It is an uncertain world – that is something upon which we can all agree. How we react to the uncertainties we face is something quite different. The provision of foster care is subject to uncertainty. This country now faces record numbers of children being taken into care at a time when lifestyle choices and habits are changing as never before. This is all occurring at a time when the numbers of foster carers are declining. How have we reacted? A fostering stocktake has been commissioned by the government and the dust is still settling from that exercise. The jury is going to be out for some time as to whether there will be meaningful consequences – not least in the urgent area of recruitment.
How should we consider the status of foster carers?
Opinion has been split on many fronts in relation to the findings of the stocktake. Considerable attention has been paid to how we label our foster carers: considering whether they should be deemed to be professionals or not, has taken up a lot of time. And it seems not. The view is that they should at least be treated in a professional manner. Eminently reasonable. Will this impact positively on recruitment? Hard to say. Is there even an expectation from the stocktake’s authors that this will regenerate recruitment on the scale likely to be needed. Then much was made on the subject of remuneration. Has this ever been the prime motivation of people who want to foster? Well, possibly, but only for a very small minority. Over many years we have benefited from an army of foster carers who have looked after vulnerable children for all the right reasons. They are to be admired and appreciated for this.
What is particularly concerning is that a typical foster carer is now in their mid fifties. And it is fairly evident that there is a dearth of younger people interested in becoming foster carers. Perhaps we should pose the simple question why? Doing this might at least result in thinking more deeply about the changes; not just in society, but in ourselves. Such changes might be making the idea of foster care an option that just simply doesn’t occur – especially to a younger generation.
Time pressure and the potential impact on foster care recruitment
There is one commodity a foster carer needs in abundance to achieve great things for those they care for: time. The selfless behaviour foster carers demonstrate can be measured in no better way. This is because time is the most precious gift all of us have – especially as none of us knows how much we have of it. What we can see now – with astonishing precision – is how people are spending it. This is simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. Why? Because at no point in human history has our collective behaviour been so uniform and arguably wasteful of this, our most precious resource. And thinking about this hardly encourages optimism about improving foster care recruitment. Consider: research shows adults spend almost 8 hours each day consuming media – or is it more pertinent to wonder if it is media that is consuming us? Sarah Golding, President and CEO of CHI & Partners –
“This latest TouchPoints 2017 data proves, unequivocally, that our media consumption patterns are continuing to grow and fragment as technology, new platforms and media channels are delivering an ever wider choice of content, available to us on a 24/7 basis. The knock-on effect on our lives – both personally and professionally – cannot be underestimated. As such, this data is invaluable in helping our industry to recognise the most appropriate ways to approach consumers – one that improves lives rather than interrupts.”
This Orwellian view of us all as consumers has no room for the idea that we can be improved by anything other than a ‘media hit’ of one sort or another. Countless foster carers would be the first to argue that their lives have been hugely improved – even in ways they could not have foreseen, through their dedication to caring for vulnerable young people.
The quote above promises an ever wider choice of content – but is anyone challenging its quality. And even if some if it is very good, you can certainly have too much of a good thing. The likelihood is that most of it will exist only to deliver a broadside of inducements to buy more things.
If this is thought to be scaremongering, another sobering thought is that –
“Smartphones have become so pivotal to the lives of millennials in Great Britain that 65% of them are looking at their phone within five minutes of waking and 60% look at their phone within five minutes of going to sleep.”
• Whatsapp recorded a 22% increase for adults and a 9% increase for millennials from 2016 to 2017
The dominance of Facebook continues, reaching 83% of millennials and 62% of adults each week, although year-on-year growth is slowing – only an extra 1% for millennials and 3% for all adults.
• Snapchat recorded a 17% increase for adults and a 16% increase for millennials.
• Instagram shows an 11% increase for both adults and millennials.
It may well prove to be the case that foster care is simply something a much younger generation will not be able to fit into their burgeoning media schedule. Or, the stocktake’s authors may have to relent and accept the maxim that ‘time is money’ and ‘market forces’
will necessitate paying foster carers more.
The potential benefit from such rising levels of media engagement is that, of course, not everyone will engage. Those that are left can be assumed to view how they use their time as worthy of greater consideration. In turn, this means there will always be significant numbers who will; if they can be reached, be looking for meaning and purpose in life. This is why a public awareness campaign funded by the government could now make such a difference. People who want to do something hugely positive with their lives could find that fostering children provides the perfect answer. They just have to be pointed in the right direction.
Therapeutic foster care at Rainbow Fostering
Do you have the time, interest, passion and dedication to train as a therapeutic foster care professional. Are you willing to provide a supportive, loving and stable home for children with a range of emotional and behavioural needs? If the answers are yes, call 020 8427 3355 or our National line 0330 311 2845.
Latest fostering news stories:
British Columbia boosts support for children leaving foster care
26th, February 2018
The issues affecting foster care can be the same wherever you are in the world. The government in British Columbia (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK
Good news at the end of our Rainbow…fast approaching 3,000 flowers on Twitter!