17 Dec 2009

Open University partners with leading charity to offer professional training for foster carers

A UNIQUE range of courses to help foster carers with their personal and professional development is now available through a new partnership between the Fostering Network and The Open University (OU).

The launch comes at a time of growing demand from foster carers for more learning opportunities. Learning as they go, a recent report from the Fostering Network, revealed that 83 per cent would like to improve their skills and 70 per cent have asked their fostering service to provide more training.

Furthermore, three-quarters of foster carers have turned down training in the past because they were unable to secure child care, the location was hard to reach or it was scheduled at an inconvenient time.

The OU’s distance learning approach – supported ‘open learning’ – will therefore remove many of the barriers to professional development and enable more foster carers to access professional training alongside the demands of looking after the children in their care.

For those new to higher education there are introductory courses in topics such as healthcare, nutrition and psychology. Foster carers wanting to move into specialist areas of fostering and develop their careers can gain formal qualifications including undergraduate degrees in child care and health and social care.

Hazel Halle, director of services at the Fostering Network, said: “Fostering is an increasingly complex and demanding job and foster carers need a wide range of skills to provide the best possible care. Like all professionals they must have access to ongoing learning and development opportunities.

“The partnership with The Open University will remove barriers and make it easier for more foster carers to access formal academic training and qualifications. This will enable them to fulfil their role as child care experts alongside the team of other professionals working with a child.”

Professor Shirley Reveley, dean of the Health and Social Faculty at The Open University, said: “The OU shares the values and visions of the Fostering Network in making education more accessible to foster carers. Our new partnership represents a formal recognition of this.

“We know our courses, the support we offer and the flexibility to fit study around work and other commitments have already benefitted foster carers looking to develop their skills. By combining our expertise, we will be able to maximise the formal learning opportunities available to foster carers – opportunities that will enable this vital group of people to deepen their knowledge and build their professional status.”

Kevin Meehan, a foster carer and chair of the Redbridge Foster Care Association in London, said: “As foster carers we are expected to be homemakers, counsellors, mediators and teachers, as well as experts in conflict management, dysfunctional behaviour and child psychology. Access to academic and professional training is therefore essential for us to continue to provide children with the highest standard of care.”

Notes to editors

1. More information about the partnership and programme of courses with the Open University is available at

2. Learning as they go is available for download at The report was based on an online survey carried out by the Fostering Network amongst foster carers, with 295 responses from across the UK.

3. Over 43,000 foster families look after 51,000 fostered children on any one day in the UK. An estimated 10,000 more foster families are needed.

4. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in fostering, and aims to make life better for fostered children and the families that care for them. It has offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London.

5. The Open University (OU) is the UK's largest university and the world leader in distance education. It has more than 229,000 students in over 40 countries studying for a variety of degrees and vocational qualifications ranging from short courses to PhDs. 2009 is the 40th anniversary year of The Open University. OU students are more impressed with the quality of their courses and the support received than those at any other UK university (National Student Survey).

6. Foster carers studying with the Open University may be entitled to financial assistance. For more information, go to

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