FosterTalk Independent Review

In 2020 FosterTalk commissioned Dr. Carolyn Blackburn and Dr. Elaine Matchett from Birmingham City University to compile an independent review of our services and our role in the retention of foster carers.

The research included over 400 online respondents and interviews with FosterTalk members and a representative from the Dfe.  Carers were asked about their experiences of fostering, FosterTalk membership services, and how we can continue to improve our services and deliver market-leading support for our members.

FosterTalk CEO, Daniel Croft shares his thoughts on the Independent Review

Many children can spend years, and sometimes their whole childhoods, living with foster families, receiving the stability and support that all children need growing up.

Fostering provides a safe haven for children and young people for as long as they need it, and it allows social work professionals to work on the best outcome for the child or children involved. It continues to provide a positive, long-term substitute family experience for thousands of children and adds a huge amount of social value to society. 

The decision to foster is life-changing for foster carers their families and ultimately the children they will end up caring for. We understand this is not a decision taken lightly and are proud to be able to support foster families on every step of their journey from pre-approval through to retirement. 

The aim of this research is to undertake an independent evaluation of FosterTalk membership services and the role these play in the retention of foster carers for fostering services. This research will allow services to shape future recruitment and retention of foster carers by better anticipating and responding to their needs and motivations. 

This report shows that foster carers value the services they receive from FosterTalk and details a road map for improvement. FosterTalk will use the outcomes from this report to reflect on our practises, improve our services, and in turn improve the support we provide to the fostering community.

     Daniel Croft, CEO FosterTalk

The review highlighted key findings from FosterTalk members, including:

Foster carers’ views and experiences of fostering

  • Foster carers are motivated to provide safe and nurturing environments for children and you people
  • Carers describe their roles as:

Personally satisfying – derived from children’s achievements and rewarding behaviour

Challenging – challenges arise from challenging behaviour, relationships with birth parents, other professionals, and allegations.

  • Lack of support from other professionals in allegation situations is one of the most likely reasons for foster cares to consider leaving fostering.

Foster Carers’ views on FosterTalk membership

  • FosterTalk membership services were highly rated by survey respondents and interview participants.
  • Foster carers value the accountancy and tax advice service, the magazine and newsletters and support with allegations although not all foster carers were aware of the full range of membership benefits on offer.
  • Foster carers agree that information and advice from FosterTalk is useful; that staff are knowledgeable and helpful; that the information and advice they receive enables them to decide what to do next.
  • Resolutions to problems are progressed after contact with FosterTalk and that without FosterTalk there would be insufficient appropriate independent support for foster carers.
  • FosterTalk enhances the support provided by fostering service providers and these services cannot be accessed elsewhere.
  • In terms of foster carer wellbeing, foster carers agree that membership makes them feel valued; empowers them; is an important wellbeing resource for foster carers; helps to reduce the challenges of fostering; is crucial to the recruitment and retention of foster carers.

Allegations Support Team

A small percentage of respondents to the survey had used the foster carers independent Allegations Support Team (AST). Of those that had, they were able to resolve their issue and their confidence improved following an AST intervention. This increased the likelihood they would remain in fostering in the future.

The review gave clear recommendations on how FosterTalk can enhance its services. We have welcomed this feedback and have already started to make positive changes to our benefits and how we communicate with our members.

Key Recommendations

1. Review the discount scheme and ensure that discounts are relevant to members and that the scheme is easy to use.

Action:  Following feedback from our members we have introduced Max Card as our new discount provider, offering 1000’s of discounts on family days out and holidays.  This change has been very well received by our members.

2. Communicate with members about the full range of services available to them at the beginning of their membership and send frequent reminders.

Action: Our membership team hosts regular interactive online introductions and refresher sessions to ensure our members are aware of their full membership benefits and service and how to access them.

3. Newsletters and magazines should focus on the lived experiences of foster carers with examples of ways in which they have used the services and how they have benefitted from them.

Action: We are introducing a new column in our monthly newsletter featuring lived experience, practical advice, and stories from FosterTalk team member and Foster Carer, Lisa Scott.  We are also working with our brand ambassadors to share their stories through our magazine and members’ webinars as well as engaging with our members to hear their voice and share their experiences.

At FosterTalk we are committed to support those who care which is why your feedback is so important to us. If you would like to share any thoughts on our services or our team then please call us on 0121 758 5013 or email enquiries@fostertalk.org

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Written by Catherine T.