Thursday, 27 May 2010

30 Years of Foster Care

This year BAAF celebrates its 30th anniversary. As we are in the middle of Foster Care Fortnight it seemed a good time to look at how foster care has changed over the years.

David Holmes, Chief Executive, BAAF

Around the time that BAAF was ‘born’ there was a change in the social landscape. A growing belief that most children do best in a family setting drove forward a policy of moving children out of residential homes and into foster care placements. To give you a rough idea of how things have changed, in the late 70s around a third of children were in foster homes. Nowadays it’s well over two-thirds.

The early 80s also saw the ‘professionalisation’ of foster care. National training programmes for foster carers were introduced, as well as an increase in specialist schemes to help children with complex needs. This resulted in different types of people coming forward as prospective foster carers. Many had existing childcare experience, perhaps with grown up children; or were professionals working in child care professions. Few were married couples with young, dependent children. The professionalisation of foster care remains a key theme of Foster Care Fortnight and other campaigns.

By the mid 90s it was becoming clear that there were insufficient numbers of foster carers to allow the fostering service to fulfill the role of ‘placement of choice’. It is estimated that there could be a shortage of at least 10,000 foster carers across the UK. The drive to recruit people with the right skills remains as prominent now as it did then. This month’s campaign from The Fostering Network will be asking if you have the right skills to become a foster carer.

Every day we hear about children whose lives have been turned around since coming into foster care. Of course there are still problems that need to be addressed, but BAAF strongly believes in supporting this invaluable workforce, and recognising the important contribution to the lives of our most vulnerable children.

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