The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) found that in 2014, “foster children want the same things in life as nearly all children: success at school, a good job, a happy family and children. School and education are very important to them as a first step to achieving these ambitions.” Whilst this may be true for many children in care, it is of course a blanket statement which does not represent many. Their research shows that “children in care have a consistently lower level of academic achievement than other children. They are much less likely than other children to obtain GCSEs and A levels, or to go on to further education.”
Children in foster care have often had very disrupted lives. This includes disruption to their education. Foster kids have often been moved school several times, either by their own parents before coming into care, or because they have been placed too far from their school in their foster placement. They are also likely to have missed lots of their education because of unauthorised time off. So for many foster kids there are stumbling blocks ahead of them which are not faced by other children.
For some children in care, school is one of the only constants in their lives which gives them structure and boundaries, as well as the long term opportunity of giving them qualifications. The routine and structures of the school day can give them a sense of normalcy, and maintain boundaries in an otherwise disrupted life. Maintaining friendships can be vital for looked after children through this time. Despite the turmoil being faced, if they can continue to sustain friendships, they can continue to enjoy activities and social events which are part of their life. Having places in their lives where they are “happy” is said to improve overall life chances and prevent the breakdown of placements.
As foster carers we can often feel like it is on our shoulders to ensure that our foster kids do well in education as well as in every area of life. We must remind ourselves that we work in partnership with school, the local authority, fostering agencies, and other agencies involved in the care of our foster children. Foster carers do need to work hard to make and maintain links between home and school and the other agencies. It is also important to try as far as is possible to help our foster children maintain their friendships, social activities and after school clubs.
SCIE are suggesting that with more joined up thinking between foster carers, school and social services, looked after children have a better chance of success in in education and more reliance in life. Furthermore, children achieve more when they are in stable placements. It is the job of social services, fostering agencies and companies like Simply Fostering to ensure that good matching takes place – this will help secure the stable placements needed to give looked after children the best chance possible for success in life.