The number of children in foster care ‘Staying Put' after their 18th birthday has reduced drastically last year.
In 2015-16, 2,190 young people stayed with foster parents after turning 18. However this fell to 1,570 young people in 2016-17, Ofsted figures show. In 2015-16, 54% of foster children were supported to stay with their carers whereas this was 46% of foster carers in 2016-17.
A higher percentage of young people stayed put in local authority foster families – 52% of young people compared to 38% in IFA foster families.
“The ‘staying put’ initiative was introduced to give stability and support to young people when they turned 18. However, young people were less likely this year compared with last to stay put with their foster carers when they turned 18. In particular, the proportion of young people staying put in IFAs fell to its lowest point since 2013,” said the report.
This is in line with the Education Select Committee report on fostering, which states that many young people are missing out on the staying put opportunity due to a lack of clarity and consistency around its implementation.
The Ofsted release also found that, at 31 March 2017, there were 83,930 approved fostering places, representing a 1% increase on the previous year (83,175). The proportion that were filled increased from 61% to 62% but the proportion that were ‘not available’ also increased, from 16% (13,000) to 18% (15,520).
However, the number of approved fostering households continued to decrease steadily. There were 43,710 approved fostering households as at 31 March 2017, a 1% decrease from last year when there were 44,320). The overall number has decreased by 2% since March 2014 when there were 44,780 approved fostering households.
Ofsted revealed that more applications were considered this year but conversion of completed applications to approvals decreased. There was an increase of 9% in applications considered during 2016 to 2017 compared with last year, from 11,460 to 12,455, with a similar proportion completed. However, the conversion rate of completed applications to approvals decreased from 57% to 49%.
The report warned that children with at least one unplanned ending of their placement were more likely to have persistent school absence.
“Thirteen percent of children who experienced at least one unplanned ending had persistent school absence in comparison with 5% of children with no unplanned endings. The rate of persistent school absence increased to 19% for children who experienced at least one unplanned ending and at least one educational placement change,” the report concluded.