Don’t treat foster parents like second-class carers – opinion piece in the Times

Author: TACT

Martin Barrow – a foster carer and an adviser at Forster Communications,  has had an excellent opinion piece about  fostering published in the Times.  Here it is in full…

Adoption gives vulnerable children a second chance to have a loving, stable, family that most children take for granted. As a foster carer I welcome the government’s decision to provide an additional £200 million to support adoption over this parliament. This will help to recruit more adoptive families and give them the support that they need to ensure that the process is a success.

But the government must now make a similar commitment to fostering. There are about 70,000 children in care in England, and the reality is that the vast majority will not be adopted. There are many reasons for this, including a shortage of adoptive families willing and able to take on children, particularly teenagers, with complex emotional and physical needs. But please, lets not forget that many children in care are old enough to make up their own minds, and will not want to be adopted. They have mums and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. They may accept that they cannot live with their parents but that does not mean that they are ready to become somebody else’s son or daughter.

This is not going to change, no matter how much money goes into an adoption support fund. But the government’s determination to create a hierarchy of care, with adoption at the top, and with foster care, special guardianship orders and kinship care at the bottom, risks harming those young people it aspires to protect.

When the education secretary says “every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability” it is an insult to 55,000 fostering families who effectively prop up the UK’s child protection system for not very much in return. It skews public opinion and damages recruitment efforts, at a time when more than than 9,000 additional families are needed simply to stabilise an ageing workforce.

There are societal reasons why fewer people foster (families are started later; housing is expensive). The last thing those who do foster need is for the government to tell us that we harm the children we care for, particularly when we see , day by day, week by week, that the opposite is true. For most looked-after children, foster care is the best possible option.