Fostering News: Protecting Our Foster Kids, BBC Two, review: 'documentary-making at its most disturbing'
Last year the documentary series Protecting Our Parents gave an anxiety-inducing insight into the enormous challenges facing the NHS and welfare services because of our ageing population. Protecting Our Foster Kids (BBC Two, Sunday) took a similarly heartfelt – and heartbreaking – look at the issues confronting vulnerable children and foster parents attempting to navigate the care system: emotional minefields, impossible choices and a paralysing shortage of foster homes.
Produced and directed by Sam Emmery, the first of four films following the work of Dorset County Council’s fostering service looked at the case of 14-year-old Amy, whose placement with Steph and Chris and their three teenage children went swimmingly for the first few months. Amy slotted happily into the family, her clearly fragile sense of trust shored up by Steph’s cheerily maternal encouragement, and she was looking forward to staying long term.
Then the fostering service asked if Amy’s sister Natalie could stay with the family briefly “between placements”. This is despite being advised that the sisters were better apart.
It all fell to pieces so quickly. As the council failed to find a placement for Natalie, Amy’s trust in her new life disintegrated, the walls went up and she began to rebel. Meanwhile, the fostering service seemed incapable of recognising the cause of the chaos, despite endless reviews. In the end both girls had to be moved on, their self-worth further diminished, and Steph and Chris unable to consider another placement.
Not knowing the whole story it is impossible to say whether this was a case of bureaucratic bungling, as it appeared. There was a sense that, perhaps, sensitive details were being held back. But regardless of where the fault lay, the vulnerability of youngsters, and of well-meaning foster carers, was captured palpably. The consequences were etched on their faces.
One thing that can be said with certainty, though, is that this was documentary film-making at its most disturbing and acutely observed.
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