After over 60 years of service to vulnerable children, Caritas Trustees have decided the time has come to close this element of their children and family services. Caritas has applied to Ofsted, the regulating body to close by the end of September 2020.
Caritas Diocese of Salford Fostering Service was established in 1956 under Home Office guidance. It was founded to respond to the needs of children in the Diocese of Salford with the aim of providing family life for children who cannot live with their birth parents. Caritas have assisted Local Authorities to provide a wider choice of placements reflecting the diverse needs of Looked After Children and young people. During this 60 year provision, Caritas have offered hundreds of children a place of safety within a loving foster family. However, in the last few years have seen a decline in the number of foster carers wanting to take this important and demanding role. This reduction along with the retirement of carers has meant that the Trustees have regrettably decided to formally close the service, as it is no longer viable. This will mean that the current carers will transfer to either another independent foster care agency or a local authority.
This closing echo’s a national picture. The Fostering Network (2019) study notes that the age of the average foster carer is increasing and there is an overall decline in foster carers numbers as they retire is the same across the UK. Becoming a foster carer is seen as a professional career choice, one which requires significant resilience and commitment on the part of the carer in terms of training, engagement and a commitment to the support and well-being of the children they look after. The pandemic has further compounded this as carers have been self-isolating from their own families and communities and potential new carers are reluctant to start this process in the current climate.
Caritas has been fortunate to have some very experienced key persons as part of the fostering panel, who make decisions to approve foster carers and placements. Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Diocese of Salford said, ‘I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has played a part in the delivery of such an excellent service over the years. This includes foster parents, panel members, the Congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph, staff and of course the children we serve. Our continued and ongoing support will be available for carers and children as they transition to their new arrangements.’
Caritas will continue to offer a suite of services across the children and family arena including the Post Adoption service, parent and child accommodation in Blackburn and Bolton and the Caritas Schools’ Service.