There are 93,000 children in care in the UK, the overwhelming majority are in foster care. About 5% each year are adopted and an increasing number are being placed with relatives on Special Guardianship Orders.
However only one of these options has a national leadership board and it’s not the one where most of the children are.
Adoption, adoption, adoption, so good they named it thrice. Ever since the early days of Tony Blair there has been a misconception that all we need to do is increase the number of adoptions and the problems of the UK’s most vulnerable children will magically be fixed. When Prime Minister, David Cameron, spoke out in promoting adoption and his words are echoed by Ministers and columnists in the Times who talk of adoption “saving” the “lost boys” adrift in a “brutal” care system.
Cards on the table I think adoption is a very good thing for the children. It can transform lives and adopted children very often go on to live successful and happy lives. However foster care does the same for many more children every year as, increasingly, does a growing army of grandparents, uncles and aunts and older siblings.
David Cameron and his followers seemed incapable of recognising this and denigrates the great work foster carers do day in, day out, whilst seeking to promote adoption. This is inaccurate, unnecessary and counterproductive. The Education Minister Nicky Morgan said that “Every day a child is waiting in care for a life full of love & stability is a day wasted” children in foster care are not “waiting for a life full of love & stability” they are living one
Foster care is not some sort of sub-standard waiting room for adoption. It is warm, loving, giving and transforming daily miracle enacted by our society’s heroes. Foster carers give of their time and themselves, for little reward, to heal and to nurture some of societies most damaged children. We desperately need more of them, especially for teenage children who both don’t want to be adopted and for whom there are no adopters for even if they did. These are often children who have strong links with their birth families even if they, quite properly, can’t live with them because of neglect, chaos, addiction and dysfunction in their parents lives. Foster carers take this chaos into their homes and transform it with stability, consistency, predictability and love. Weasel words from politicians make recruiting more of these heroes of the state harder
Foster carers are deserving of our thanks, our respect and our support. This should be led by the Prime Minister. It’s time to change the narrative of there being a hierarchy of care, each child coming into care deserves the best permanence option for their highly individual needs. A national leadership board focused on this would be a good start.