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Improving the future of foster care – from a new Form F to a National Fostering Strategy

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CoramBAAF’s Form F is the tool most widely used to assess prospective foster carers in the UK. As part of our commitment to reflect progress and developments across the sector Form F required a thorough revision. For 15 months a group of foster carers, care experienced people, social workers and fostering panel members have helped us to revise the assessment of prospective foster carers. One aim has been to make the experience of being assessed more positive for prospective foster carers by focusing on individuals’ strengths. Another key development has been to focus on what a child will need from a foster carer. We have included a series of bold statements that unpack what every child in care needs, starting with, ‘I need all aspects of my identity to be understood, respected and celebrated, so that I can feel proud of who I am.’

We are testing an updated form for the next six months ahead of launching this nationally early in 2025. Nine local authorities and three independent fostering agencies, have committed to using the revised Form F to assess applicants over the next six months. The enthusiasm and excitement to test this new tool from social workers and managers in the pilots is palpable, as demonstrated in feedback shared during the launch of the pilots:

‘This is a huge improvement, using language of the child will really help to explore if carers do have the skills and what it takes to meet the child’s needs.’

‘The form is really positive in terms of the child’s voice. This will definitely help assessors and also makes it easier to link to the secure base and the National Minimum Standards.’

‘I feel excited about using the form and also I am thinking about how it could be used with approved foster carers. The statements about the child’s needs are simple yet exactly right for getting currently approved foster carers to revisit what the child they are caring for actually needs from them.’

Improving practice when assessing foster carers is one important change, for which there is extensive positivity. But a great deal more needs to change to increase the consistency of experiences for foster carers and the consistency of support offered by fostering services.

Foster carers are one of the greatest resources that a local authority has and arguably the only resource that independent fostering agencies have. Appropriately investing in and supporting them would seem logical. Many fostering services and agencies do this by providing innovative and creative packages of support for foster carers. Sadly though, for foster carers this means the support on offer varies greatly depending on where they live. This creates unnecessary tensions between foster carers and fostering communities which subsequently impacts retention.

Too many foster carers are weighing up today whether they can keep fostering tomorrow. This reality is catastrophic for the rapidly increasing number of children needing to live in an alternative family, whether temporarily or permanently. The numbers of foster carers resigning is higher than the number of foster carers being recruited as the Ofsted fostering data set reports, “In 2022 to 2023, more mainstream households deregistered (5,125) than were approved (4,080). This led to a net decrease in the number of fostering households”. Inequity is a serious threat to retaining foster carers. Many foster carers leave because of failing support systems, changing social workers, financial instability, burnout and not being treated as an equal part of the team.

We know that the best care for children is built on consistent, secure and nurturing foster family experiences. Unhelpfully, consistency as a value does not yet go both ways for foster carers. There is, however,  a way in which greater consistency could be established via a National Fostering Strategy. This would need to be implemented by central government to provide a more equitable and stable environment that foster carers deserve. With a general election six weeks away whoever is elected the message remains the same, we need a National Fostering Strategy to improve experiences for foster carers and the children they are caring for. A National Fostering Strategy could consider a number of things, including, access to a social worker for support outside office hours, a framework to bring greater equity for fees and allowances, retainers paid to foster carers needing to rest or grieve after a child moves on, access to therapeutic support groups, and a voice at the table when a child they love and look after is being discussed and key life decisions are being made about their future.

The contributions to revising Form F have been achieved through collaborative working between local authorities and independent fostering agencies. Changes to Form F will make a difference in practice but we need an even bigger shift at a national level to make the changes that foster carers and the children they care for urgently need.


Emma Fincham, Fostering Consultant, CoramBAAF