Listening to children’s voices key to improving fostering care practice, says Coram-I report

Published: Thursday 5th November 2020

The evaluation report of a Coram-i project that has made a positive difference to improving the experience of children in foster care in four partner local authorities has been published today by the Department for Education as part of the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.

Coram-i permanency planning and long-term fostering report sets out recommendations for best practice for delivery of long term foster care for children. A significant proportion of children in care have suffered abuse and neglect and most are placed in foster care, sometimes for significant periods of their childhood. Finding the right foster home for a child is a complex task, especially in the context of a national shortage of foster carers.

Working with four local authorities on steep improvement journeys, the Coram-i team supported the LAs in addressing issues around staff turnover, data quality and structural inefficiencies, helping them to realise the potential to improve those children’s experience through better practice.

This project placed a senior social work consultant and a data analyst in each LA. Bespoke analysis was done in partnership with each LA to formulate action plans that were driven by LA managers, supported by the Coram-i team. The methodology was essentially based on problem solving at a case-level and systemically, to drive actions in relation to the recruitment of foster carers and quality of permanency planning. Delay was seen as costly for the child primarily - but also for the public purse.

A system of tracking children’s journeys and social worker performance in relation to case work was put in place in order to identify issues that need resolving. As LAs improved their internal systems, this tracking became less time intensive but has remained in use in its essential form.

Independent evaluation by the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations found that the project:

  • had a positive impact on the timeliness and quality of permanency planning;
  • shifted the culture of the LAs’ services to be more child-focused, more strategic and data-informed in how they operated; and
  • improved foster carer recruitment and support.

Kevin Yong, Managing Director, Coram-i, said: “Seeing children move to a placement and having support to do so is rewarding to individual social workers and for children it is the very essence of their journey to resilience. Allowing the child’s voice to be heard was also part of the methodology, by listening to what they said and what those who cared for them conveyed. Coram’s own surveys via Bright Spots served to inform the LAs of the experience of the children in their care more generally.

“Coram-i’s approach benefits from a multi-professional team of consultants and views achieving ‘permanence’ for a child as much more than finding a placement: dependent on applying appropriate project management principles in order to advocate for and secure the right resources at the optimum time in a child’s life in order to reduce later distress.”

Coram-i continues to work with LAs in the arena of adoption, foster care and children in care more generally. Most recently we have been recruiting and assessing foster carers for Croydon Council and helping re-integrate that service back into Croydon’s own fostering service after a period of being outsourced.

The full evaluation report can be downloaded here

For more information on Coram-i contact its Managing Director, Kevin Yong.