Foster care service providers will be aware of many significant dates in the calendar and their relevance to the welfare of children and young people. The 18th of March – National Child Exploitation Day – is an important date for all those working to reduce the risks faced by children. In this short series to mark this important day, we take a look at the issue of child sexual exploitation and families. Before that, some general background information for foster carers and parent.
Foster carers are used to dealing with some of the most vulnerable children in the country. It’s a worrying fact that over 65% of children who come into care are traumatised having suffered some form of abuse. This can be the result of neglect or more direct physical abuse. It’s important to remember that all youngsters can be at risk of exploitation, not just foster children. This means that charities like NWG do vital work in creating and maintaining awareness of the risks that children face. The 18th of March – National Child Exploitation Day – is an important date for all those working to reduce and ultimately end the risks faced by children.
The fact that it can take up to seven years for a child to disclose abuse having taken place, shows how this can be a hidden crime. Child sexual exploitation (CSE), as foster careers will have been trained to understand, has different aspects. It can involve the sexual exploitation of boys and young men; young people who have gone missing or who are at risk of this; children within families and those who are being trafficked.
Children at risk of CSE can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, female, male or transgender. Foster carers are aware that many of those who have been victimised may be extremely reluctant to report offences against them – often due to embarrassment and fear of prejudice and stigma. Often, quite simply, they are convinced they will not be believed. They will have been the victims of manipulation and coercion that usually starts with having been groomed. This can happen in the real world or in the online world. And children are not just at risk in our major towns and cities, exploitation occurs in rural and coastal parts of the country. The ways in which children and young people can be groomed and exploited vary. They can be at risk from street gangs or religious settings – even from other family members. The exploitation is usually conducted by individuals in a position of power or authority. It is this power imbalance that makes children and young people vulnerable to being controlled by the perpetrator. The victims may appear willing accomplices but this should always be approached with an understanding of the context of power. Children who are victims of CSE have had to be disempowered for the abuse to take place.
An important part of this awareness day is to correct misconceptions and stereotypes. As a result of considerable media focus, many believe most of the victims are in care or foster children. The estimate is that only 20 – 25 per cent of victims are ‘looked after’. This is important because children and young people living at home can be at greater risk because they are not thought of as being vulnerable. Children in foster care will be known to social services where they will be monitored. Within the care system, there is a high degree of awareness of CSE.
Child sexual exploitation and families.
Our communities are made up of families – of all kinds. Child sexual exploitation affects individual families and the wide community. It is therefore a complex problem with social, political, economic and moral dimensions. It is multi-faceted and interrelated involving prostitution, pornography, paedophilia and people trafficking. Different communities may be at greater risk but for all those affected by sexual exploitation, the consequences can be profound and damaging. The families of the individuals targeted will be affected. The targeting and grooming of children and young people will often result in psychological impacts on their parents and other family members. The effects can be extreme: in the worst cases, normal family life can become suspended with parents unable to carry on a normal when abuse is discovered to have taken place.
Help is at hand for foster carers and parents. Any family affected by CSE will, in the case of a fostering family will have been fully supported by the care professionals provided by their service provider if CSE is suspected, or has been discovered to have been taking place. Parents can often feel their entire lives have been turned upside down from a situation they never imagined themselves to be in. Parents can find their capacity to proactively meet the needs of their children is significantly affected. The lack of knowledge about the ways abusers operate combined with the impact of the abuse can result in a crisis for the family. Although still shocking if personally affected, foster carers will have had training in the issues around CSE and how it is to be handled.
PACE has done pioneering work supporting parents affected by CSE. Pace is a leading specialist charity that brings the parent perspective to the issue of tackling CSE. Their considerable expertise is derived from years of experience working with parents, and a commitment to an approach to adopting multi-agency working. For more information, please visit:
Rainbow – maintaining a focus on fostering opportunities. We are currently providing services for many local authorities in London. We also have foster carers providing secure and stable homes for children and young people in Birmingham and Manchester. Rainbow is one of the most progressive and innovative fostering agencies in the UK. We are very keen to talk to potential new applicants in these areas. Our goal is to recruit locally based foster carers to support vulnerable children. We offer free training to anyone in these areas – as well as generous fostering allowances. As well as the chance to be treated as a fostering professional.
To learn more about fostering we have a great deal of information on our web site. We also have a guide that explains a lot of the detail involved in fostering. This is free to download. We are hoping to recruit new applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, races and religions. This is because it gives us the possibility of making the best fostering matches. Why? because all children and young people have their own individual cultural heritage and background. Rainbow also provide the opportunity to train to become a specialist foster carer for children with challenging needs. This might be a child with special educational needs, autism, a disability of complex emotional needs arising from experiencing trauma.
We have been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. We would also like to hear from carers experienced in fostering children who might consider transferring to us.
Call 0330 311 2845 We can talk over the phone or face to face on Skype. There’s no reason to delay making an application. One final thought: we need carers to be diligent, scrupulous and able to provide stability, love and understanding. But the best foster carers also have a sense of humour because like us, they never forget that childhood should be a time of fun for children.
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Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.