Life can be unfair – there are many injustices, some close to home and some far distant. As a society we have a responsibility to do the best to address those we can do something about. And there are some situations that simply should not be tolerated. Every child in the country should have the right to grow up in a loving and supportive family environment. For all young people, this is where they acquire their feelings of security, values and a sense of what they plan to do with their lives. These can only come about where there is stability. Sadly, for a great many foster children, this is far from the case; record numbers of children are entering the care system and because of increasing levels of placement instability, a loving and constant home environment for them is a distant prospect. Is it any wonder then that they end up feeling frustrated and bereft of hope? And worse, when at school, foster children are amongst a peer group – most of whom will be going home to precisely the kind of home that they would love to have. This can only be a torment; one compounded now, as it has become apparent that the very act of kicking in a door can be enough for a looked after child to acquire a criminal record. Such a situation has to be viewed as patently absurd, so it was a positive (if rather obvious) step forward for the report ‘In Care, Out of Trouble’, to condemn the ‘criminalisation’ of foster children for such minor offences. The report, authored by Lord Lamming, cites that such behaviour – minor misdemeanours of this type – are usually dealt with within the family. Where this is not the case, as it can be with foster children, a kind of ‘apartheid’ is created where miscreant foster children can quickly find themselves saddled with a criminal record. This can be a severe blow to someones future prospects. But by comparison, those children (the majority) fortunate enough to be living in a normal family home will escape with a telling off.
A retired magistrate said that she had very often raised concerns as to why it was that child perpetrators of trivial incidents would end up appearing in court; such acts, were they to be committed in an ordinary family environment, would certainly never result in ordinary parents effectively “criminalising their own children”. This same magistrate had been reassured by the Crown Prosecution Service and the local authority that all cases were subject to review, and that special protocols existed to ensure trivial offences would not result in a court appearance. Despite such reassurances, she, (the magistrate) said children and young people were continuing to be criminalised for the most petty misdemeanours. This form of criminalisation has been identified by Lamming’s report as being nothing short of –
“a national problem which central and local government, and local criminal justice agencies, can and must do more to address”.
The report advised that low level criminal activity should not end up being recorded as a specific crime, but should lead to the perpetrator instead being referred on to a welfare agency. Lord Lamming then went on to call for “leadership, imagination, direction and determination” in this area of policy thinking. The report was timely – coming only a week after the PM, David Cameron, pledged that youngsters leaving the care system would be entitled to “far more effective support” to be addressed through the introduction of a ‘care leavers covenant’. So, and not before time, this issue was placed on the agenda: the Cabinet is forming a sub-committee whose responsibility it will be to protect children and young people in care from criminalisation. Foster children clearly face many disadvantages and it is clearly in the interests of all in society that they are not unfairly stigmatised.
For more information www.safeguardingchildrenea.co.uk/resources/lord–laming-report-summary/
Lord Lamming had conducted a review in 2015 which then questioned why such a very high proportion of foster children wound up in the criminal justice system. At that time fewer than 1 per cent of all children in England were in the care system, but ‘looked after children’ who were between the ages of ten and seventeen were five times as likely to be convicted, or made subject to a final warning or reprimand, than their peers. And disturbingly, sixty one per cent of fifteen to eighteen year-old girls and a third of boys in custody had the experience of spending time in care. Juliet Lyon, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said there was a “depressing route from care to custody” that has to be stopped. Lord Laming himself added at the time –
“We cannot simply stand by and allow wasted opportunities to result in wasted later lives. We are determined to ensure this review makes practical recommendations to enable key services to work together to help children in care transform their life chances and stay out of trouble.”
Perhaps one of the most compelling statistics to emerge in recent years – and one clearly related to the issue of ‘looked after children’ all too easily becoming criminalised is one contained a 2013 report from UCAS ‘Looked after Children & Care Leavers: Raising aspirations to Higher Education’. This revealed that a mere six per cent of ‘looked after children’ and care leavers in England were accessing higher education; this was compared to forty per cent of the general population. Turning such a statistic around significantly simply has to be an over-riding priority. It shows that whatever focus is put on individual outcomes for children in foster care, achieving an up-take of just six per cent for higher education is not acceptable. Focusing on this has to be one of the main objectives to hopefully emerge from the forthcoming national fostering stocktake. Making significant progress on this, will mean that other related and deep rooted problems are more likely to be successfully addressed.
• 53,420 children were in foster care on 31 March 2017.
• This is around (78%) or four-fifths of the 68,300 children in care currently being looked after away from home.
• There are approximately 44,625 foster families currently caring for young people in England.
• The leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, now estimates there will be a need to recruit a further 5,900 foster families over the next 12 month period.
Good news at the end of this particular rainbow…more birthdays to celebrate this October for our foster children – Special Birthday Greetings from all the staff here at Rainbow Fostering!
Time to remember our generous ‘Rainbow Rewards’
Take advantage of a generous bonus of £500 if you can refer someone to be a foster carer with Rainbow. Once your referral has been approved, the bonus will be paid when the first foster placement is made. Existing foster carers can transfer to Rainbow and also qualify for a special bonus: payment will be made over for carers who are already caring for foster children on a long-term basis.
And if you are considering being a foster carer for the very first time – how to foster a child? What are foster carer requirements? How long does it take to become a foster carer? And foster carer pay? These are just a handful of questions we are often asked by people considering developing a career in foster care. We are now particularly keen to find people who want to make a difference by providing stable homes for vulnerable youngsters. So, if you are interested in fostering babies, fostering children or perhaps teenagers, please call us on 020 8427 3355
Rainbow News – keeping you informed about the issues connected to foster care…
Headline: foster carer recruitment under the spotlight
October 2nd, 2017
The leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, is currently estimating that approximately 7,000 foster families are now needed in the next year to cope with an expected shortfall. It remains very challenging to find people to step forward to care for children – earlier this month ‘Action for Children’ released a report indicating 85% of adults in the UK showed little or no interest in fostering (more) http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK