West Midlands Councils Join Forces for Children in Care

Finding resilient fostering families for some of the most vulnerable children in care in the West Midlands is the focus of a new venture – ‘The Big Fostering Partnership’.

Coming together to pool resources and expertise, the partnership includes Staffordshire County Council and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, the National Fostering Group and Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group.

The approach will help secure long-term foster carers for children between the ages of seven and sixteen who currently live in children’s homes.

Many of the young people will have lived in a number of different places before living in a children’s home and may have experienced trauma and therefore struggle to form relationships.  By securing resilient foster families, with the right skills, experience and support, the partnership will help young people to reach their full potential.  Once a young person has been identified, the partnership will use its national network of carers to find potential foster families.

Helen Riley, Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities at Staffordshire County Council said: “We have built up a wonderful network of foster carers who can provide stable homes for the majority of children who come into our care.  However, we do have a need for more specialist foster families who can support those children with additional needs through the most challenging periods of their lives.  This partnership provides another option to help us meet the needs of the children in our care.

“Research shows that the stability of a family environment can help children to reach their full potential. And, whilst residential care is absolutely the right place for some children, we also know that for others, a foster family will better meet their needs now and into the future.

“Working with our partners allows us to share our strengths and experiences to help get these children into the right family as quickly as possible.  Having access to a larger pool of foster carers means we can often match a young person with a family, where we have previously been unable to in the past.”

Richard Woodward, Director of Strategy, National Fostering Group, said: “We are proud to be the founding delivery partner to The Big Fostering Partnership. It’s been fantastic to work in such a collaborative way, drawing on each organisation’s experience and strengths to develop this innovative approach.  Having already, in its pilot phase, managed to support young people to move into nurturing fostering families, we are excited for all that we will achieve together for young people in care, in the months and years to come.

“One of the first young people who moved to a foster family during our pilot phase has said that ‘It’s really good. More relaxed than where I was before and I have more freedom. Our relationship is like a mother and son – ‘I feel at home’”

Sergio Sanchez, Investment Manager, Big Issue Invest, said: “We are really excited to be involved in this partnership, which focuses on improving the lives of children by providing them with stable, high-quality family-based placements. The partnership is the culmination of many months of collaboration and is based on a ‘child-first’ outcomes-led approach. We are especially pleased to see that the children selected for our pilot project continue to be cared for in nurturing fostering families”.

Although launching in the West Midlands, The Big Fostering Partnership is already talking with other authorities from across the country who are interested in joining the partnership.

The Big Fostering Partnership is part funded by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport’s Life Chances Fund.

To find out more about becoming a foster carer for The Big Fostering Partnership visit www.bigfosteringpartnership.co.uk or call 0330 0229135

Tony Walley
Tony Walley
News & Sport Editor

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