We want to give every child in our care the best possible start in life. For many, that means placing them with a loving foster family. But in recent years, councils across the country have struggled to recruit enough foster carers to meet the demand for placements.
In Derby, we’ve taken a proactive stance. We recently undertook an 18 month project to increase the capacity and efficiency of our fostering service; improve the fostering assessment process and develop a more targeted approach to marketing and recruitment.
Nevertheless, the number of children in care is rising and we’re still reliant on independent agencies to provide around 60 per cent of our foster placements. This is particularly expensive for the Council and not the most effective use of the limited resources at our disposal.
Next week, I’ll be considering a report that recommends speaking to external market providers about changing the way we commission foster placements in Derby.
As part of our review, we’ll be gathering evidence from other councils about how they meet the demand for placements. For example, in Peterborough, the local authority has recently awarded a ten year contract to a registered charity to provide their entire fostering and adoption service.
Our preference will always be to recruit foster carers in-house. We believe the Council is best placed to care for local children and make decisions about their future. But we have to be pragmatic about our situation and leave no stone unturned as we look at the options available.
What is most important is that the values we have always embraced remain at the heart of the service, regardless of how it is delivered. That means being good corporate parents and respecting the voice of the child.
No matter the outcome of our soft-market testing, I can assure residents that Derby’s looked after children will continue to receive the quality of care they deserve.
In the meantime, we’ll continue our drive to recruit as many foster carers as possible. On Monday 9th October, we’re hosting a fostering event at the Hallmark Hotel Derby Mickleover Court, from 7.00pm to 9.00pm.
Through my experience on the Fostering Panel, I’ve seen first-hand how lives can be transformed through the fostering process. If you would like to enrich your life and the life of a looked after child, then why not come along and see what it takes.
Councillor Sara Bolton
Cabinet Member for Safeguarding and Children and Young People