We have been reading the recent independent Review of Fostering in England conducted by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers for the Department for Education, published in February 2018 and the most heartening headline from the report is that fostering is a success story.
Those of us who work with foster carers know this is true, but to have the research to back this up is rewarding and foster carers should feel buoyed up by this endorsement.
The idea of fostering is really very straightforward, children need to be looked after and foster carers want to care, we just need to put them together safely. With the range of legislation changes and implementation of standards it is easy to lose sight of the simplicity of what we do. The very fact of being formally assessed and approved to be able to care for other people’s children in your own home 24/7 is a real act of trust and belief, and it’s a gift.
The question we ask is why do you want to care for other people’s children? This is so different for everyone who expresses an interest. Sometimes they are people who have been in the care system themselves, or who have brought up their own children to adult hood and have an empty house, or they just love looking after children, and any number of other reasons.
The Review of Fostering also points out the hard aspects of fostering, and they are rarely about the children, more about the planning around the children. Being able to make decisions about school trips and haircuts seems straightforward things for foster carers to do but we know this can become a real problem for birth parents who have had their children removed from their care. So it’s a balance of needs, which is what makes fostering different from parenting our own children.
We asked an experienced foster carer why she still fosters after all these years (21 years) and she said because seeing the small differences she can make to a child’s life is a reward. The child may have been scared, anxious and uncommunicative when they first arrived, but seeing them suddenly come for a cuddle or ask for help, or make a choice of what to eat for tea is a real joy.
Let’s celebrate the fact that a government report has proved that fostering is a success story!