13 October 2017

 The Missing Link 

OK, now bear with for a minute - I have to start with what looks like a slightly techy bit... but it warms up...  get through the top couple of paragraphs, and stick with it...


The National Fostering Stocktake is well underway, and has been informed by an academic review of evidence, which has been published HERE. 


The evidence reviewed was lots of literature, I mean... LOTS of literature - 46 of the 269 pages are filled with references to well over 500 documents; plus interviews with 23 people from across local authorities, independent fostering, researchers and umbrella bodies.


I've no idea if this is the most extensive review ever - clearly pretty hefty.


But they missed a bit.


No criticism implied - it appears ‘the bit’ in question is easily missed. Yet that’s odd, because it represents probably the single most transformational point in the UK’s fostering services.


Now, for me - a National Stocktake will be a job half done if it doesn’t take this bit into account. So we’ve been in touch, and here it is too... we’re happy to share…


Pop quiz:
Q: Have teenagers always gone to live in foster families when they couldn’t live with their own?
A: No
Q: Where did they go?
A: Children’s homes, reform schools, borstals, mum and baby units...
Q: Were children's homes, reform schools etc warm, fun, happy, nurturing, ambitious places in the 1960s?
A: If there were any, there were not nearly enough of that ilk... quite the opposite...
Q: So what changed, and when...how come teenagers are now placed into warm, fun, happy, nurturing, ambitious foster families?
A: Good question!

This is something we should know, right? The single most transformational point in our services to young people? How did we do it?!


A social worker in Kent got funding to try something new, a project.


That something new worked - it really worked - Goldsmiths Uni evaluated it.

Q: Where is that evaluation report, and how come the Stocktake review of evidence missed it?

A: There’s a hard copy in the library in Canterbury, hoicked out of the archives at my request.  It has never been uploaded to a database. (Working on that)


Q: Did the social worker write and publish about her work?

A: Yes she did. That’s not readily available either, though can be found HERE


Q: So what did the project do that worked to transform the lives of our teenagers in care, and when?

A: Well, I’m glad you asked…

...Nancy Hazel was the social worker, in the mid-1970s, who called, for the first time, for people willing to consider fostering those teenagers.


Now here’s the thing… the traditional foster folk mostly weren’t interested. A new breed stepped forward, those for whom the challenge was appealing.


Fundamental to this shift is that those new people were positioned - explicitly from the outset - as fellow professionals, experts in their own specialist field, with equity of status amongst other professional people around the young person.


This is not so much about the money, although a reasonable fee was paid, it is about attitude towards foster parents.


This is why the present debate about whether foster parents are professionals needs to know how the transformation happened... kick out the folk who expect to be respected as fellow professionals and we are kicking out the heart of what changed our teenagers’ worlds.


Sorry Union guys - we’re not advocating for sick pay and holiday pay etc. We are simply noting that lessons about mutual respect between professional people doing sophisticated work were learned decades ago, and throwing out the baby, of regard for professional fostering, with the bathwater, of fear about higher costs which may be unfounded, might just be catastrophic to the wellbeing of our kids.


When Nancy Hazel’s values have been implemented - and we still do that - the services to kids are consistently deemed Outstanding… this is a proven approach, that costs no more money.


Writing about it all some twenty years later, in the 90s, Nancy Hazel observed that some still struggled to share the power by recognising the professionalism of those who foster.

Amidst so much heartache in the present climate about money, isn’t it sensible to pay attention to an approach that was primarily about attitude, not about resources?


This is about professionalism, not professionalisation.





Image credit: pexels 



written by

Jane Keenan

Recruitment Manager


Last modified on Friday, 13 October 2017 15:40

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