In November 2017, Coram-i held a seminar as part of its project on Permanency Planning and Long Term Fostering, which is funded by the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.
The event brought together the four pilot sites involved in the project (Manchester City Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Slough Children’s Services Trust and Wandsworth Council), leading academics and practitioners.
The pilot sites shared their experiences of the work undertaken with Coram-i during the project so far and discussed the key themes emerging from the scoping phase. There were also presentations from key guest speakers:
- Using outcomes-based commissioning by Dr Mark Kerr, Managing Partner, Centre for Outcomes of Care
- What makes long term foster care a successful permanence option for children? by Professor Gillian Schofield, Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia
- Moving the discourse from placement type to placement purpose by Dr Lisa Holmes, Deputy Director, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford
- Thinking behind behaviour – supporting foster carers in the use of self to heal children and young people in foster care by Dr Lesley Hanney, Consultant Systemic Family Psychotherapist
The event also included an interview with a foster carer who shared her experience of being a permanent foster carer for two children, with whom she was matched through an Activity Day for Fostering.
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Dr Kerr provided an introduction to outcomes-based commissioning and why it is vital in children’s services. By drawing attention to the principles of outcome monitoring, he discussed how services can better evaluate ‘distance travelled’ and reflected on the challenges posed by more complex interventions where multiple agencies are involved at the same time.
Dr Kerr reiterated the importance of collecting data, particularly in regards to children and young people’s needs, in a robust, consistent and systematic way in order support an effective outcome-based commissioning approach.
Dr Kerr is lead partner at the Centre for Outcomes of Care and lectures at the University of Kent. Predominantly he is a researcher and strategist who specialises in the development of evidence-based service designs and associated outcome frameworks.
Professor Schofield looked at implications for long-term foster care practice both systemically for agencies and psychologically for children, foster and birth families. In particular, she explored the factors that contribute to making long term foster care a successful permanence option for children, including rigorous care planning and therapeutic secure base care provided by skilled professional carers who are also committed and emotionally invested parents.
Drawing from research, Professor Schofield reflected on what successful permanence in long-term foster care means to carers, children and birth families, and how careful consideration of how to manage contact with birth families and the support provided to foster carers are essential to enable children, adolescents and adults previously in long-term foster care to manage their multiple family identities.
Professor Schofield is based in the Centre for Research on Children and Families at the University of East Anglia. For 20 years her major research and publication focus has been on long-term foster care as a permanence option. Professor Schofield has a special interest in the role of attachment theory and the Secure Base model, developed with Dr Mary Beek.
Dr Holmes discussed whether defining placements by their purpose rather than type provides a meaningful analysis to inform thinking about the integration of children into a home or household.
Drawing on a recent evaluation of UK foster care, Dr Holmes also explored how a sense of belonging can impact on the placement change process and highlighted that a better understanding of placement moves is needed as these are not necessarily ‘negative’.
Dr Holmes is currently Deputy Director of the Rees Centre, University of Oxford and was previously the Director of the Centre for Child and Family Research, Loughborough University. Dr Holmes has nearly twenty years of research and evaluation experience in children’s social care to inform policy and practice.
Dr Hanney explored the importance of attachment and developmental trauma and their impact on a child’s capacity to develop a strong sense of self and develop warm and nurturing relationships that sustain throughout life. She underlined the crucial role of good quality assessments, the work of the supervising social workers and the essential role of foster carers in healing these children and young people through their day-to-day relationships.
Dr Hanney discussed how structured, reflective groups led by a skilled and experienced moderator could support carers develop the skills necessary to relate to the foster child in a considered and nurturing way. She also reflected on the importance of establishing productive ‘Life Story’ narratives for children in foster care and presented ideas on how to support supervising social workers and foster carers can create healing relationships.
Dr Hanney is a Consultant Systemic Family Psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience in the area of child and adolescent mental health. She has a specialist interest in attachment and developmental trauma, having published several articles in this area.