Adoption, Fostering and Kinship Care
May 22, 2012
I haven’t blogged for while because I (like others) have become overwhelmed with everything that is happening on a policy front in relation to children in care. But I have made a point of keeping on top of everything, and over the last few weeks I have become intrigued by the exchange of views between adoption and foster care agencies on how they will feature in future policy making with regard to children in care.
The ’22 Minute’ Nationwide Fostercare Campaign is an excellent campaign. My view of fostering is similar to that of others – that foster carers provide good, stable environments for kids who might otherwise end up in residential care. I should say, however, that for some children residential care is the better option. I say this having grown up in childrens homes myself.
A few months ago I came across the Facebook Page of a National Fostercare Charity. A link had been posted by the Charity on the record number of children coming into care and the subsequent need for more foster carers. What I found interesting about this link was the comments made by what appeared to be foster carers. There were around 100 comments made between two threads, both on the same issue. Each comment was similar to the next – foster carers complaining that they had been approved but that they hadn’t received a child. Others commented that they had room for 2-3 more children, but had not received any placements. It struck me then, as it does now if foster carers who have already been assessed and approved to foster aren’t actually fostering then why do we need all these new foster carers?
The 22 Minute campaign is based on the fact that every 22 minutes a child comes into care. But does every child coming into care need to be fostered? Over the past week I have followed this campaign in Northern Ireland calling for 100 new foster carers. A few days into the campaign I got slightly confused. A social worker from one of our five Trusts was on the radio and when asked how many foster carers were needed for her particular Trust area, the social worker said 6. So does that mean we need 94 foster carers across our other four Trust areas, or that we don’t need 100 at all? Two very similar campaigns running alongside each other, each sending out a different message.
And then we have adoption and Martin Narey, the adoption Tsar for England. I like Mr Narey although I am anxious about his position on wanting to speed up the adoption process so more children are adopted. My concern about adoption is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, siblings will be split up (depending on their age) and secondly family members who want to step in and raise their relative’s children will find themselves out of time and unable to do so because a decision has already been made for the child to be adopted. My biggest concern, however, about adoption is this. Because adoption is likely to involve young children under the age of 5, this could result in care arrangements for children being determined by their age and not necessarily by their individual or long-term needs. Adoption for children under the age of 5, foster care for children age 6-13 and residential care for kids 13+. Or perhaps that won’t happen at all and I am stressing over nothing.
I read an article yesterday by Christopher Barker called ‘Child Snatching is Now Big Business’. The article mentions the 22 Minute campaign and the vast amount of money that is pumped into the foster care system in England. What worried me about this article (aside from its title) was the average cost of keeping a children in care (£37,000 per year) and kids being portrayed in terms of a ‘£’ sign – something that should never, ever happen when it comes to children in need of protection. But have children in care really become ‘big business’? I hope not.
Last, but certainly not least is kinship care – the most important care arrangement of them all. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. If children in need of protection and children on the edge of care are helped remain within their own families the number of children requiring adoption or fostering will inevitably reduce. In terms of investment, children in kinship care may require support in helping them adjust and come to terms with the loss or removal of their parents and financial support so they aren’t left to live in poverty. Additional supports may also be needed depending on the needs of the child and their carer – but no where near what it costs to keep a child in care.
So what am I missing? It costs less to keep a child in kinship care than it does foster care and residential care. UK and international research suggests children are safer in kinship care than non kinship care arrangements and outcomes for children in kinship care are better. So why is it that kinship care is viewed as some secondary intervention for vulnerable children? Why is it that money is being pumped into adoption and foster care but kinship care gets little to nothing? And why is it that we pursue campaigns and policy decisions in support of adoption and fostering when the most important arrangement of all is sitting right in front of our noses (kinship care).
Good questions, but no answers. ‘Child snatching’ is not an appropriate term to use when discussing the needs of vulnerable children. But if it’s not this, then what is it?
Article ‘Childsnatching is Now Big Business’ (towards the end) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9277302/About-the-euro-and-global-warming-it-turns-out-the-thought-criminals-were-right.html