOODSIDE provides a full range of alternative therapies, from art and music therapy to reflexology.

The children of foster carers have been recognised not only because fostering agencies have a responsibility to protect their interests, but also because their welfare has a major impact on whether or not their parents carry on fostering. Several agencies have developed innovative services for these children such as: