This week, Foster Wales Bridgend is celebrating its first birthday, and reflecting on a year dedicated to improving foster care for children across Bridgend County Borough.
Foster Wales Bridgend is part of Foster Wales, the national network of not-for-profit fostering services, comprising the 22 local authority teams in Wales.
Over the last 12 months local authority foster carers have come together to provide vital support for vulnerable young people and parents, with 163 new fostering families formed.
However, there is still a need to recruit an estimated 700 new foster carers and families across Wales, all while the country faces a continuing cost-of-living crisis.
The Foster Wales team in Bridgend wants to encourage more people to take up fostering through their local authority, so children can remain in their local area, close to their friends and families and in their schools.
Latest statistics show that last year, 84 per cent of young people fostered by their local authority stayed in their immediate local area.
In comparison, 77 per cent of children cared for by commercial fostering agencies were moved out of their local area to find foster placements. Almost 6 per cent of children were moved out of Wales entirely.
Commercial agencies continue to come under fire for making a profit from care experienced children. Foster Wales Bridgend wants to support the Welsh Government in its aim to remove the profit element of the care system, ensuring young peoples’ interests remain at the heart of the process and offering stability to foster carers through long standing and experienced local authority teams.
Head of Foster Wales, Alastair Cope, said:
“Fostering with your local authority helps to keep children local, ensures local support for children and their foster carers, offers stability and longstanding knowledge for foster carers and removes profit from the care of children. Simply, for most people fostering, it is the best option.”
Cllr Jane Gebbie, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Social Services and Early Help said: “Our Bridgend foster team works alongside schools and children’s social workers to develop an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the specific opportunities or challenges in our local area. We are in this for the long term, for the right reasons, and most of all, for the children themselves.”
One foster carer who has made the move from agency to local authority is Amanda Wilkes.
She said: “I didn’t really know the difference between fostering with an agency and fostering with my local authority.
“When I was with an agency, I literally went nine months without even being offered a child to care for, so I just felt redundant really.
“Since we decided to go with Foster Wales, we’ve been more or less non-stop for 10 years. You are given horror stories by the agencies about the lack of support from local authorities but that hasn’t been the case at all. I have had a lot of support and advice from the local authority and other parents in the area.”
Over the next year, Foster Wales Bridgend is committed to making foster care even better for children and those who care for them, by:
- continuing to develop and improve consistent support and rewards for foster carers
- giving carers the financial support they need to provide opportunities and stability for children
- developing dedicated support based on good practice happening around Wales and elsewhere.
- listening to care experienced young people and working with like-minded organisations to support them and make further improvements to Foster Wales Bridgend
- listening to foster carers by including the whole team in developing and shaping our plans and priorities for the future
- providing a personal learning plan to develop and equip carers with all the skills they need, to provide the best quality care for young people
- continuing best practice for matching, by having a wide pool of foster families to choose the best fit for both the foster carer and the child. Even when placements are made in an emergency, enabling social workers to introduce the child to their foster carer before being welcomed into the home.
To find out more about fostering in Bridgend County Borough visit https://bridgend.fosterwales.gov.wales or call 01443 425007