Pioneering project to support carers seeks long-term funding
A hugely successful project that has helped foster carers across England to have a stronger voice in their local communities is seeking new funding.
Established in 2006, the Foster Care Association Project, run by charity the Fostering Network, has helped develop 41 new foster care associations (FCAs) – more than doubling the total number across the country – as well as strengthening the impact of existing groups.
FCAs are important local organisations set up and run by foster carers, usually in partnership with their fostering service, offering peer support and a collective, representative voice for foster families.
Over the last three years the project team has advised FCAs on major issues such as allegations against foster carers and negotiating improved allowances and pay, making a big difference to the lives of foster carers and the children in their care.
Through the project, FCAs have been able to establish regional networks so that their foster carers can share best practice and explore ways to solve some of the challenges they face. There have also been national conferences and training sessions, opportunities for foster carers to lobby local and national governments, and publications and guides made available on how to set up and fund a FCA.
The project was set up with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which is about to come to an end. The Fostering Network has received a new grant from the John Ellerman Foundation, which will enable some work to continue, and is looking for further funding to secure the long-term future of the project.
Project co-ordinator Fiona Healey said; "Foster care associations play a vital role in supporting the great work done by thousands of foster carers across England, and ultimately help to improve the lives of children and young people in foster care.
"This project has raised the ambitions of FCAs, helping them to have a stronger and more authoritative voice, with more formal support networks leading to higher standards of foster care. FCAs across the country would like to see the project continue and we are actively seeking the further funding needed."
Eric Mole, chair of the Cheshire FCA, said: "The Fostering Network’s project offered us essential support to get our association off the ground. As an association we have helped bring together foster carers from all over the county to share information and opinions and bring about positive change at a local and national level. That improves things for us and for the children we look after.
"This project is essential to stop foster carers feeling isolated and involve them more in decisions about their work and fostering in general – if all foster carers in all parts of the country were to establish associations we would become a formidable body to be taken notice of, considered and consulted."
Achievements and aspirations – foster care in the 21st century, the national conference that will round up the project in its current form, will run from 26 to 27 July in central London.