MOVING BETWEEN foster families can cause significant distress to children from “traumatic backgrounds” who crave stability, a charity has warned.
A quarter of foster children in Yorkshire were moved home twice or more last year - some as many as seven times, research by Action for Children has found.
The charity said too many children are being disrupted by repeated moves to new homes, and called for more families to urgently come forward to provide stable homes for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.
Children and young people who regularly move between foster care homes are more likely to have poor social skills, reduced education outcomes and limited future employment prospects – impacting on their mental health and exacerbating any existing behavioural and emotional issues.
Out of 6,075 children in foster care in Yorkshire and the Humber between April 2014 and March 2015, 1,570 foster children had moved twice or more - 26 per cent. Of these, 26 had moved five times; 23 had moved six times and 22 had moved seven times.
Children’s placements manager at Action for Children Yorkshire, Sue Atkinson-Millmoor, said: “For children in care, moving home is not just about leaving a house. It means leaving a family, friends, school and everything that’s familiar to start all over again.
“We know of children as young as four who have had to move three times in less than a year before finding a stable family home. Sadly we know that it can be necessary to move children from their current foster homes as relationships between a carer and child can break down, especially for children who have faced the most traumatic experiences and find it hard to trust someone new.
“However, too many children in care are still facing instability in their lives. That’s why we urgently need more dedicated foster carers to help children and young people overcome trauma by helping them to love and trust again, feel safe, rebuild their sense of worth and belonging.”
One foster carer from Sheffield who had seen their teenage foster son “thrive” over a two-and-a-half year placement, told The Yorkshire Post: “Every time a foster child moves home they have to learn to trust a whole new set of people. It’s so important for them to have stability, and with a long placement, you can see them grow in confidence.”
In June, the Fostering Network said a further 720 new families were needed to foster children in Yorkshire in 2015.
Labour’s Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, an advocate of fostering, said it was “vital” to keep disruption to a minimum.
“What makes a stable and balanced adult, is a stable and balanced childhood,” he said. “The reason many of these children are in foster care is out of their control, but being brought into a loving household can make a profound difference.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said it had put in place “comprehensive and far-reaching” support for foster children.
EastEnders has recently been running a fostering storyline. After the great work they did in 2011 with Comic Relief, highlighting childhood sexual exploitation in a special film, I was expecting writing of similar quality.
Sadly, on this occasion they fell a long way short. The character of Jade has been placed in foster care, and EastEnders has the birth family track her down at her foster placement easily. We also discover that the foster carer she is placed with will accept cash bribes to cut some of Jade’s hair and pass it to the birth family so they can undertake a DNA test to ascertain her parentage. The foster carer then arranges contact with family members who Jade has never met before.
So far, so dramatic you might say. To an extent fair enough: this is fiction so why not pump up the drama? Except that every day more than 50,000 foster carers are looking after our most vulnerable children on our behalf. They are doing this for little money and sometimes with inadequate support. They are, as Lord Laming recently said, “heroes of the state”.
None of them, not one, not ever, would do anything like the EastEnders storyline. And we need more of them, desperately, more ordinary people with the heart, the emotional stamina and the determination to do extraordinary things for the children they care for on our behalf.
EastEnders has millions of viewers, some of them foster carers, some of them children in foster care and some of them potential foster carers. How many might have been put off by the cynical, poorly researched and downright nasty portrayal of foster care by the BBC?
Being good licence fee payers, some of our foster carers complained to the BBC. This is what they got in return:
"It is clear from your e-mail you feel the storyline featuring Jade’s foster carer is unrealistic and inaccurate. …"
It is objectively a complete fantasy, there is no subjective point of view: the storyline was a careless fiction written with no regard for the truth of foster care.
"As with all sensitive subject matter that we cover on EastEnders, we approached the storyline of Shabnam Masood’s daughter being in foster care with great care and attention. We sought guidance and advice from a number of experts in this field and they advised us throughout the whole process; from the planning and development stages, through to scripting and filming. …"
Really? Who? Please name the “experts” who said a foster carer would accept cash to conspire in a DNA test.
"It is true that EastEnders does aim to reflect real-life as far as possible, and because of this we are aware that storylines we cover can be very different for someone who has been affected by the subject than for a person who has not gone through such an experience. But that said, ultimately it is a fictional drama series rather than a documentary, and therefore an element of dramatic licence is sometimes necessary – as Jade’s foster dad is not meant to be representative of all foster parents. …"
Jade’s foster dad is not representative of any foster parent. He is made up from the overwrought imagination of a BBC writer.
"We must also point out that although we don’t condone the actions of all of our fictional characters all of the time, we believe that they should be able to express views/opinions or actions, even if we don’t personally agree with them. I appreciate you may continue to be unhappy with this storyline but I hope I’ve helped to explain our position on the matter."
Well, you’ve made up a story that slanders foster carers and made it harder for us to attract more people to look after the children who so desperately need their care. But that’s all right, because it’s all just a story and you don’t really condone what they did.
Like all people who are happy to have power but do all they can to avoid the responsibility that goes with it, the BBC is using weasel words to justify this lazy, clichéd and degrading storyline.
I am lucky enough in my job to meet many of the UK’s foster carers and see first-hand the excellent work they are doing. There is more real drama in a week’s foster care than there is in a year’s worth of EastEnders. A decent writing team could have portrayed foster care accurately and with far greater dramatic effect. Instead they went for this insulting and demeaning storyline. Foster carers deserve better than this shoddy treatment by the nation’s broadcaster.
Today TACT took pride of place at this year’s Alternative Parenting Show, held in Covent Garden, central London. This annual exhibition offers anyone who is looking to start, or build their family, through adoption, fostering, or other means, a prestigious, but informal atmosphere in which to ask questions and benefit from expert guidance and legal advice from the wide variety of participants.
TACT’s chief executive, Andy Elvin, opened the event at The Grand Connaught Rooms, with a seminar discussion about the national charity’s supportive service to all those considering parenthood, and explained the relative merits of the different approaches available.
Speaking to a packed room, Andy painted a picture of the current landscape for looked after children and young people. He said: ‘As the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, we have over 550 foster carers, looking after more than 650 children in foster care, and we make 20-30 successful adoptions each year.
‘People trust TACT because as a charity we reinvest all our surplus income into support for carers and children. We talk to prospective carers from all walks of life, from any ethnicity, single people or couples from all sexual orientations, those with children of their own or those without. What we are really interested in is what you can bring to a child’s life.’
A former foster carer in the United States, Andy has deep personal experience of caring for vulnerable children, and, having been a social worker since 1998, shared how the ways of becoming a parent have changed in recent years. He said: ‘There has been a rise in special guardianship orders, including those granted to foster carers, which gives carers clear, legal parental responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child and provides the legal security upon which to build a lifelong permanent relationship between the child and their carer.
Andy continued: ‘With the rise in special guardianship, foster care is increasingly becoming a route to legal parenthood, and that’s fantastic for children, who are placed into long-term stable, loving family homes because with TACT’s round the clock support and the quality of our carers, they achieve outcomes on a par with the general population.’
In the main hall, TACT’s exhibition stand was inundated with interest from people keen to learn more about the assessment process and the support offered by TACT, with lots of engaging conversations with our London adoption team members, Laura Stewart and Mercia Jackson, and the support of some of our long standing adopters, offering their ‘real life’ experiences.
Thousands of British families want to foster unaccompanied refugee children living in dire conditions, but authorities say it could take up to eight months to do so. So what next? Milli Hill reports
Would you open your home and your family to a refugee child? Save the Children estimates there are currently around 5,000 ‘unaccompanied’ children in European refugee camps who have no adult officially responsible for their care. And as the world becomes more and more aware of their plight, large numbers of people are stepping forward to say that they are willing to foster them.
In the past seven days more than 10,000 people have volunteered to become refugee foster carers via an online initiative from charity Home for Good. In addition to this, Kevin Williams, chief executive for The Fostering Network, has called for more people to urgently come forward and consider becoming foster carers, in particular those who have experience of working with children who have suffered trauma, or who may have similar cultural or linguistic backgrounds to the refugees.
However, if you are one of the many people who sees fostering a child refugee as a chance to help make a real difference in the current crisis, don’t start getting the spare room ready yet. Because whilst you may be willing and able to welcome a child in need into your home right away, in reality, it could be several months before you are eligible to do so.
This is because the existing system demands you go through the exact same rigorous process as anyone wishing to become an approved UK foster carer, as Melody Douglas, managing director of FosterTalk, explains: “To foster any child – refugee or otherwise - you need to undergo the assessment process. There are no short cuts. Assessing someone to be a foster carer is a lengthy and detailed process that may take up to eight months to complete.
"It will be carried out by a social worker who will make visits to your family home, talk to you about your hobbies, interests and lifestyle, as well as taking up references from your friends and employer. You will also be required to undergo a medical and apply for an enhanced disclosure to check for any offences you may have committed in the past.”
Once approved as a foster carer, it’s also unlikely you’ll be able to discriminate and declare that you are only interested in fostering refugee children, as opposed to those from the UK. But whilst some may consider this to be fair and equal, others feel that insisting both UK children and refugees are processed through the same system is inappropriate, and that more urgent action is needed for the unaccompanied children currently in the dangerous conditions of Europe’s camps.
Should there be a fast track?
Fellow Telegraph journalist Toby Young has initiated a petition, signed by over 2,000 people, calling on David Cameron to allow UK families to immediately take in around 3,000 refugee children. Young suggests we remember the spirit of Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of 669 children in 1939 as part of the wider ‘Kindertransport’ initiative, which saw the UK taking in nearly 10 thousand predominantly Jewish children, many of them into the care of foster families.
At the time of the Kindertransport, an appeal for fosterers on the BBC Home Service resulted in hundreds of offers, and, once cursory checks were made that their homes were ‘clean and respectable’, children were quickly transported to what must certainly have been relative safety.
Whilst the story is inspiring, that was 1939, and times have changed. It’s no longer considered acceptable or safe to place a child in a family without rigorous checks and several months of preparation and training. But, given the scale of the crisis, and that unaccompanied refugee children are no doubt extremely at risk, should there not be a ‘fast track’ process to bring them to safety in days, rather than months?
I asked Toby Young how he felt about the inevitable delay to aid, in an era where an action like the Kindertransport no longer seems possible. His response was brief but clear. “I think the Government should appoint a child refugee envoy whose job would be to find homes for these children, including vetting all the people who’ve volunteered to become foster parents. That way, they won’t have to spend a year being interviewed by politically correct local council officers and the issue of why refugee children are being given priority within the present foster care system won’t arise.”
Children come with baggage
The Department of Education have stated: “There would not be any chance of changing the process of becoming a foster carer, which is there for a reason.” But many of the thousands of people who have come forward to volunteer feel that help needs to reach refugee children now, not in several months time.
One applicant, a UK nurse married to a Syrian GP, told me: “We have two children of our own and want to help. We only have a three bedroom house, but that doesn't bother me, these people need shelter and love. I find the system to get started daunting and think it would take months, while these beautiful people and babies need safe homes soon.”
Jenny Smith, an author and retired foster carer from Lambeth who has given a home to both UK children and several refugees from Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, feels that, whilst the mainstream process may be time-consuming, it’s vitally important.
"You can’t just take a child and place them into anybody’s care, without the proper training”, she explained. “Children come with a lot of baggage. You see these lovely cherubic faces but the reality can be extremely difficult. There’s a huge amount to deal with, from the paperwork, to the issues of language, to the possibly difficult behaviour. I don’t think people realise what an involved process they are getting into.”
Smith’s accounts of her years as a foster carer are nevertheless inspiring. Her first experience of a refugee was a 14-year-old Kosovan boy who had spent the four days prior to arriving on her doorstep hiding in the back of a lorry. He spoke no English, and she quickly fetched the attendants from a nearby carwash, who she knew were Kosovan, to translate.
A child is a child
“They explained what was happening, and told him to be a good boy for me”, she recounted. “He was quiet and hard working, and within a short time became head boy of our local school. Then he went to university and has never looked back.”
Not every story ended so well, Jenny added. In her view, support and training were vital in what could be a hugely complex and emotional task. She sounded unflappable, and perhaps most impressively, utterly without discrimination – as a foster carer her house became home to a long list of children, all of whom she welcomed with open arms and without question.
But fostering isn't easy. Nor does it suit everyone. There are 63,000 UK children currently in foster care, and the Fostering Network estimates that over 8,000 more foster families must be recruited in the next 12 months to support this overstretched system. Whilst it may currently be an emotive issue to wish to house an unaccompanied refugee, in the long term we need people who are prepared to open their doors to all children.
Any attempt to analyse who is most deserving of our help – UK child, or refugee - is simply a microcosm of the wider current debate: are they ‘refugees’, or ‘migrants’? Syrian, or from somewhere a little less war-torn?
Destitute, or clutching a smart-phone? Rather than getting caught up in arguments about who is most in need, we must simply move as fast as we can to improve lives. Literally and metaphorically, we need to pull people out of the water first, and ask questions second. So if you can, sign up to be a foster carer, not just a refugee foster carer. Compassion should have no borders.
We are very excited to announce that we will be opening new offices in the East Midlands and Teesside in October.
There is an ongoing need to recruit more foster carers in Teesside and the East Midlands and these offices will provide a local base for foster carers.
Carer support and training will be held at the new offices and the teams will provide support for foster carers in the areas.
Keep checking our Facebook page and website to find out more about opening dates and Fostering Information Events at the new offices.
If you are interested in fostering with us please make an enquiry.
The Welsh Government has announced restructuring plans for adoption and fostering services in Wales following the closure of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) Cymru, it was announced yesterday.
From September 9, the National Adoption Service will run the Wales Adoption Register with relevant BAAF Cymru staff transfering over to the Service.
Training, consultancy, legal advice and an advice line for the public and professionals will be run by a new body set up by the St David’s Children Society, to be known as the Association for Fostering and Adoption Cymru @ St David’s. The new body will provide training and other services tailored to Wales and will also recruit from former BAAF Cymru staff.
Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said: "These arrangements will strengthen and secure the future of the adoption and fostering services which BAAF Cymru provided, as well as securing jobs for staff employed by BAAF Cymru.
“As soon as we became aware of BAAF’s plans to close, we negotiated with its administrators to ensure services remained stable for an extra six weeks to support vulnerable children and assist people seeking to foster and adopt.
“During this six-week period we have promoted a robust new structure that builds on BAAF Cymru’s expertise across a range of services and activities. BAAF Cymru staff have continued to provide these services until the day of closure so there has been no interruption in services.
“The National Adoption Service shares our goal to develop and improve the Wales Adoption Register. I see these new arrangements as a step towards making the register even more effective and easier to use.
“I am confident that they will lead to improved services and I want to thank all the staff and organisations involved for working with us. Together we have put arrangements in place to help support the most vulnerable children and young people in Wales. I hope to be able to make an announcement about the future of the independent review mechanism very soon.”
Suzanne Griffiths, director of operations for the National Adoption Register, said: "I am pleased to have been able to work with the Welsh Government and colleagues in BAAF Cymru to ensure the register can continue to operate. Ensuring this will mean children who need to be adopted are unaffected as well as providing a further opportunity to strengthen and develop the role the register plays in adoption services in Wales.
”The Wales Adoption Register is just one of the ways adoption services use to match children to adopters. The National Adoption Service would like to assure adopters and professionals who use the Wales Adoption Register that there will be no disruption to the service they receive.”
Gerry Cooney, chief executive of St David’s Children Society, said: “It is our absolute priority to continue services which will support the future of adoption services in Wales as well as other permanent arrangements. The integration of core elements of the BAAF legacy will ensure the continuation of vital services, including an information helpline, training and consultancy.
“These services will offer independent information, support and expertise for professionals and members of the public that will assist and improve the lives of children and young people separated from their birth families.
“The continuation of services has only been possible due to the superb support from the Welsh Government. We will now work together to harness the highly-skilled expertise of both organisations to achieve our vision of placing children in their forever homes and in offering support where needed to all those affected by adoption and other care arrangements.”
In response to the announcement that the Scottish Government are to invest £10million in equalling kinship care allowances locally to those of foster carers, Sara Lurie, director of The Fostering Network Scotland, said: “The Fostering Network in Scotland is calling for a commitment from the Scottish Government to introduce minimum fostering allowances, and therefore parity from service to service, following on from their promise to bring kinship care allowances to the same level as fostering allowances.
“Without the introduction of minimum allowances to foster care, and then equalling it for kinship carers, the Scottish Government will create a postcode lottery of care akin with that currently faced by foster carers, that is not fair on those who dedicate their lives to caring for children who cannot live with their birth parents.
“Scotland is the only nation in the UK to not have a minimum allowance for foster carers. In England and Northern Ireland there is a minimum of £119 per week, and in Wales it is £159 per week. However in Scotland some foster carers receive as little as £77.69 per week which means that foster carers in Scotland are having to dig deep into their own pockets to care for children on behalf of the local authority – and we don’t want kinship carers to have to do the same. We have repeatedly expressed these concerns in the past, and will continue to do so.”
You can find more information on the department for education recommended allowances in England and Northern Ireland on the Government's website.
Parents And Children Together (PACT) is a registered charity and relies on fundraising and donations to enable it to continue its work with vulnerable children and families. At PACT we have been saddened by recent headlines about vulnerable people being targeted by aggressive fundraising methods.
We would like to reassure all our supporters and donors that PACT does not use, and has never used, these methods of fundraising.
PACT has a small fundraising team which works hard to gain funding for our work from trusts and foundations and to support people who choose to make donations or take part in fundraising activities in whatever way they can.
We are fortunate to have many people who believe in PACT’s work and do some incredible things to raise money for us. We would like to thank all of you who run marathons, skydive, do sponsored walks, cake sales, organise events or have become a Friend of PACT. We are so very grateful for your support.
If you’d like to find out how you could support PACT please take a look at our website or get in touch with Laura Senior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We won’t put any pressure on you but we’d love to hear from you!
While many families fleeing political, ethnic or religious conflict in war-torn nations arrive in the UK together, a great many unaccompanied children and young people arrive here completely on their own.
These young people may have both witnessed and experienced traumatic events that many of us cannot even imagine. Not least being separated from parents, loved ones and the familiarity of their home country to embark on a perilous life-threatening journey to reach European shores.
The UK government is now responding to public calls to provide homes for refugees who risk their lives escaping tyranny and violence, pledging to help more mums, dads and kids find safety in Britain.
Here in Kent and the South East, many groups fuelled by 'people power' are collecting and distributing humanitarian aid and vital supplies to those at the Jungle refugee camps in Calais - with overwhelming responses from the public to donate. Others are putting posters in windows making it clear that 'refugees are welcome' in their home.
There are many wonderful ways to offer your help and support to this tragic mass displacement of people; and becoming a foster carer is one of them.
Children seeking asylum
Children and young people arriving in the UK alone to seek asylum, often with nothing and no-one, need a safe, loving and stable home environment.
Beyond the trauma they have already experienced, unaccompanied children arriving in the UK are unlikely to speak English, or have any concept of fostering and family customs in the UK.
The role of the foster carer is to provide that safe, secure place so that the right support and services can be identified; as well as developing communication skills to support children in everyday living - and as they try to come to terms with their emotional and psychological distresses.
Making a better life
Kasper Fostering is currently assessing a foster family who, because of their own early life experiences, identify closely with caring for young asylum seeking children. Both parents experienced having to leave their country of origin under difficult circumstances, to start again in a foreign country.
Their motivation to foster unaccompanied children is clear, "We see, and have seen firsthand, so much destruction in the world, and lack of care for other human beings. We just want to help a young person who has experienced such hardship make a better life and achieve as best they can."
As well as sound motivations, and at least one spare bedroom, ideal qualities in people interested in fostering refugee children may include:
Foster carers are resilient and dedicated, ordinary people who make an amazing difference to transform the lives of vulnerable children. They provide safe, caring and loving homes that give children security, stability and the chance to develop and thrive.
Our foster carers receive from £412 per week per child, enabling carers to fully meet the needs and expenses of the young person placed. We provide round-the-clock support from highly experienced social workers, and specialist training to work therapeutically with young people.
A team of support is also put in place around the child and foster family, including an English tutor, access to interpreters and local services.
Kasper Fostering is an outstanding agency (Ofsted, 2015), not-for-profit and child-centred. We provide loving families for vulnerable children in need, and invest all our resources in their futures.
Talk to us about becoming a foster carer: You could change a young person's future, and give children the chance to be children.
Call our friendly team on 01227 275985 to find out more today.
Trapped in the foster care system, Lizzy Lloyd was determined to achieve in life.
Told she was no good and probably destined for prison, the schoolgirl fought to prove them all wrong.
At the age of 11, Lizzy said her world was turned upside down when she was put into foster care after her family neglected her needs.
Along with her two younger sisters she was placed with a string of families and carried the stigma of her unfortunate circumstances.
Now Lizzy, who is proudly starting Northumbria University, is using her experience to become a voice for fellow fostered youngsters.
And the 19-year-old is organising a fun day for them so she can find out what changes they would like made to the foster care system.
Lizzy, who gained triple distinction* in BTEC health sciences, said: “One of the main reasons that I am holding this event is because I was once a kid in care. I went into the care system at the age of 11 with my two sisters.
“Throughout my childhood I felt ignored and felt that I had no say or control in how my life turned out. I had no say in which placements I went to and whether I wanted to stay there or not.
“I was always carrying this label around with me. I was told by some adults that I would never amount to anything and would end up in prison, just because of the fact I was in care. However, I’ve proved them wrong and I’m starting university to become a paediatric nurse.”
Lizzy, who is now living in foster support lodgings in Newcastle, added: “I managed to get to this point in my life on my own with a little help from my social worker. However, there are thousands of looked-after children who don’t have a voice and are left feeling rejected and useless.
“The event is a fun day for looked-after children and it will be entirely free for them. The aim is to find out what the children dislike about being in care and what changes they would like to see.”
Lizzy is working with Voices for Choices - a group of looked after children and members of the Children in Care Council for Newcastle. She is steadfast on giving youngsters the chance to have their say and with their answers she will present Newcastle Social Services with their suggestions.
“I feel young people in foster care should have more of a say,” added Lizzy, who has had part-time jobs since the age of 13 and now works part-time as a nursing assistant. “Even foster carers should be allowed to voice their views. We should be able to say if we want to meet up with foster carers again after leaving their homes. We create bonds but they are broken when the child leaves to go somewhere else. Both the child and carers views should be taken into consideration.”
The fun day will be held on October 26 at the Blakelaw Centre in Blakelaw, Newcastle, between 11am and 2pm.
Local councillor Ben Riley has given a helping hand. There will be various activities during the day including; a bouncy castle, magician, arts and crafts, soft play and more. Lizzy is raising £500 to pay for the event.
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