If you have an interest in fostering, you could be forgiven for being especially cynical when skimming recent headlines. The recurring themes of avarice and mendacity are depressingly familiar. The latest twist sees a move from dodgy expense claims to perhaps the more refined, but still deplorable tax haven scandal. And of course, the roll call of those fully signed up to benefit from these financial ‘instruments’ includes the usual sprinkling of British MP’s. So for the few, the thrills of asset management in tax havens – for the many the rather more mundane experience of managing ‘austerity’.
What these discoveries always highlight is the stark contrast between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ which poses the enduring question how is it some people are greedy and selfish, whilst others are giving and selfless? And how do you spot them? At Rainbow Fostering we are can provide an answer – look no further than the increasingly beleaguered army of foster carers this country has taken for granted for so long. Many carers increasingly dip into their own pockets to make sure that the children in their care don’t go without. Such generosity and commitment to the well being of foster children is of course commendable, but it should be ringing alarm bells. The UK’s system of child welfare has come, almost imperceptibly, to over-rely on foster carers: today around 80% of the 81,000 children in care live with foster families. This year alone, 9,000 new foster families are needed across the UK – recruitment is clearly an issue. Retention is even more serious, for whilst simultaneously looking for new carers, we are risking losing the experienced carers we already have. There is something positively ‘Dickensian’ about a situation where looked after children – already vulnerable and often having experienced abuse and neglect – are increasingly coming to rely on random acts of generosity: this means there is a lack of consistency so the experience of foster care can inevitably become something of a lottery.
As a nation, we cannot afford to look the other way and should resist the cuts that are having a direct and negative effect on fostering outcomes. It is simplistic but true: in the long term, the cost of ‘failed lives and futures’ will be far, far greater than providing adequate resources now.
The Fostering Network is a national charity working for the interests of carers: one of their recent surveys revealed that 75% of foster carers reported that cuts have had a negative impact on the fees they receive for fostering children. Two thirds of carers then went on to say cuts had restricted their access to key services including those aimed at providing respite care, and services covering mental health.
Fostering children is something we cannot do on the cheap: there is a looming crisis and we cannot look the other way – certainly not in the direction of tax havens. Returning to the theme of cynicism:
there is an important principle our political masters and decision makers should take careful note of – this is evinced by by Oscar Wilde’s character Lord Darlington who quipped that a cynic was
‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’ If this is the prevailing attitude; and the evidence suggests it is, it will be inimical to achieving the best in fostering outcomes.
We are getting some really positive feedback regarding all the changes we have made to our web site: the level of information we are giving, we are told, is proving really helpful for people making a decision as to whether to go into fostering. Deciding to become a foster carer is one of the biggest decisions anyone can ever make. It is good to know our aim of equipping people with as much information as possible is being gratefully received. Rainbow Fostering is an independent fostering agency with a family approach and our passion is supporting children alongside the amazing individuals and families