Research and the experiences of care leavers consistently highlight how the quality of support these young people receive during their transition to adulthood shapes their future life chances. Yet, too many still leave their foster placements unable to cook, manage their own finances and without being emotionally ready to look after themselves. Some do not have allocated social workers, and even when they do, these individuals may not know the young person in the same way as their foster carer does. Yet foster carers in the independent and voluntary sector, who are not part of the local authority, are too often excluded from discussions or decisions about the future. This can result in conflicting ideas, poor planning, anxiety or even young people leaving care too soon.
NAFP has today published a briefing summarising the findings of their 'Looking After Yourself' project that highlights four changes that they believe will really make a difference:
1. Foster carers need specific training and support for their role in transition to independence
2. Taking a ‘coaching’ approach can be effective – especially with young people who d not have ‘familial relationships’ with their carers, those who have limited time in th placement and those with more complex needs
3. Agencies must think about how they can assist and encourage foster carers to look after their own health and wellbeing, so they can be positive role models
4. Crucially, foster carers from both the local authority and independent/voluntary sectors need to be have their key role as part of the team around a young person recognised in practice
Andrea Warman, Policy Consultant at NAFP, said, 'Foster carers should take the lead in preparing young people for adult life. They should be key in decision-making with the young person about their practical and emotional readiness for independence. While new Fostering Regulations and National Minimum Standards strengthen carers’ responsibilities for safeguarding, maximising opportunities for young people and promoting their emotional well-being, we believe there is much more that can be done.'
Harvey Gallagher, Chief Executive of NAFP, said 'It is time to give independent and voluntary sector fostering providers formal responsibility for managing the transition to independence for young people in their placements. Foster carers, supported by supervising social workers, would take on the social worker/Personal Advisor roles and decision-making tasks. We believe that this would contribute to the development of a more flexible, gradual process where engaged carers, like other parents, are able to take well thought through risks. It would help to create a system which responds to the young person’s timescales and particular needs, a care system where they can feel positive and optimistic about the future.'