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Foster comment: reactions to fostering issues 2

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Introduction: a foster carer writes.

Foster carers represent a pretty good cross-section of our society. Consequently, their views will differ, but they are always worth paying attention to because of what unites this special group of people. And that is a commitment and passion to help the most vulnerable. Children! So when it comes to matters that leave those least able to defend themselves, we should always listen to what foster carers have to say. Theirs is a unique perspective. And we welcome their comments as the proof of true engagement. We expect our carers to be powerful advocates for those they look after. This trait must always be encouraged because it can be part of the force for change that improves society for us all. As the writer, Dr Steve Maraboli remarked: “There is no greater force for change than people inspired to live a better life.” 

Thanks, as always, are due to our foster carers and their friends who have taken the time to draw attention to a topical issue the day. As you would imagine – and being Rainbow – we feel our strength is derived from attracting colourful opinions. Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality and the views expressed are personal ones. All are welcomed as they inform the ongoing fostering debate in this country which is, hopefully, always a lively one! Everyone with a stake in making foster care the best it can be helped through keeping it high on the public agenda.

Foster carers are in short supply. This is at a time when the country can least afford such a shortage. Thank you, Martin, for your opinions on what is certainly of mounting concern to us all.

Foster carers should also be prioritised for covid vaccination.

I have been paying close attention to the recent comments of the chief executive of The Fostering Network. This is because they are, in my opinion, clear-sighted, logical and indicative of an approach that quickly needs implementing. This is something many feel has been lacking in the handling of the pandemic from the start.  The chief executive, Kevin Williams,                                                                                           recently wrote:

“We believe foster carers should be part of the second phase of vaccinations given to those at ‘high risk of exposure and/or those delivering key public services. Throughout the pandemic, governments in the UK have taken steps to ensure foster carers can continue to care for children, such as giving foster carers access to priority testing, so we don’t see why offering vaccination should be any different? We are getting worrying reports from local authorities in our membership that they are currently struggling to place children in foster carer, and this is directly due to the pandemic.”

The charity referred to more children coming into care whilst there is a general shortage of foster carers. It has to be a priority to safeguard the health of the foster carer workforce to “ensure there is no drop in the number of available fostering families offering safe, stable and loving homes for children who need them.”And most of the country’s foster carers are over fifty, with a quarter being over sixty years of age. This places them at greater risk from the virus and should make them a clear priority for the first rollout of the vaccine. For these reasons:

Kevin Williams has not been the only voice sounding the alarm. Back in June, the charity Barnardo’s was drawing attention to the growing increase in the rate of referrals – up by 44%. And only yesterday Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England staled the care system for children he’d been “left to slip deeper into crisis.” The lack of council placements was now resulting in thousands of vulnerable young people having to be accommodated in unregulated care homes at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayer. Many young people are being placed in supported living facilities that are not monitored by Ofsted. The pandemic has created pressures that a system that was already struggling is being overwhelmed by. 

What lessons should be learnt for the future?

We must look at recent events. It is perhaps not widely known but in 2016 ‘Exercise Cygnus’ exposed serious shortcomings in Britain’s preparedness for a major pandemic. It was a drill that involved the NHS, all major government departments and local authorities throughout Britain. So not unreasonable to suppose that this would have at least yielded joined-up thinking. The modelling for the drill was put together by the same group that’s now tracking the coronavirus pandemic. The findings from this exercise have never been revealed. National security concerns having been advanced as the reason. Such legerdemain serves no one and we are all now paying the price.

What we do know is that distance no longer protects. This country was not affected by the SARS outbreak but it certainly has been by the new novel coronavirus strain. There is a risk of future pandemics and as we are described as being at war with the current virus, sis vis pacem, para bellum must now apply in terms of future preparedness. We also have to hope lessons have been learnt. From this point on, the precautionary principle should be vigorously applied. And this should be to all areas of activity likely to be hit by a future pandemic. This must include the supply of foster carers. We have been living on borrowed time. The pandemic has shown how quickly a situation can turn from being a difficult ongoing problem to the kind of full-blown crisis everyone is now living through. The world we emerge into after the pandemic must not be given over to disputatious politicians of whatever stripe. Recriminations are inevitable but must not be allowed to obscure the measures needed to be put in place for the future. One of these is certainly for the government to seriously address the declining number of foster carers. Given the pandemic will have caused high levels of unemployment there should be no shortage of people available. One of the issues to be urgently addressed is correcting the hazy idea most of the general public have of fostering. They need to be updated and a government public information campaign has to be a good idea. Many who might never have given serious thought to the idea might well see it has considerable merit. Especially when they discover it is a career that offers some singular benefits as well as varied choices. It will then be up to best in class agencies like Rainbow who have the expertise to recruit those truly suitable and genuinely motivated. But the government should now firmly grasp responsibility and invest to ensure enough people are picking up the phone or walking through the door. 

Those with power over our lives need to up their game. We had a protracted fostering stocktake not long after Exercise Cygnus. It seems unlikely the relationship between the supply of available foster carers being impacted by a dangerous pandemic was considered. If the nation is going to engage in planning exercises that are time-consuming and hugely costly, it should result in preparedness on all fronts. We the public must not condemn our leaders to political immurement. We have all had difficult lessons to learn and new levels of responsibility to assume.

Name(s) changed to protect privacy

The Rainbow Fostering Approach.

Rainbow is supporting fostering placements in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire. If you are considering becoming a foster carer, we provide all the help and guidance needed. Our Team at Rainbow has over two decades of experience. And our agency has been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. This means our applicants and foster carers can depend on receiving the best support and training available.

Find out more about the varied career opportunities fostering now offers. Call our team on 0330 311 2845 today. 

Fostering is open to people who are (over 21) married, divorced, single or cohabiting. You can foster children or young people whatever your sexual orientation, ethnicity or cultural background. 

As we are now in another national lockdown, we are continuing to hold initial interviews online via Skype. So you can apply to foster with us right now. It’s easy to do and a member of our recruitment team will be available to help you.

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