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NFCQ A ground breaking game changer for foster care

Welcome to the NFCQ

The NFCQ bring you a groundbreaking game-changer for foster care

Author: Sarah Anderson, Co-founder

We are thrilled to launch the National Foster Carers Qualifications (NFCQ), a groundbreaking new education and support pathway for foster carers. The NFCQ is a non-profit organisation, a labour of love developed over the last couple of years by a dedicated group of individuals to transform standards of foster care and outcomes for children. A shared vision to elevate ambitions for our children beyond the basic ‘meeting needs’ to aspirational and to deliver long-term stability and loving family homes.”

The NFCQ groundbreaking education pathway provides new and existing foster carers with a comprehensive education from Foundation to Advanced, including trauma-informed therapeutic care at all levels, something I am sure we all now agree is critical to the fostering role, and without which children find themselves bounced around the system between fostering families unable to cope with, or understand the child’s trauma.

Just one glance at the government statistics will demonstrate we are not where we need to be, only 7% of foster children pass GCSEs compared to 40% of their non-looked-after peers, care leavers comprise 25% of the homeless, 24% of the prison population and over 40% of care leavers are not in education, employment or training. Whilst I acknowledge the complexities and variables of these statistics, there is no doubt that quality and standard of care is a major contributors to these figures. We also have a fostering sector that seems set up for younger children that does not easily accommodate teenagers with few carers feeling qualified or supported enough to work with and care for adolescents.

Foster care is a devolved sector, each fostering service works within the Government’s statutory framework, but other than the mandatory Training, Support and Development Standards (TSDS) introduced by the Department of Education as part of a national strategy to “raise the profile of foster carers as valued professionals” the education of foster carers is left up to each fostering service.

Over the years it has grown into a vast patchwork of training from a myriad of sources, and whilst it’s not all bad and many fostering services do place value on foster carer training there is much to improve, training is sketchy and varies in quality and quantity. And whilst it has been deeply affected by budget deficits, staff turnover, COVID and more, we must remember children in care are not there to ‘practice’ or ‘learn on’ and whilst of course experience builds, as it does with anyone in children’s services, it should not start at zero.

You will find the 3-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course used by the majority of services for new recruits has for a long time been recognised by many in the sector, including foster carers themselves, as inadequate to prepare new foster carers for the complex role ahead.

According to The Social Market Foundation, there is little data about the people caring for the large majority of looked-after children “Foster carers are not assessed by Ofsted and there is no national strategy for assessing whether their skills, qualifications and experience meet the needs of the range of children who need fostering”. 

Consequently, with no way to measure the education, qualifications, skills and experience of foster carers, no meaningful data, no benchmark, and no standardisation, we have no idea which carers are equipped to meet which children’s needs and no way to know when placing or matching a child if their needs will be met. 

The SMF calls for an increased understanding of these figures and a better measurement of the relative effectiveness of public and private fostering providers, this is something the NFCQ will deliver. 

The recent Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (2022) identified three key areas to improve foster care; recruitment, training and support. The NFCQ has the power to open up the recruitment market to a wider demographic by attracting those who may not have previously considered fostering and will equip all new carers with the skills they need to undertake such a critical role. It will also help prevent 1 in 3 new carers from being de-registered within 12-18 months finding themselves overwhelmed by a task they were not prepared for.

Retaining foster carers is as crucial as recruiting them, recent research by the Fostering Network (2023) found current foster carers were not “receiving sufficient support” or “feeling valued and respected by fostering services” and wanted to be “treated as an equal member of the professional team caring for a child”. Giving foster carers their own bespoke qualification and NFCQ Groups will value their practice and provide peer support, and demonstrate recognition of the vital skilled role they play.

Integrated into the pathway are the pioneering NFCQ Groups. The Independent Review of Foster Care (2018) stated “Professional support to carers is important, but so is peer support, carers often rated it as more important than professional support”. These groups have been developed to recognise the positive impact of peer support, facilitated by trained coordinators they will harness the power of relational reflective work and examine how theory translates to practice, they will enable foster carers to connect and build strong networks in the wider context, including links for respite and vital support from peers who’s expertise, knowledge and experience is grounded in practice.

It is often suggested that educating foster carers to a higher standard and treating them professionally would somehow detract from, or change the concept of, the loving fostering family home. However, I and many others argue that foster carers who have a higher degree of education and understanding, specifically around trauma-informed care, will be better equipped to work with the abuse, neglect, separation and loss children have suffered, be better trained to understand the effects of trauma and provide appropriate support and care to help children heal and thrive, it is with these foundations in place that you are then able to build stable loving homes.

Introducing quality education and qualifications can only enhance foster care, not detract from it, and one would have to ask the question; why would you not?

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