A survey of foster carers and young people in care has found that 96% of foster families’ relationships improved or remained unaffected during the lockdown, demonstrating the durability of the foster family unit and the benefit of children spending more quality time with their foster carers.
Conducted in June 2020 by Research in Practice in partnership with leading UK fostering charity TACT, the survey also found that some young people experienced a significant increase in their sense of happiness during lockdown.
Young people’s views on remote learning were mostly positive, with many young people thriving due to the greater flexibility and more one-to-one support from their carers.
Most young people felt they were spending “a lot more” time with their foster family during lockdown, with only 4% saying they had spent less time.
One TACT young person said: “I found it hard to trust them at first because I’ve had lots of foster families, but over lockdown they have shown me that they really care, even when I haven’t been nice to them. We have done lots of fun things together with the little ones, so now I hope I can stay with them.”
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “These are interesting findings and have important implications for the way the fostering sector operates going forward. For example, the findings suggest placements may be better served by emphasising more “family time” at the start of a new placement, instead of rushing to establish a new routine and immediately sending them to school.”
Young people reported mixed feelings about how the lockdown had impacted contact with their birth families. While some missed the physical contact of face-to-face meetings, others enjoyed the greater degree of control.
One TACT young person said: “I decided not to see my birth parents. I kind of like that as it takes the away the stress and anxiety that I have about seeing them. I have spoken to my brother though, we have played games together on video chat.”
Foster carers also felt that virtual/home learning had a positive impact, citing greater flexibility, less pressure, greater enjoyment and being able to help fill in gaps in the young person’s education.
One foster carer said: “They are producing more work and better quality work. They do not have the pressures of school dictating when they need to do each piece of work. If they want to do their maths last or their reading first, then they can do this, but at school they have to follow the set timetable.”
Former TACT young person Ashleigh, who has ambitions to work in the research sector, was involved in the research project as an analyst.
She said: “It was really awesome to take part in a project like this. I helped with the coding of the quantitative data and thematically analysing the responses from young people and carers. It has been a really valuable experience in a field I want to work in after I graduate.”
While the lockdown has been far from easy for many young people, others have thrived. It is vital that we heed the lessons learned from lockdown and make sure they are not lost as we rush to embrace the hoped-for return to “normality”.