Foster carers in Northumberland were praised by councillors, as it was underlined that recruitment and retention remain a priority.
The 2017-18 report of the county council’s fostering service, which was presented at last week’s meeting of the family and children’s services committee, revealed that there had been a ‘slight reduction’ in carers.
However, Liz Spaven, the council’s senior manager for family placements, said that this wasn’t always a negative thing, for example, where foster carers have retired, having moved a young person onto independent living, or have adopted children.
And despite the decrease in the total of approved carers, the number of children in mainstream foster-care placements has increased over the past four years from 109 in 2014-15 to 164 last year.
The council has also been successful in continuing to reduce its reliance on fostering agency placements, which place a significant financial burden on the authority. There were 57 children in placements in 2017-18, down from 95 in 2014-15.
Ongoing challenges include finding placements for sibling groups and children who need long-term placements, although work on the latter has had an impact.
Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those foster carers in Northumberland who step up to the plate and look after our young people.
“We should acknowledge, welcome and celebrate the amount of people in our county who are willing to step up and help young people who have had a pretty awful start in life.”
Coun Mark Swinburn added: “It doesn’t really bear thinking about if you didn’t have those foster carers, what would happen to those children.”
The committee also received the 2017-18 report of the council’s adoption service, which is the last of its kind as the new regional adoption agency, Adopt North East, went live on Monday (December 3).
Coun Daley said: “There’s good stuff about Northumberland bucking the trend in terms of time-scales between children entering care and being adopted.
“Part of the reason for the new adoption agency is that it aims to deal with that, because problems become greater the longer someone is in the care system.”
It was highlighted that the council is missing the Government targets in relation to these time-scales, but Cath McEvoy-Carr, the authority’s executive director for children’s services, said that it’s also important to pay attention to individual scenarios and do what’s best for the young people in each case.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service