Anyone connected with fostering will know the difficulties there are in placing children with behavioural problems. There are different ways of tackling this: one route is to provide foster carers with more and more training – with high levels of support so they can cope. Although this can work with foster carers who are already experienced, it is obvious that the prospect of dealing with such challenging children is a major disincentive to anyone considering fostering. And as it is well known that over 9,000 new foster families are needed in the UK, thinking must be focused on making fostering an attractive option. What is encouraging is that moves are now afoot to think around the problem from another direction: this recognises that children, if given support to deal with issues that have affected their mental well being, are likely to be more manageable.
The current reality is that a high percentage of children needing to be found foster homes come from chaotic and turbulent backgrounds. A proportion, sadly, will have witnessed events that adults would struggle to cope with. Other children coming into care will themselves have been the victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse: high levels of trauma, in many cases, need to be addressed and currently there is a ‘catch 22’ situation which means mental health services will not help children in temporary care situations.The system militates against children and young people in this situation – depriving them of the kind of support that would be available to adults. And then foster carers are expected to pick up the pieces. Such a situation cannot be allowed to continue: it may be overdue, but at least one important new move appears to be being taken. A Liberal Democrat peer, Claire Tyler is about to spearhead a parliamentary effort to pressure the government to agree an important amendment to the children and social work bill. This proposes that the 10,000 children and young people entering the care system annually should be given a mental health assessment:
“It is well documented that children in care – who have often come from upsetting and chaotic environments – are more likely to develop mental health problems than those who grow up in stable family homes.”
Ministers have not been supportive of this in the past – the reason being that a mandatory mental health assessment would stigmatise a child or young person. This does not seem to recognise the serious consequences of the situation as it currently exists where children all too easily enter into a cycle of under-achievement at school, descend into patterns of offending behaviour or in certain tragic cases take their own lives. There are powerful voices adding to the pressure on government: The NSPCC, for example, argues such an assessment is necessary as it would help young people generally and in the most serious cases, identify those completely overwhelmed by depression, anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem. The NSPCC is now lobbying members of the House of Lords to –
“fight on the behalf of all those thousands of children who enter our care system every year and demand that government introduce this assessment and give some of the most vulnerable children in our society the best chance possible to grow up happy and healthy.” For more information on the work of the NSPCC visit: www.nspcc.org.uk
It is curious that the position adopted by Ministers seems to reinforce an out of date prejudice about mental health generally as people with such problems – whatever their age – should not be stigmatised. Significantly, the change which has been proposed is also being supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Children entering the care system are automatically assessed in relation to their physical health and their mental health must obviously be as important. So why the distinction? It’s simply not logical. Roughly 10,000 children a year enter the care system for the first time: if minister’s support this amendment in future they will all have a mental health assessment.
And this, put very simply, is logical.
Foster a child: explore our ‘Rainbow Rewards’.
Do you want to foster children, fostering babies or teenagers? Wherever your interest in fostering children lies, Rainbow is a London fostering agency offering supportive fostering services. And if you can refer someone, we will give you £500. You’ll be paid once your referral has been approved and the first placement has been accepted. Current foster carers wondering about transferring to Rainbow Fostering network could also receive a bonus under our scheme. This will be a bonus once approved, for carers who already have children placed with them on a long-term basis. We are an independent fostering agency always looking to recruit people interested in fostering UK. Call our recruitment team on 020 8427 3355 for more information.
And the good news at the end of this particular rainbow…another birthday celebration for Jon, who made a great success of two recent opportunities for some of our young people at Rainbow. They were special introductory apprenticeship schemes run by QPR and BMW.