Children in foster care need encouragement and support in relation to developing their reading skills. So, in another piece in our series on promoting the importance of literacy, we explore the value in thinking about our collective past. What has history to teach us about ‘getting things done’? Can we rely on the attitudes of present day society – especially amongst the political elite – to address problems of a profound nature that affect us all. Books are vital in keeping alive the characters and events of the past. And they still have much to teach us…
Where are our heroes? Wellington, Nelson – names from the past to stir the heart when reading their life stories. They were swashbuckling types who; one imagines, would have had no time for artifice and calculated sophistry. They faced canon and grapeshot – not easily avoided. But they were not, in any case, types given to avoiding action. They understood what engagement was all about. Moreover, these heroes clearly comprehended that on occasions there would be no choice but to engage. During the Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson was famed as saying “I see no ships”. More prosaically he is reported as having said “…I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes”, (and raising his telescope to his blind eye) “…I really do not see the signal.” For him, engagement was what mattered.
Poor rates of literacy can affect health
Such derring do and insouciance in the face of grave peril are to be admired. Have we now to accept that such qualities belong only to a bygone age? It is tempting to imagine what Horatio Nelson and his ilk would have made of Brexit. His instinctive reaction would have been to direct a broadside at the obfuscation and forests of paper being consumed recording; as we surely must, for posterity, the manoeuvres and posturings of our current crop of leaders. Posterity is to be pitied. Illustrious figures such as Nelson quickly saw the nature of a problem. Where it was perceived as posing a direct threat to life and limb, there would have been immediate engagement. Is it to stretch a point to link such attributes with addressing aspects of contemporary life such as literacy levels? Not, surely, if it is realised that adults with lower literacy are more likely to experience poor health. This means that foster children; whose experiences before coming into care will have invariably set them back measured against their peers, may well have poorer health as adults.
Returning to heroes of a bygone age: is their energy and vigour a thing of the past? It often seems so. Today, we have career politicians and bureaucrats whose approaches are; by comparison, somnambulistic. Imagine them being returned to Nelson’s day and context – aboard the good ship ‘Brexit’. It would probably never have got out of the harbour. Too much reassuring paperwork to be got through before a risking a whiff of Napoleonic grapeshot.
Firing a salvo at the foster care stocktake
Today we are adept at quantifying problems, less so at solving them: inaction as distinct from action. This promotes a response always more likely to be leisurely. The recent foster care stocktake serves as an example – described by The Fostering Network as a “missed opportunity” – it also seems to lack any sense of urgency. Where was the clamour for action in the face of the knowledge we have that “more than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks” – the words of Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, in a recent report on childhood vulnerability. This situation did not develop overnight.
If there was a telescope available to the authors of the Stocktake we can guess which eye it would have been held to, but not for the illustrious reasons Nelson had. And, with more than 2 million of our children in such straits, can such a purblind government be trusted to bring their guns to bear on defeating this problem? Surely they can see that children in foster care are often hugely disadvantaged. They have the right to be able to read about the past and the individuals that were prominent in shaping; not just our society, but the ideas we hold about ourselves and our national destiny. Youngsters in foster care need inspirational stories. And many of these are stored in our past. They have the right to be able to access the traditions of the nation they are growing up in.
This is all a roundabout way of emphasising the importance of literacy. It has the potential to shape the nature of our society. Being able to read about the exploits and characters of the past keeps them alive. This means we can be in a position to have far higher expectations of those who seek to lead us. Knowledge is indeed power – the power to question and demand better. ALL our children should finish school being highly literate – the nature and character of our society depends upon this. Why? Because, if accomplished, those elected will, like Nelson, understand actions speak louder than words.
More and more children come into foster care needing therapeutic support
We need foster carers from all kinds of backgrounds: single people, couples (married or living together), same sex couples, families – with or without children – and whatever your ethnicity, religion or cultural background, we would to chat. We’ll show you how your life skills and experience could make all the difference to a child or young person. We really want to meet people who might be interested in becoming a therapeutic foster carer. They will need to provide love, stability and security as well as closely supporting a therapeutic recovery plan for a child or young person.
We will provide specialist training on a regular basis. This means that it’s possible to build a career providing therapeutic foster care and, at the same time, benefit financially from enhanced payment rates. If you are a foster carer with another agency and are thinking of transferring, we make the process smooth and efficient. We also pay a special foster carer’s bonus for anyone who transfers: contact us to see if you might be eligible. A lot more general information is available regarding foster care with Rainbow on our website. You just have to call 020 8427 3355, or you can use our National foster care line which is 0330 311 2845.
There are plenty of foster care news and issues to ponder at: