Robert Tapsfield is chief executive at charity Fostering Network.
Career highlight: When I started as team manager at Wandsworth Council in London, most of our 100 looked-after children were in residential care. After five years almost all were living with families.
Career low point: I struggled as a social work practitioner and wondered if I was in the right career. I was much happier when I moved into management.
I applied for my current job because: How we care for children whose parents can’t look after them defines our society. As most looked-after children are in foster care, improving standards and services is an important job and I feel privileged to be involved.
My worst job interview: I hate questions asking you to explain how this job fits into your career plan, because I’ve never had one.
Best move I’ve ever made: Becoming chief executive of the Family Rights Group, a charity supporting families whose children are involved with social services.
Most inspiring person I’ve met: Moraene Roberts, mum and anti-poverty activist. Her kids were in care and she was written off as a hopeless case by social services. She is the wisest person and conveys what it’s like being a service user with enormous generosity.
Me and my career: Foster care is going through tremendous changes. 20 years ago, foster carers were unpaid volunteers. More kids now are with foster families than at any time, which is progress but there’s a lot to do still. I learnt from my own practice that children are almost always best off within families.
My job involves plenty of travelling. I’m based in London and Fostering Network also has offices in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast. This week, I spent two days in Cardiff for meetings with staff.
An important part of my work is influencing, talking to MPs and policy makers. Fostering is generally seen as a good thing but unfortunately it continues to be enormously underfunded.
The status of foster cares must improve, so they are rightly seen as the key person in the team of people caring for a child.
Other issues for the future include promoting long-term foster care, which is often the best outcome for children, but is not regarded as positively as adoption.
The government is due to set national minimum allowances for carers and these must be realistic. There is also growing concern about foster carers – who are the most vulnerable and least protected social care professionals – facing false allegations.
2004-now: Chief executive, Fostering Network.
1999-2004: Chief executive, Family Rights Group.
1978-1999: Children and families social work at London councils, including jobs as social worker, team manager and children’s services manager at Wandsworth, and social worker at Lambeth.