The hue and cry over the publication of the recent ‘Fostering Stocktake’ seems to be subsiding: probably to the relief of government. Something has been seen to have been done - always a good thing. Political expediency can now move on to the topic of our times - Brexit. There is confusion, contradiction and, of course, widely opposing views in the world of fostering. And, the same is certainly true of Brexit, but in this arena, it’s on a galactic scale. Similarly, there is also an equivalence of misunderstanding: despite the best efforts of the Fostering Stocktake, one of its huge flaws is that the general public remains, for the most part, in the dark about fostering. And, of course, the same is true in relation to Brexit. The reason is simple: no one, including everyone in government, properly understands what the future may hold for the country post 2019. All that is rife is speculation. What is frustrating, is that our political masters could; by comparison, very easily have educated the public about foster care. Public awareness campaigns are of course hugely costly, but, so too, is the cost of not doing them. It is many years since the expensive campaigns were run warning of the risks of AIDS, but run they were, as the issue was seen, rightly and literally, as a matter of life and death. Do we have to be confronting mortal danger for the government to get its cheque book out on our behalf? For a strong argument can be made that children who experience multiple placement breakdowns - never finding the security of a long term, stable and loving home almost inevitably confront the death of opportunity. The statistics seem to bear this out: reported in 2017 - just 6% of young people with experience of the care system will attend university. This is compared to almost 50% of the general population. The authors of the Stocktake seemed rather queasy on this point. They mounted a defence of sorts and then moved swiftly on. They successfully navigated the shoals that highlight the issue of the mental health of youngsters in care, by; as stated in the acknowledgements - ‘The exception to that (i.e. all the other issues they were asked to probe by carers) is the vital issue of mental health support for children in care, including fostered children. Much work was taking place on this issue as we conducted our review, and there was little to be gained by our simultaneously reviewing the subject.’ So one of the most problematic relating to fostering was sidestepped.
The Stocktake provided a focus for one of the most contentious issues in fostering: status. Opinions have been divided over whether foster carers should be regarded as professionals. This is clearly something of a blind alley - especially in the light of the work done by the charity Tact. They conducted a survey amongst 200 foster carers at the end of last year. It was revealed that 75% saw fostering as a vocation and a lifestyle choice, while only 5% considered it a job.
This is compelling, if for no other reason that the debate concerning professional status is unlikely to have been relevant to the majority of foster carers. Fostering is seen as a vocation: and according to some definitions, a calling by God. This knowledge should provide the basis for a government awareness campaign to recruit more foster carers. The survey results point clearly toward the motivations foster carers are likely to have. The work they do is selfless. It should be possible to create recruitment messages that resonate with people likely to the 75% grouping. What is important is as a society; now we have this knowledge, we do not take advantage. We should all be in agreement that foster carers should be properly remunerated for the work they do on our behalf. And we have to realise that this won’t be cheap.
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Find out if foster care is for you: simply call 020 8427 3355 or register your interest online. Advice on how to become a foster carer/types of fostering/how much foster carers get paid a month/can I choose the ethnicity of the child I foster? And how long it takes to become a foster carer.
Therapeutic foster care: qualify for enhanced rates of pay by training to look after children with complex needs. Helping a child to overcome the burden of their past experiences of abuse or neglect can be especially rewarding.
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