Project dates: April 2015- March 2016

Research team: Professor Gillian Schofield, Dr Mary Beek, Julie Young

Funder: Department for Education          

Context

The Department for Education (DfE) Young People’s Social Care Innovations Programme has funded a wide range of projects.  Evaluation of the outcomes is a key part of the investment in this programme. The CRCF was one of the research institutions who successfully applied for approval as part of the Innovations Programme Evaluation Framework and was selected by Match Foster Care to evaluate their project. Improving outcomes for children in foster care is an important aim for policy and practice development. 

Match Foster Care is an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) which was awarded funding to trial a new system for supporting long-term foster placements.  Support for foster care placements is usually provided both by the child’s local authority social worker and the agency supervising or fostering social worker.  The Innovations programme funding is for Match to develop a system in which the local authority relinquishes responsibility for the child social worker role to the IFA and both the child and the foster carers are supported by one IFA social worker. The children will also have access to an advocacy service.  In addition, DfE funding is supporting additional psychological and education support to achieve a ‘wraparound’ service. The aim of the Match project is to achieve a more effective system of support for the placement and to improve outcomes for children.

Aims  

  • To investigate different ways of organising social work services and support for long-term fostering placements.
  • To identify the elements of systems and practice that work well for long-term foster families and lead to good outcomes for children and young people in long-term foster care. 
  • To investigate how different structures and practice are experienced by children, foster carers and social workers.
  • To identify the practical and financial consequences of different divisions of responsibility between the independent fostering agency and the local authority.

Methods

  • The study will take place in two independent fostering agencies, Match and a comparison agency, Anglia Fostering Agency (AFA).
  • A sample of up to 20 young people and their foster carers will be identified by each agency.  The young people will all have a care plan for long-term or permanent fostering.
  • File data will be gathered on young peoples’ care pathways, decision making and the provision of services.
  • Measures of young people’s emotional and behavioural development and parenting stress will be completed twice during the study.
  • Young people, foster carers and supervising social workers will be interviewed about their experiences of the two different agency systems.
  • Focus groups will be held with children’s social workers and other professionals, in order to gain their perspectives on systems and practice in long-term foster care.