A new, innovative project, called Stepping Stones, has been launched by Shropshire Council Children’s service in a bid to find foster carers for some of the most vulnerable children in Shropshire. Stepping Stones offers a new career to people that have experience, either past or present, in jobs ranging from teachers and teaching assistants to nurses and carers.
This flexible new job will see foster carers earning up to £750 a week plus additional allowances and will focus on young people that are currently in children’s residential homes, or maybe on the edge of care and need support in foster care. Stepping Stones provides young people with the steps needed to go into a permanent foster care home, or return home to the care of their family under the right circumstances and allows them, and their carers, to form a relationship first.
A spokesperson from Shropshire Council said: “This is a new way of becoming a foster carer, which sees us moving away from making a quick phone call to place a child – instead we are looking at more robust planning for placements. We will be giving young people and carers the chance to meet up and get to know each other before they are placed in a foster home.
“This leads to more consistency for the child in care, instead of them having their situation change regularly. Instead, they gradually spend more and more time with foster carers until they’re ready to be fostered full time.”Foster carers on the Stepping Stones project will need to have specialist skills, and be used to supporting young people with complex needs and challenging behaviour. Carers will receive extensive training to ensure placements are successful and sustainable. There will also be an excellent support package in place which will also include out of hours support and guidance from a team of experienced professionals.
The council spokesperson said: “We are rewarding foster carers that have a key skillset and will be looking at those already in professions such as teachers, nurses and carers – anyone that is resilient and used to working with young people. We are searching for people that want a change of career to foster caring – it’s an alternative to employment that comes with a lot of positives. One of those positives is knowing that they are transforming the lives of children that need care, stability and safety. We will also look favourably on those that have experience as a foster carer, or people that have worked in children’s residential home.”
According to Ofsted, a record number of prospective fosterers in the UK made inquiries between April 2020 and March 2021. However, out of the 160,635 initial inquiries just 6% of these (10,145) led to formal applications. This is an all-time low and the number of available foster carers in England is not keeping up with demand for places for vulnerable children.
“All of the carers will get help from the Stepping Stones project with out-of-hours support in the evenings and weekends for when they get a challenging moment,” said the council spokesperson. “Ideally we are looking at carers that are living in Shropshire and are prepared to make a long-term commitment to the project. We don’t want to have the young people move too far away – we want this to be Shropshire people supporting Shropshire children.
“At Shropshire Council we are proud to be at the leading edge of fostering. We have an innovative team, and our leaders have a forward-thinking approach, which means they are prepared to invest in services to ensure the best outcomes for the young people in their care.
“We are looking forward to chatting with future carers and telling them more about this fantastic new project that could change their lives, and the lives of many vulnerable children in Shropshire.”
For a chat about how you could be involved in the Stepping Stones project call 0800 783 8798. Alternatively visit www.shropshirefostering.co.uk.