Foster carers just like the rest of us – as the Chinese famously say – ‘live in interesting times’. This can certainly be said of the fostering scene – both interesting as and challenging. Fostering is unfortunately not the first thing most people think of when planning their career. If that were the case, the country would not be facing its annual shortage of foster carers – currently running at 8,500. Mysteriously, the figure hovers at or around this level for most years. We should not be reassured by this as there is nothing to suggest the shortfall of foster carers may not rise dramatically in the near future. Nevertheless, sterling efforts are made on a continuous basis to tempt more people to consider becoming foster carers. Independent fostering agencies, local authorities and charities work tirelessly to this end. It is; for anyone looking in from the outside, a Sisyphean task. What makes it more troubling is, that as more and more children arrive in care with deep-seated problems, retirement means the annual cull of experienced foster carers they need continues. A serious ‘experience deficit’ has resulted. This is not something that can be tolerated because where lack of experience meets emotional and complex needs the result is placement breakdown. This only has to happen a few times and – understandably – an already vulnerable child becomes even more emotionally damaged. And as everyone knows, this; as all the statistics presage, usually leads to educational failure and scrapes with the law.
The answer to the problem is to recruit more of a certain type of carer: enter the ‘therapeutic foster carer’. This is a reasonable response as a significant number of children are coming into care have experienced trauma – neglect or other forms of abuse. This can make it hard for them to trust other people and build meaningful relationships. Challenging behaviours usually result as their needs are complex. It should not be too surprising that depression, anger or just withdrawn behaviour is common amongst such children in foster care. Therapeutic foster carers help a child to build a trusting, enduring relationship with their carer. It is common that whilst in care, a child may receive additional therapy. This aims to help them to overcome the traumatic experiences they have undergone.
How easy will it be to recruit people with the potential skills and; more importantly, appropriate inclinations to foster high needs children? They will not be run of the mill. A therapeutic foster carer will need special training. This must create a supportive environment for a child or young person who has experienced trauma. The foster carer will have to appreciate the experiences of the child and their negative impacts. They will need the skills to support the child’s emotional, psychological and social development. Therapeutic foster carers will be playing a key role in supporting a programme of therapy in the home. By definition, they will need to be resilient, caring but tough- minded individuals. The right blend of tough mindedness and compassion able to endure over the long term will not be easy to find.
Work has been done to identify the ideal traits looked for in foster carers. And there is cause to be optimistic. Research produced highlights that seventy-three per cent of foster carers have a ‘values set’ in common described a being ‘Pioneer’. The national average in the country of other people in the country sharing such values is around thirty per cent. Pioneers, it emerged, are individuals with a highly developed sense of the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps, most interestingly of all – in relation to the remainder of this piece – is that they are extremely concerned about the environment and the nature of the society we live in. Significantly, they are people with powerful desires to really make a positive difference.
It might be that a far more targeted approach to the recruitment of foster carers can be instigated in the light of this information. And to return to the Chinese idea of living in interesting times, recent events – undeniably interesting – might just have identified a group with real potential to become the kinds of foster carers we so particularly need. If we are to address the need to recruit foster carers who can make a real difference in the long term, the approach is going to have to be a lot more targeted. This is fundamental to all marketing if the results are to be successful. The same broad themes and messages have been used to try and attract people into fostering for too long. The net is probably being cast too wide. It’s not an effective approach to find yourself appealing to numbers of people who; doubtless well-intentioned, don’t really have what it takes. This is the risk because a a large number of promotional materials is used to attract people into fostering play in various ways on the emotions. To some extent this is inevitable. The best answer is to ensure such messages are finely tuned and; here is the key point. delivered to the right target group. Drawing in well-meaning people might make the numbers look comforting, but the consequences can be; in terms of outcomes, extremely poor. And, in the final analysis, this potentially represents the loss of a huge investment both by local authorities and Independent Fostering Agencies.
What really matters is time. Each year, every child is being shunted down the educational path. Placement breakdowns, school transfers and now the latest phenomenon – ‘Off-Rolling’, mean that all too quickly a child really doesn’t have much hope. Think not? Just consider only 6% of care experienced children progress to higher education as compared to 49% of the rest of the population. Recent attempts to boost this to 12% by adding those who graduate at a later age remain unconvincing. In any case, 12% hardly compares favourably.
Procreation is the most natural thing humans do. Its what we are designed for. Whether it is to populate the planet as sentient beings, or to provide another unique expression of the incredible variation of DNA? Who knows? One thing is certain: climate change has now made highly visible group of people who might well tick all the boxes when it comes to recruiting exactly the right kind of people to become foster carers. The only thing is that at the moment they might not know it!
Introducing the protest group – the Birth Strikers. This is a movement of women who have made the decision not to have their own children. This, they affirm, is in direct response to the approaching climate catastrophe ushering in the collapse of civilisation.
The founder of the movement is one Blythe Pepino. Despite having; and quite naturally, experienced an “overwhelming urge to create a family” with husband Joshua, this decision has been reversed. The reason: last year she went to a lecture put on by ‘Extinction Rebellion’. This is a direct action group – focusing on climate catastrophe – which has achieved a degree of notoriety. Mostly because they brought the traffic in central London to a standstill. Blythe Pepino conducted her own further researches and decided against having her own children. A decision communicated to her husband:
“I realised that even though I wanted to have a family at that point, I couldn’t really bring myself to do it,” she says. “I had to say to him: ‘I don’t know if I can do this, considering what we know – if there isn’t a political will to fix this, we really don’t stand much of a chance.’”
BirthStrike is is a voluntary organisation whose members – both men and women – whilst deciding not to have children, have the principle goal of creating awareness:
“It is a “radical acknowledgement” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future”. “We’re not trying to solve it through BirthStrike,” Blythe Pepino says. “We’re trying to get the information out there.”
This has to mean that there will be a growing number of people who, having decided against having their own children, might well be open to fostering children. This option could, to some degree, take the sting out of what is a radical decision which goes against the natural inclinations of most people. The imperative to have children is both biological and emotional. Can it be guaranteed that both partners will agree to take such a drastic step? And will both always think the same way? Take one adherent to the cause – Alice Brown. She has been reported in the press – following her protests, which culminated in being arrested for civil disobedience – as being keen to adopt. This could well be a consequence of concern about her decision on her own relationship. That seemed to have been hinted at in a recent article she contributed to.
And providing a secure future for children is one of the main motivations to foster.
Individuals like Blythe Pepino and Alice Brown – who was a former nanny and support worker – would almost certainly share the ‘values set’ which defines Pioneers. It seems likely that this group of women and their men will grow. This means the attention of the media is likely to remain focused on them. Why? This is obviously a topic of global proportions affecting everyone on the planet. Children themselves; those already here, together with the ‘future generations’ so often referred to, will remain in the full glare of the media. This has already happened: Greta Thunberg only last summer was an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl growing up in Sweden. Today, after taking her own personal action in respect of highlighting ecological disaster, she is feted around the globe. Her actions have proved to be the catalyst for one of the biggest environmental protest ever witnessed:
“It’s amazing,” she says. “It’s more than 71 countries and more than 700 places, and counting. It’s increasing very much now, and that’s very, very fun.”
The attention is the result of her original school climate strike. She was driven by concerns for the future:
“I kept thinking about it and I just wondered if I am going to have a future. And I kept that to myself because I’m not very much of a talker, and that wasn’t healthy. I became very depressed and stopped going to school. When I was home, my parents took care of me, and we started talking because we had nothing else to do. And then I told them about my worries and concerns about the climate crisis and the environment. And it felt good to just get that off my chest.”
For a woman the decision not to have a child has to be one of the most profound to be made. It goes against nature. The desire to have a child can be quite overwhelming. For such women; driven as they are, the opportunity to love and care for a child – maybe not their own – is there. Highly vulnerable children – growing in numbers – are desperate to find loving foster parents. Whatever the truth of climate change – and there are those that deny it – what is undeniable are the pressing needs of traumatised children. Their world has already been subject to environmental catastrophe. No home – often no love, stability or care – is their experience. It is to be hoped that women who have made this choice can see they have the power, by fostering, to save a child’s environment.
Interested in the climate related issues? More information at – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-real/https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-real/
Fostering with Rainbow – a unique experience.
Why? Just a few of the reasons: we always aim to provide the very best support for our foster carers. This creed lies at the heart of our fostering organisation. And this has been recognised by Ofsted: our recent inspection concluded that we were “Outstanding in all areas”. We were also recognised for “ensuring children remain at the heart of our service”.
Remember, it’s often the small things children value most!
It’s important that from the start we encourage our foster parents to comprehend that family life is often built around the ‘small things’: being there to help a youngster make sure their PE kit is ready the night before school; cheering them on if they are in the school football team; taking an interest in their interest in fashion. The list goes perhaps never ends…and neither should your interest.
So if you want to commit to doing a ‘big thing’, become a foster parent – few things are as rewarding in life. Want to find out if you might be suited to being a foster carer? Take the first steps along what could be an amazing journey. Call 020 8427 3355 or Rainbow Fostering’s National Line 0330 311 2845.
Finally, we try to our applicants to take a thorough look at our website. Doing this will give you quite a few ideas about what fostering involves. fostering. Take a look at – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/fit-to-foster/
or perhaps an interesting blog – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/fostering-options-needed-for-children-with-autism/
Call us and find that most people are eligible to foster.
At Rainbow Fostering Services, we accept applications from individuals – whatever their ethnicity, religion or indeed cultural background. The same goes for sexual orientation – this will not prevent someone from fostering a child. If people are single, living as part of a couple, divorced, married – with or without children of their own – then it’s possible to apply to become a foster carer. We are looking to recruit foster carers in London, Birmingham, Manchester and the Hampshire area.