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LGA - Positive progress for children in care

Research shows that foster care helps children do better at school, council leaders are highlighting as Foster Care Fortnight moves into its second week.

With stable and caring foster families central to that progress, the Local Government Association, which represents over 370 councils, is calling on residents to consider whether they can provide loving homes to children.

Researchers at the Rees Centre University of Oxford and University of Bristol, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that the stability provided by carers helped children to achieve consistently better results when compared to children living with their families while receiving social work support, particularly when that care started early, challenging suggestions that care contributes to poor educational attainment. The school performance of children in care is often compared to that of all children, ignoring the trauma, disrupted early education and lack of support that they may have suffered in the past. Instead, councils argue, the progress made by pupils should be considered, as well as their final exam results.

A key finding of the research focused on the support around a child in care. Young people interviewed in the study spoke highly of the importance of having someone who genuinely cared about them, and who would not let them down, as may have happened in the past. Teachers and school staff were also key motivators for children.

The Fostering Network highlights that a child comes into care in need of a foster family every 20 minutes in the UK; 9,070 new families will be needed in the next 12 months alone . With the Government recently committing to accepting more unaccompanied children from Europe, the need for foster carers will be even greater, so councils are calling for those interested in looking after children to come forward to find out more.

Councillor Roy Perry, Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Looking after children is one of the most important jobs a council does and being able to rely on trusted foster parents to provide care and a loving family to vulnerable children is paramount. With increasing demand, councils are constantly encouraging more people to open up their homes and offer support.

"It's always discouraging when suggestions arise that children in care suffer when it comes to their education, simply because their exam results might not be as high. Children who have experienced exceptionally difficult early years should be encouraged to strive to achieve as highly as any other child, but must also be supported and given the space to work through those early experiences. Focusing on the progress that looked after children make, rather than their final grades, is one way to take those experiences into account.

"A stable, caring foster family can make the world of difference to a child in need, providing them with the right environment to thrive at school and experience the childhood they deserve. This research highlights the value of that support, with children who may have experienced all kind of suffering and neglect responding well to the nurturing, encouragement and sense of belonging that's provided by a good foster family.

"For anyone considering opening up their home to a child who needs it, local councils provide lots of training and support, from the first contact right through any future placements, so I would strongly urge people to get in touch with their council to find out how they can help."

Notes to Editors

  1. Foster Care Fortnight™ is The Fostering Network's annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering.
  2. Rees Centre Research: Sebba, J., Berridge, D., Luke, N., Fletcher, J., Bell, K., Strand, S., Thomas, S., Sinclair, I. and O'Higgins A. The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England: Linking Care and Educational Data. Oxford and Bristol: The Rees Centre and University of Bristol. The study was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, although the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. Copies of this report, three technical reports and further information can be obtained from: http://reescentre.education.ox.ac.uk/
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