Agenda item

Fostering Service Annual Report 2020-21 - Report and Presentation by Strategic Manager Resources


The Panel received the Fostering Service Annual Report for 2020-21 presented by Claire Morris, Strategic Manager for Resources (for copy of report and presentation see file). 


The Strategic Manger spoke of the competitive nature of foster care recruitment and informed the Panel of improvements made to the marketing campaign which is taking a more targeted and personalised approach. In addition, the service has embraced virtual ways of working and is using social media in order to reach a wider audience and increase accessibility.  The campaign is also seeking to dispel myths around foster caring and to promote open dialogue around aspects which are often difficult to discuss, such as finance.  The campaign seeks to highlight the unique selling points that Durham has to offer, such as the wide support offer available. The service has recognised that some of the processes involved in becoming a foster carer can be onerous and steps have been taken to streamline these processes and increase the support available. The Strategic Manager referred the Panel to links included in the presentation to local radio campaigns which were aired during fostering fortnight and she thanked all those involved in their production, including Caitlyn and the young people of the CiCC.  The Strategic Manager then explained the Family Finding activity which supports foster families to promote stability and prevent unplanned moves. Through this, families are supported and encouraged to consider the challenges ahead. 


In addition, the training offer has been updated with increased investment and a tailor-made programme for foster carers, with the programme being designed in consultation with foster carers and children and young people.  Alongside this, is an improved data recording system to inform service plans for the future. 


The Strategic Manager concluded by outlining the priorities for the future including the continuation of recruitment of, and support for, foster carers, preventing unplanned moves, improving management oversight and promoting the voice of the child.


The Strategic Manager responded to questions and comments as follows.


The Vice-Chair asked if there was information available as to why some people enquire about fostering but decide not to take the enquiry further.  The Strategic Manager pointed out that a number of enquiries are made by  competitors who are merely gathering information about Durham’s offer. Others approach the service for information with a view to becoming a foster carer at some point in the future.  Some are not able to make lifestyle changes required, such as giving up smoking. The Strategic Manager stressed the importance of monitoring the data in relation to the drop-off rate, which is not a cause for concern at present and it is hoped that the improved marketing strategy will provide better information and answer some questions so that prospective foster carers and make an informed choice, prior to the initial point of enquiry.


Heather McFarlane spoke from experience when supporting foster carers and commented that some health aspects, such as sexual health were areas of concern on a frequent basis. Referring to foster carer training, she asked whether the training involves local / national health providers and experts.  The Strategic Manager explained that training includes input from experts and links with health colleagues with regard to training and marketing, however this is under constant review to ensure needs are met.


Councillor Miller observed that the drop-off rate in 2020-21 is worse than in the previous year and asked how many foster carers the service would like to recruit.  The Strategic Manager pointed out that the pandemic had been a uniquely challenging time and many people had been re-evaluating their lives and looking at different avenues, including fostering, without following through at the present time.  However, the analysis of data indicates there is no suggestion that the marketing message is lacking.  With regard to the number of foster carers, this is managed through analysing the number of foster carers leaving the service and the number of children and young people entering the care system and this informs the number of foster carers that are required to be recruited. 

There is, however, no upper limit to the amount of foster carers recruited, therefore applications for new foster carers will always be accepted.


With regard to training, Councillor Hunt emphasised the power of hearing the experiences of young people who have lived happily with foster families and how they have gone on to achieve great success as adults.


Councillor Gunn thanked the Strategic Manager for the comprehensive report and said that one of the most compelling marketing campaigns she recalls is one in which an officer, whose family included foster children, spoke of the  positive experience.  Councillor Gunn also highlighted the importance of learning from and mentoring by experienced foster carers. 


The Strategic Manager agreed that success stories and personal experiences send a very powerful message, therefore they are being used in the marketing campaigns.  She added that a number of support sessions and groups are held with experienced foster carers and whilst virtual meetings are very useful, the value of learning from each other, in person, cannot be under estimated.




That the report be received.


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