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Care review urges teachers to foster children

There should be clearer routes for adults who already know a child, such as teachers, to be approved as that child’s specific foster carer, the independent review into children’s social care has stated.

In the review, chair Josh MacAlister said that the culture of care means that it is often considered inappropriate to ask whether a teacher or friend’s parent would consider becoming a specific child’s foster carer. However, he said that this needs to change.

“Where a child cannot be cared for in their family network, it may well be the case that there are other important adults already in their lives who may be willing to step forward and become their foster carer. This goes beyond the family network as these important known adults could be a teacher, the parent of a school friend or a community group leader,” said the review.

“It is far too rare that these people, who are already in the life of a child, are considered as a fostering option, because they are not identified at the point when a child might be on the edge of entering care,” it added.

Demand for foster care is rising. Ofsted have identified that a shortage of carers is a significant limiting factor when matching children with carers (Ofsted, 2020), and in May 2019 the Fostering Network estimated that more than 8,500 new foster carers were needed.

The review adds that once established, Regional Care Cooperatives should run effective ongoing foster carer recruitment, based on a good understanding of the needs of children in their area. However, due to the immediate and pressing shortage of foster carers, in the period leading up to the establishment of the Cooperatives there needs to be a national fostering recruitment programme.

The recruitment programme should recruit 3,000 additional foster carers a year between 2023 and 2026 (9,000 in total) and should focus on recruiting new carers in areas of the country where they are most needed. It should also target carers with the skills to offer care to older teenagers, babies and their parents, unaccompanied children, siblings and children on remand, as well as recruiting carers from ethnic minorities.

Taking to Twitter Josh MacAlister said online app TeacherTapp had asked teachers whether they would temporarily foster a child from their class and around half of respondents said that they would.

“Having a teacher or another adult who already knows a child becoming a foster carer might not be possible or right for every child (or the teacher). But going into care can be enormously isolating, can disrupt school life and can fracture relationships,” said Mr MacAlister.

“If only 1% of teachers stepped forward to foster a specific child, there would be 4,610 new homes available for children. The poll shows that it could be many more. With Fostering Network estimating that we need 9k new foster carers then surely this is worth a try,” he concluded.

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