A substantial number of children and young people are placed in local authority care as a result of maltreatment, which can take many forms (for example physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence and abuse). Many children suffer combinations of different forms of abuse and neglect and, as a result, experience the kind of care-giving in which key nurturing experiences are missing. In maltreated children, the child's primary attachment figure (usually the parent) is likely to be unavailable at times of need and may also be the cause of extreme fear and distress. This can lead to the development of insecure or disorganised attachment patterns and have an impact on brain development, which can in turn lead to impaired development.
When children arrive in their placement, they will already have established behaviour patterns, based on their early experiences, to deal with distress. These behaviour patterns will have helped children survive in very difficult situations, but can mean that they are not equipped to take advantage of good quality, loving care. High quality, sensitive and nurturing care is needed to give these children the best chance of recovering from their earlier adversities. They need to be cared for by well-trained and supportive and adults, with whom they can develop appropriate attachments and make positive relationships. Carers need to be able to recognise coping behaviours and support the child or young person to move on from these.
The majority of looked-after children and young people are placed with foster carers. It is essential, therefore, that local authorities have effective foster carer recruitment processes that identify their potential to be warm, nurturing carers. Looked-after children and young people are not a homogenous group and their characteristics (such as age, ethnicity) vary between local authorities. Local authorities should gather accurate information on the demographics of their population of looked-after children to make sure that foster carer recruitment campaigns are targeted at potential carers who can meet the needs of the looked-after children and young people in their locality. Alongside this, local authorities should think about what warm, nurturing care means for different groups. For example, the care needed for a baby or toddler is different to that of an adolescent. There needs to be a sufficient range of carers who have the skills or potential to care for different groups of looked-after children and young people.
As well as recruiting new foster carers, it is also important to retain and support existing carers, including those providing kinship care. Carers may need help to understand their children and the impact of abuse and neglect on their behaviour. The more carers understand the impact of abuse and neglect on children and young people, the more likely they are to be able to offer the nurturing care that is needed to help children recover self-esteem, resilience and trust. Thus, carers need to have a package of support built into the placement. This is particularly important for carers of children and young people who have complex needs.
A significant minority of children are cared for in residential homes. It is important that children are placed in homes that are best able to meet their needs and that the staff provide a positive, supportive and caring environment. As with foster carers, staff in children's homes should be trained and supported to create and maintain such an environment.
Links to Ofsted Judgements
This statement links to the following Ofsted judgements:
'Professionals and carers, who know them [children and young people] well, develop positive relationships with them and are committed to protecting them and promoting their welfare.'
'Children and young people are helped to develop secure primary attachments with the adults caring for them.'
'The placement of children and young people into homes and families that meet their needs is effective because there is a comprehensive range and choice available.'
'The recruitment, assessment, training, support, supervision, review and retention of foster carers including kinship carers (connected persons) and, as appropriate, special guardians, ensures that families are safe and sufficient in number to care for children and young people with a wide range of needs. This enables children to be placed with their brothers and sisters and have contact with their birth family and friends when it is in their best interests.'
Tips, tools and practice examples
Suggestions for evidence that could be collected to assess performance against this quality statement include:
- the views of children and young people
- carer satisfaction and support
- how complaints are dealt with
- measures such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)
- placement stability and breakdown
- school attendance and educational attainment
Evidence should always include feedback from children and young people.
This Department for Education web page provides information on The Foster Carers' Charter. There is also a link to the Fostering Network: Putting the Charter into practice.
This guide shows how resources produced by the Fostering Network can be used to support new foster carers through the Training, Support and Development Standards. It is a useful reference for assessing and supervising social workers (login required for access).
This web page provides information that may be helpful to providers of services, local authorities and other people who work with children, young people, families and foster carers. It includes a link to a resource on being an effective foster carer, as well as a link to training materials to support organisations in implementing the revised regulations and guidance. There is also a link to Delegation of authority, which provides guidance on delegation of decision making about looked-after children to their carers.
This Department for Education web page provides information on the legal framework for the running of fostering services. It is relevant to local authorities and independent fostering services, as well as to commissioners. It includes links to Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, a note on foster children sharing a bedroom in the foster home and National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services.
This guide aims to help foster care practitioners provide positive experiences by enabling them to think creatively about their work. The web page has a number of sections, including the recruitment, training and retention of foster carers. It also provides links to legislation and practice examples.
Improving Outcomes for Fostered Children and Young People - this website provides videos of a series of seminars, including How does foster care work? Improving outcomes and wellbeing through support and training in parenting.
The National Children's Bureau (NCB) website includes a report on how to embed creativity in the lives of looked-after children and young people: People with Passion. There is also a resource for foster carers and others who want to encourage and support looked-after children to engage in arts, play and creative activities, as part of an ordinary nurturing care relationship: Fostering a Creative Relationship.
This resource from research in practice includes a briefing on attachment in children and young people as well as an accompanying reference chart that summarises key signs or behaviours associated with different attachment patterns. (login required for access)
This Department for Education web page provides a number of links to information on children's homes. It includes links to Children Act 1989 guidance and regs vol 5: Children's homes, Children's homes data pack and Induction Standards for those working in children's homes. There is a link to Sufficiency - Statutory guidance on securing sufficient accommodation for looked-after children, which requires local authorities to take reasonably practicable steps that secure sufficient accommodation for looked-after children
Involving children and young people in developing social care, produced by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, provides social care organisations with a framework for systematically developing the effective participation of children and young people in the design, delivery and review of their services.
The Backing the Future report from Action for Children and the New Economics Foundation demonstrates the economic and social case for developing preventative services and emphasises the need to involve children in this process. Two supplemental guides, A guide to co-producing children's services and A guide to measuring children's wellbeing provide information on involving children in service development and measurement.