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Written Statement - Why do you care? – Research into recruiting Foster Carers

Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services

My vision for foster care in Wales is a valued workforce who can meet the identified needs of a looked after child placed with them from the outset and secure better outcomes for these children. 

The numbers of looked after children continues to rise with 6% more children coming into care in 2012 than during the previous year.  Should this trend continue then we will need more people to become carers to meet the needs of the looked after population.  Many foster carers are older or close to retirement, and to ensure the sustainability of the workforce we must encourage a wider demographic of carer to come forward.  

The Welsh Government is committed to placement stability for looked after children, placement stability is key to securing better outcomes for children in care.  Local authorities have a duty to secure a sufficient range of placements to meet the needs of looked after children in their area.

I have taken measures to support the recruitment and retention of foster carers, such as the introduction of a national minimum maintenance fostering allowance, an induction workbook, a training resource for dealing with an allegation of abuse, and guidance on delegating authority for day to day decisions to carers.      

Local authorities and independent providers will have their own strategies, or will have invested in strategic commissioning arrangements through collaboration with other authorities to ensure that they have sufficient number of carers. There is a wealth of untapped experience and skill out there and we need to break down some of the myths about what it takes to be a foster carer.  To date there has been little evidence based research into what drives a person to foster.      

Therefore I am pleased to announce that I have commissioned the Fostering Network Wales to undertake research into what motivates carers to foster a child.  The research will help fostering services to recruit more foster carers by offering a fresh insight into the challenges of recruitment and improve local authorities’ understanding of the intrinsic motivations of prospective and existing foster carers using Values Modes: innovative research and cutting edge tools. Fostering Network Wales will be supported by iMPOWER who have pioneered the approach Values Modes techniques to innovate in foster carer recruitment.

The research methodology is well established and is used across all sectors (public, private and voluntary) to track the values, beliefs and motivations in the UK. It will provide information on what attracted foster carers to the profession and why they continue to foster.  The findings will be invaluable in assisting fostering providers to either co-ordinate a national recruitment campaign or develop more local recruitment strategies.

Phil Evans, President of ADSS Cymru welcomed the Welsh Government's commitment to funding this important research.  

”The recruitment of foster carers to provide quality care for some of the most vulnerable children in our society is an absolute priority for Social Services across Wales.  Fostering Network Wales has already taken a lead role in finding out what motivates foster carers but this research will be the first major investigation undertaken specifically in Wales.  Local authorities are making progress in developing new foster care recruitment strategies and some are exploring the opportunities for collaborating on a regional basis.  The findings from the research will assist them considerably in this work and we will be keen to co-operate with Fostering Network Wales."

Freda Lewis, Director of the Fostering Network Wales, said: “The Fostering Network is delighted to be carrying out this work on behalf of the Welsh Government. This ground breaking new approach should give us a real insight into what motivates and drives foster carers, and will provide fostering services with improved information to help them recruit and retain the foster carers they need.”

Fostering providers are always looking for more foster carers. If people feel they can offer a child a home, then I urge them to contact their local authority or independent fostering agency.  People from all backgrounds are welcome, each looked after child is different and Wales needs carers with a diverse range of skills and experience to meet those needs.