A little while ago, the West Sussex Fostering and Adoption Services were inspected by Ofsted and both were rated as ‘good’ with some ‘outstanding’ features.
There are currently proposals going through Parliament to speed up the adoption process, so I thought it timely to go and visit our team and see for myself the excellent work they do. The County Council has a small and productive team which plays a very important role.
Research shows that children thrive better with foster carers than in children’s homes, although there will always be a need for specialised children's homes in certain cases.
Children who are adopted have the opportunity to develop long-term stable family relationships. However, many of the children that need to be fostered or adopted are deeply troubled, having experienced verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse or in some awful cases a combination of all on a sustained basis.
To survive, these children have had to develop coping strategies well beyond their years and beyond what many will experience in their lifetime.
The reality is that when these children move from such difficult environments, it can take time to settle, adjust and build trust. They may exhibit challenging behaviour and be withdrawn, for them the fear of letting down their defences and taking a leap of faith in trusting someone is enormous.
These are real examples of the complexities that the Fostering and Adopting teams have to deal with, so it is down to them to ensure our foster carers and potential adoptive parents are aware of the issues, and are able to deal with whatever is thrown at them.
That is done in the initial recruitment process and with on-going training and support from our team. There is a lot of discussion at present about on-going support for adoptive parents and I think this has a strong and reasoned case.
For both the services and ourselves as Councillors, we need to ensure that the safeguarding of these children is paramount in all that we do at all times.
We currently have 337 foster carers doing a terrific job for the children they care for, and the satisfaction in helping these children is second to none.
As a County Council we need to ensure we continue to provide a really good service to the children, foster carers and adoptive parents alike.
We are always looking for more foster carers and adoptive parents to come forward across West Sussex. You can click here to find out more, including details of informal monthly drop-in sessions for those interested in becoming foster carers.
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