On any day in the UK there are 65,000 children in care. There are new-born babies, toddlers and school-age children. There are groups of two, three, four or more brothers and sisters who need a home together. There are young girls who are pregnant, young mothers and their babies and disabled children. There are children from every background you can imagine.
Sometimes these children can’t stay in their home because their parents have asked Children’s Services to look after them while they try to sort out some crisis in their life. This could be due to illness, a drug or alcohol problem or some other difficulty. At other times, parents have agreed to the local authority’s suggestion that they look after the child while people work with them on sorting things out at home. More often though it’s because the children are believed to have suffered abuse or neglect and a court has ordered that they be removed from the family home and be looked after by the Local Authority. Abuse could be physical, mental or sexual and includes neglect. All abuse is of course a form of neglect in itself.
Put simply, children come into care for various reasons. Some are in permanent care and need long term homes. Others are in care for shorter periods and will eventually return to their own families. The ages of the children range from birth up to teenagers. Some of the children will need to be placed together with their brothers or sisters.
In partnership with the Local Authority, we make individual plans for the child based on their needs, and work with our foster carers as part of a team to achieve the best possible care for the children
Not all children in care will return to their own families so Local Authorities sometimes need to find them a permanent home. In some cases, this will be through adoption, but for other children, especially older children or those who continue to have regular contact with relatives, a long-term foster home will be a better option for the child. If this is the case a foster family must be found who can provide a long term home for the child until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently, to allow them to feel as secure as possible.
The family circumstances causing most children to be removed are by any understanding exceptional.
The characteristics of parents who are likely to seriously harm or neglect their children often indicate they themselves have been abused/emotionally rejected or have a mental illness/ learning disability.They may have an alcohol or drug addiction, aggressive outbursts or a history of violence, controlling or obsessional personalities, low self esteem or have had a series of abusive relationships.
Some may have a child who innocently triggers a rejecting or aggressive response in them, for example, because they are not a very cuddly baby or they remind the parent of a former violent partner. Maybe they have feared the stigma of being a bad parent or have a deep suspicion of social workers left over from their own previous experience of Children’s Services or: have been in care themselves and have not been given the love and security they needed, whether this was because of abuse by their carers or a series of breakdowns in placements.
The characteristics that lead to children coming into care are complex and often related to the aptitude/capacity of their parents/carers rather than any individual traits within the children. Children are children and none of them are born bad. Ultimately they, and we, are all products of our biography, background, parenting and individual characters.
However, despite the fact they are seldom responsible for their situations, the consequences of receiving poor standards of care does manifestly affect the children involved. Neglect and abuse can cause many emotional and psychological issues that burden ‘looked after’ young people, and will need a therapeutic response if closure is ever to be found. You, working in partnership with Children Always First, can be a fundamental part of the child’s healing process.
As a foster carer you are often the most effective conduit by which ‘therapy’ can be delivered. Utilising a therapeutic parenting approach is not rocket science. In its simplest form it is parenting and nurturing the child in the correct manner in order to help them grow and mature, taking into account the traumas and developmental disorders that may have affected them. It is trying to make the playing field level and doing the right things to facilitate healing. It is sticking by children when the going gets tough and enabling them to realise there ARE adults they can trust.