Life in the Care System

The number of children in care has reached new highs, with 90 young people entering the care system every day and frankly…I’m not surprised.

 In the midst of continuous slices to children’s centres and nearby family support services, the quantity of cared for youngsters in England and Wales reached 72,670 in the year prior to March 2017 – denoting the greatest yearly flood of kids in care in seven years.

The ascent in youngsters entering care has been put down to issues in family units, for example, destitution, poor lodging and substance abuse, which specialists said can be put down to cuts to local services intended to tackle them.

As a girl who has been in the care system practically her whole life, I have seen with my own eyes that there are not enough services to give families the best chance – at being and staying together – as possible. If more government spending was used on helping families support themselves and live independently (with help on hand) there may well be a lot less foster children as there is currently. Andy Elvin, the chief executive of Tact Care, the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, said that the rise in children in the care system was down to cuts to services that would connect with families and give them a support network, “Surestart children services have been obliterated in recent years. They were often in the most deprived communities and provided a broad range of support from midwife services to parenting support groups.”

Figures show that three-quarters of English councils surpassed their financial plans for youngsters’ administrations a year ago, totalling a £605m overspend, while the quantity of youngsters subject to child insurance enquiries expanded by 140 percent – to 170,000 – in the previous decade. Mr Elvin said the reduction to early intervention services created a “vicious cycle”, adding: “If you don’t intervene early, things don’t get better on their own, they get worse. And when they meet the threshold, you’re onto child protection, which in some cases leads to children going into care.

Do you want to know what makes the whole funding situation worse? The fact that the foster carer business is slowly dying. Foster care is a way of providing a family life for children who cannot live with their own parents. All over the world, foster families open their hearts to children in need, and share their family life with them. However, there are simply not enough foster carers to assign to most of the looked after children! Which is when the council responsible for said child looks towards group homes.

Approximately half a million children in child welfare systems are living in group settings — and advocates say that these numbers are far too high. Many argue that children have more success when placed in family settings from the start, and that defaulting to group settings is a troubling practice. “We believe all kids who have to be removed from their families should be placed with other families,” Tracey Feild, director of the Child Welfare Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, tells Mashable. “That’s the most important criterion for placement — or it should be.”

Aside lacking in adequate support for children in care, group homes also make little financial sense. Group settings are about seven to ten times more expensive per child than any placement with a family.

But, Feild admits, there’s one major obstacle when it comes to getting children out of group care: There are rarely enough foster families to achieve that goal. So basically, it’s a never-ending roundabout.

As well as this, we can observe that some children in care may feel frustrated with the child care framework since they’re continually under surveillance. There are often a great deal of players in the lives of foster kids: guardians, advocates, social workers, courts and more. “You have to go through 12 layers of people to find the right person to talk to about something,” Feild says. “You are bound by the rules of the system — and they are not the normal rules a parent would have for a child. For example, when making decisions whether or not to allow a looked after child to stay overnight with a friend, go on holiday with a friend’s family, or go on a school trip, foster carers and responsible authorities should consider the following: are there any court orders prohibiting or restricting overnight stays or holidays; are there any factors in the child’s background, past experience or behaviour that preclude the trip or holiday. There is a lot of ‘red wire’ that comes with being in a foster placement so it is easy to understand why some care children get frustrated with the system.

Personally, I have come into contact with all of the above examples and I know how stressful it can be. To feel like you’re not a ‘normal’ child or teenager…or at least that you’re not treated like one.

And then there’s the questions, “Is it like being Tracy Beaker?” – for example.

I’m going to level with you. I’m a ‘normal’ girl (if there’s such a thing) and I like to do what ‘normal’ girls do. Go shopping and hang out with friends while talking about music and makeup! There’s been plenty of times in my life when I’ve wanted people to treat me as such. They think that they have to (metaphorically) tip-toe around me to ensure they don’t ‘hurt my feelings’ or upset me. I am NOT a victim of the care system. Yeah, I might have a slightly different lifestyle to you and certain restrictions – but I am no different from the next person.

There are, however, certain things that people in everyday lives can do to make foster children more comfortable in life. These could be things like becoming a respite carer – If you have a heart to provide hands on care to foster children but don’t have the ability to do it full-time, you can become licensed to be a respite provider. Start or get involved in a support group – for some reason most of the support given to foster and adoptive parents comes from other foster and adoptive parents. This shouldn’t be the case! If you are not able to take children into your home, you can take an active role in enabling and encouraging those who are.

Volunteer with your local charity – most agencies have many different needs for volunteers. You can spruce up a visitation room with new toys and supplies, provide childcare for support group meetings. You can get involved with clothing or gift drives. Donate to charitable causes – from journey bags to Christmas presents, from care packages for college students to sibling reunification trips at Disney, you can help provide the “extras” for a foster child. Some organisations to consider giving to: Foster the Family – Within 24 hours of a new foster placement, their Foster Response delivers practical necessities and comforting support to the doorstep of a foster family. Each family will be paired with a trained staff member and receive a meal, information about resources and support, etc.

One Simple Wish – One Simple Wish connects individuals who want to bring joy to the life of a foster child with foster children who could use a little joy. The children share their simple wishes and needs, One Simple Wish posts them and fills them using their online platform, and a foster child receives their wish-come-true. All I want in this day and age is for someone who is in the same position as I was to have a better start in life.

Foster care is, at its core, a bridge. Back to first family or on to forever family. Sometimes foster family and forever family are one and the same. Sometimes. Foster parents must never be shamed, condemned or criticised when they do not adopt their foster children. Adoption is not in their job description. Does it sometimes happen? Yes. Does it have to happen? No.

Parents feel called to both adoption and foster care, however some feel called to one or the other. They should be honoured whatever choice they make.

We should all try to do our part to help each other.

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