Lisa Whelan is a Service Manager at City of Wolverhampton Council
There are over 600 children and young people in Wolverhampton’s care system. Today, the council is very lucky to have a pool of more than 200 foster carers who combine a desire to help children with a commitment to providing the best possible care. This represents a huge increase compared to two years ago, which is when we started to implement the Family Values programme with IMPOWER.
Family Values tackles the challenges around the recruitment and retention of foster carers and prospective adopters by seeking better alignment with their values. Through a comprehensive marketing and recruitment strategy that works creatively with foster carers and the wider public, the service has enhanced the quality and volume of enquiries. Through recruitment events at the local hospital and university, the service has seen an increase in enquiries from professionals looking for a career change. We are also seizing every opportunity to network with partner agencies, including the police and health.
Impact to date:
- Over the 2018/19 financial year we recruited almost 50 new foster care households (including connected persons A Connected Person can be a relative, friend or any other person with a prior connection with a child/young person who is looked after by the local authority. ) – an increase of more than 100% compared to our average for the three years before the project started
- Two thirds of all new foster carers were assessed and approved within the target timescale of 6 months
- 82 more children are now placed with local council carers than when the project started two years ago
- 25% reduction in the average time taken to approve a foster carer (from 227 days to 170 days)
- Has contributed within children’s services to weekly cost savings of over £30,000 (equivalent to an annual saving of £1.5 million)
The overall result has been increased stability and more positive long-term outcomes for children and young people in care. We have hugely increased the sufficiency and choice of local care placements, doubling the number of new families who are opening their hearts and homes to children and young people in care, enabling them to continue to go to school in their community, and stay in contact with their friends and family.
We will continue to build on the positive progress made with the Family Values programme which among other things reminded us of the importance of meaningful peer support. This has prompted a new pilot project, Foster Families United. This pilot is currently running with four families; one family acts as a lead carer, providing support to the other families through supported sleepovers when needed. So far, the signs are really encouraging in terms of improved placement stability, relationships and support; a full evaluation will take place in November 2019.
The Family Values Project Team has recently been named as the winners of the council’s Pride Award for Outstanding Contribution to our Communities 2019.