A new study highlights the importance of getting foster matches right for children’s futures, as well as keeping foster carers in the system.
The report also finds room for improvement beyond recruitment. While researchers saw examples of good work to match children with the right foster carers, there was little in the way of wider organisational learning from successful matches.
Ofsted said chemistry lies at the heart of a good match, but researchers found that this isn’t down to luck. This ‘magic’ can be built through good practice that encourages relationships to flourish.
The best matches happen when a child’s individual needs, as well as the skills and experience of foster carers, are properly understood. Taking children’s wishes into account and making them feel part of the process is vital.
While matches are often made in emergencies, there is more that professionals can do to give placements the best chance of success.
Elements of a good match include:
- Making sure children feel ‘heard’: children told researchers that they don’t always feel involved in decisions and plans about where they are going to live. When they can say what they want, they don’t always believe that their views make a difference to what happens.
- Good information sharing: giving children the information they need about potential carers is vital, as is making sure that foster carers know everything that they need to know about a child. The best referrals give full and balanced descriptions of children and represent their wishes and feelings.
- Involving birth families and previous carers: professionals recognised that more could be done to involve birth families in matching decisions. Similarly, more could be done to involve previous foster carers and to support their lasting relationships with children.
- Recognising foster carers as professionals: foster carers who felt empowered and confident in their role as part of a wider professional team are typically more likely to ask for additional information about children than carers who feel undervalued or less confident.
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