Rees Centre Seminar Series 2012/2013

Improving Outcomes for Fostered Children and Young People

Seminar One: Wednesday 21 November 2012
How does foster care work? Improving outcomes and wellbeing through support and training in parenting. Blog discussion..

Professor Stephen Scott, Professor of Child Health and Behaviour, Head National Specialist Adoption and Fostering Clinic, King’s College London
Stephen Scott spoke about the Fostering Changes Programme which is a UK-developed training specifically for British Foster Carers. Results from this trial demonstrate that this training provides the knowledge and practical skills that enable carers to enhance child behaviour and security. This should improve longer-term outcomes for looked after children and increase placement stability. The findings support DfE’s decision to roll-out the programme nationally, and provide evidence for its continued use.

Professor Kathy Sylva OBE, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Oxford
Building on earlier work, Kathy Sylva talked about her new research on implementing, testing, and rolling out a parent programme  – SPOKES. The programme works through partnership with parents who will support and extend the work of schools at home with their children. It is a 12-week group intervention that helps parents develop skills to support their children’s reading near the beginning of Key Stage 1. It has been effective in raising reading scores in a randomised controlled trial focused on children at risk of behaviour problems. Kathy invited the audience to consider the applicability of the SPOKES Literacy programme for foster parents.

Sara Worth, Manager for Fostering and Adoption, Bath and NE Somerset
Sara has been the registered manager of both the fostering and adoption services in Bath & North East Somerset for 11 years – prior to this Sara held similar roles in Dorset and Bournemouth. Sara considers it to be an honour to head up a team of dedicated workers and carers of a service which achieved Outstanding at the most recent Ofsted inspection.

Judy Sebba’s summary of key messages and questions from the seminar can be found on our blog.


Seminar Two: Wednesday 16 January 2013
What are we trying to achieve in foster care?   Blog discussion.

Permanence has been the dominant ‘paradigm’ in child placement practice and planning for children in care at case and policy levels in many jurisdictions. Professor Robbie Gilligan argued that while permanence clearly has many merits as a guiding principle, it risks obscuring important aspects of what might be termed the caring agenda in the lives of foster children and in the work and purpose of the carers. Professor Gilligan argued that we should be aiming to achieve social inclusion for young people in (and especially after) foster care. Professor Ian Sinclair took up the challenge posed by Professor Gilligan, examining how far existing research might contribute to a theory of foster care based on Social Inclusion, and what further research might take things forward. Shirley Trundle from the Families Group in the DfE responded giving a policy perspective.

An online discussion around this seminar can be found on our blog.


Seminar Three: Wednesday 20 February 2013
What can schools do to realise expectations? Blog discussion.

Children and young people in foster care are at risk of poorer educational outcomes, which may be exacerbated when changes in placement are accompanied by changes in school. In this session Professor Peter Pecora explored the evidence on academic pathways for young people in foster care and discussed some of the factors that predict educational success. His recommendations included the need for service providers to maximise stability and support, and to work with young people’s strengths as well as addressing their barriers to learning. Professor David Berridge expanded on this to discuss how the educational achievements of looked after children can be understood within the wider educational attainment literature. Why are some pupils low attainers and what specific factors apply to looked after children? How do we address the concerns of adolescents separated from their families? The discussion was set within recent policy initiatives in England. Child psychologist Dr Peter McParlin responded, giving a practice perspective.

An online discussion around this seminar can be found on our blog.


Seminar Four: Wednesday 20 March 2013
Leaving care: outcomes for fostered young people. Blog discussion.

Professor Mike Stein is Research Professor at the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. His presentation explored young people’s transitions from care to adulthood. It began by setting transitions from care in a normative context, highlighting differences between care leavers and young people moving on from their families. The presentation then focussed upon young people’s main pathways to adulthood – accommodation, careers, and health and well-being – drawing out the policy and practice issues arising from research findings.

Professor Sonia Jackson OBE is Emeritus Professor of Social Studies and Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. Sonia’s presentation argued that the care system is failing young people in three interrelated areas: stability in placement, educational progress and transition to adulthood.  A comparative study (YiPPEE) of England and four other European countries highlights the weaknesses, and some strengths, in our own system. It shows that in all countries children in state care suffer delay and disruption in their education for which the care system fails to compensate, and which puts them at high risk of social exclusion in adulthood. This needs an unremitting focus on education (in its broadest sense) from the first day that a child comes into care right through to adulthood. Leaving care services should take a longer view and prioritise educational engagement over self-sufficiency.

Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Solihull Council and Chair of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), responded with a policy perspective.

An online discussion around this seminar can be found on our blog.