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Young people want relationships with former foster carers

Campaign calls for UK governments to issue guidance whereby young people and foster carers are supported to maintain contact following movement within or out of the care system

Governments should enable children and young people who move within or out of the care system to be able to maintain their most important relationships, a new campaign has urged.

A report by the Fostering Network found that while 80 per cent of young people said it was important for them to keep in contact with foster carers who they have lived with, 20 per cent said they were not in contact with foster carers while almost 30 per cent have been prevented from keeping in contact with a former foster carer.

The Keep Connected report by the Fostering Network recommends that each of the UK governments has guidance and regulations that ensure local authorities and health and social services trusts make certain that foster carers who have developed a good relationship with children are enabled to support them as they move home, move to a permanent placement, or move into and through the leaving care process.

Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at The Fostering Network said: “We’ve been told in no uncertain terms by children and young people in foster care, and care leavers, that being able to stay in touch with their former foster carer is very important to them. The bond between a foster carer and their foster child can sometimes be stronger than that of the child and their birth parent, and we know the importance of valuing and supporting attachments particularly for these children in care who will most likely have previously experienced loss.

“All the research shows that children who have secure attachments have better outcomes in social and emotional development, educational achievement, and mental health than those who do not have secure attachments. The practice of cutting off the relationship between the child and their foster carer is damaging and social work practice needs to reflect this as a matter of urgency,” she added.

The survey of 175 young people found:

  •  22 per cent of children and young people in care, and care leavers, never keep in contact with former foster carers.
    •    29 per cent have been prevented from having contact with a former foster carer.
    •    55 per cent said their social worker does not support them to keep in contact at all.
    •    81 per cent said that it was important to be able to keep in touch with foster carers they have lived with.

The Keep Connected campaign, was inspired by a foster carer who contacted The Fostering Network about a recent court case. They were prevented by the local authority from having any contact with a former fostered child, but the judge ruled in the child’s/foster carer favour observing: “In a world of shifting family relationships in which children increasingly grow up with a wide range of connections that are seen as normal we need to take stock of why our approach to children in care is different. Why do we persist in breaking children’s old relationships when we introduce them to future carers, despite knowing that so many children who do not happen to be in care manage to negotiate complex family relationships as they grow up.”

The survey of 1,100 foster carers found:

  •  24 per cent of foster carers rarely or never keep in contact with former foster children.
    •    32 per cent have been prevented from having contact with a former foster child.
    •    30 per cent said their fostering service was not very supportive in enabling contact with former fostered children.

Ms Swain concluded: ““If the governments of the UK are to create future generations of successful and happy care experienced young people, they have to support them in maintaining the relationships that bring them security, happiness, and the freedom to express themselves and fulfil their potential.”

There is more information about the campaign, Keep Connected: Maintaining Relationships When Moving On, on The Fostering Network website.



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