Children’s early progress in foster placements needs sustaining

Fostered children make the most significant progress during the first nine months of their placement, according to research published today by The Adolescent and Children's Trust.

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Fostered children make the most significant progress during the first nine months of their placement, according to research published today by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust.

The study – based on interviews with 30 children who had been in the same foster placement since 2007 and their 24 foster carers – asked foster carers to assess improvements in the health and well-being of children in their care.

Although foster carers identified improvements throughout the placement, they found the rate of improvement slows down. The most significant improvements in children’s health and well-being were identified by foster carers during the first nine months of the placement.

The study follows a 2007 fostering study by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), involving the same young people and the same foster carers.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of TACT, said the continuing improvement in young people’s health and well-being was a positive message, but pointed out that the slowing rate of improvement should be taken as a warning “against complacency”.

“To an extent it is inevitable that the most significant improvements will be seen early in a foster placement – when a child moves from a chaotic environment into a stable placement and when there is most focus on the child.

“But social services and independent reviewing officers should take this as a warning against complacency. They should be aware that there is a constant challenge to ensure a child continues improving throughout the placement,” Williams said.

He said the research provided evidence of  the positive impact that stable foster placements can have and highlighted the dangers of moving children out of placements unnecessarily. Of the children interviewed, 96% rated their current foster carer as “very important” to them and 84% said they had “a lot of say” in the decisions made about their care.

Williams said: “It is striking that 96% of young people describe their relationship with their current carer as ‘very important’. The report should send a loud message to everyone involved in fostering about the long term societal benefits of ensuring that decisions are only made in the child’s best interests.”

Professor Bob Broad of London South Bank University, who wrote the report, said: “Our research demonstrates the value of a longitudinal study of foster care based on the views of young people and their carers.

“The evidence shows how young people’s positive and improving health and well-being outcomes are associated with them being contented while living with their foster family, and feeling safe, cared for and supported, It also demonstrates the value of dedicated foster carers who feel their support needs are being met.”

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