The new normal at our foster agency

During the Covid-19 lockdown, according to Barnardo’s, we saw, nationwide, a 44% increase in the number of children requiring foster care. The increased pressure on families, because of job losses, worsening mental health and deepening poverty, has resulted in more children facing neglect and abuse. A predicted second wave of Covid-19 sees further increases expected in the numbers of children who will come in to care through no fault of their own. Many people have considering fostering as a potential career change. Allowances paid to foster carers combined with tax benefits are enabling people who have lost their job as a result of the economic downturn, to feel, that by fostering, they could replace their lost earnings. Enquiries have been received, about fostering, from people who have reassessed their lives through lockdown, and realised what they value in life and as a result are now seeing fostering as something worthwhile that can work with their new way of living, or simply as a way to give something back.

We saw, nationwide, a 44% increase in the number of children requiring foster care

Covid-19 and foster care

We are hopeful that a vaccination programme will bring about the changes we are looking for, but we still hear that we are in for a difficult winter with economic uncertainty. We welcome people with transferrable skills, suitable for fostering, who will consider fostering a child, as an option to change their career.

With the shortfall of approximately 8000 foster carers before Covid-19, we anticipate the shortage of foster carers to increase sharply in the coming months with the increase in demand. Never has there been a greater need for people to consider offering their home as a safe place for a child.   

Working from home

The new normal has seen more people working from home and connecting virtually. The fostering sector is no different. We have utilised virtual technology to enable our high standard of support to continue, ensuring our foster carers and young people get the service they became used to before Covid-19.

We have regular virtual contact with our foster carers and whilst there is nothing better than meeting face to face, we are offering the next best thing. We have continued, where possible, to support face to face meetings, socially distanced with face masks, when able.  Working proactively, we can continue to support foster carers to do what they do best, offer a safe loving home.

Our foster carers have worked closely together to support each other too. We have used facetime and Zoom to chat as frequently, if not more than we did before. Yes, it feels different, and as most of us are huggers, it has been hard to not be in the same room as each other.   

The children and young people have adapted well to virtual contact, in many ways far better than most of us grown-ups. They have proudly, used face time to share their ups and downs with us and remain in contact with their birth families. They have taken part in virtual lessons, they have sung and danced, and on one occasion, performed magic for us.

Our foster care agency welcomes people with transferrable skills

What we offer

For new people coming in to fostering, we offer a safe but effective approach to their assessment. Training is offered virtually too. We deliver regular opportunities for new people interested in fostering to join in with learning sessions and connect them to people who can answer any questions, enabling them to learn what fostering entails without them committing to anything until they are absolutely sure that its what they want to do.

Regulation changes, made at the start of Covid-19, has meant that assessments can take place much quicker than before, but we have decided that assessment shouldn’t be rushed, as this time is also about preparing for fostering and that this time should not be shortened.  We go at the pace of our enquirers, to enable them, once approved, to be fully prepared for what is required of them.  

Through most of lockdown, there have been restrictions on home visits, but we have very practical guidelines in place and all visits made are risk assessed. Where a family needs a visit, it will be risk managed, the important thing is that we do not expose our foster carers or support team to unnecessary risk of contracting Covid-19.

Conclusion

All in all, we have continued to deliver the service expected of us, albeit, in a changed way. The whole team has proved resilient in the face of adversity. Our new normal is working well and our team, together with our foster carers, are continuing to support children to change their futures.

Our foster carers are an amazing team of people who make us proud every day. We face the challenge head on, knowing that there will be a greater need for more amazing people to take up the challenge to make a difference and become a foster carer. Whilst the new normal is here for a while, there is nothing normal about the amazing work undertaken by our carers, changing futures every day.

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