Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Three cheers for the increased support to children in foster care ! Now let’s do it for those in children's homes

My lack of sympathy for the current United Kingdom Conservative-led coalition government is a secret I have tried desperately to keep, though not, I confess, entirely successfully. It is a government which has not altogether covered itself in glory in its treatment of troubled families and troubled children and so the announcement made today, December 4th, 2013, by the government minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, that children being looked after in foster care in England will continue, if they so wish, to have their foster care and support funded until the age of 21, is one to be welcomed. This is something that foster carers and others involved in the care and education of children looked after in the care system have long called for. 

Mr Timpson, whose own family fostered nearly 90 children, stated that the government would pledge £40m to this initiative over three years and the measure will be introduced during the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year. I congratulate Mr Timpson. His intention will give us something of which, as a community, we can be proud. 

There is of course another smaller, though significant, group of looked after children. These are children in children's homes and they are perhaps the most vulnerable group of young people in our community. They are children who for a variety of reasons are not available for foster care. Too frequently their difficulties are seen as 'more problematic' rather than - as they should seen - ‘different.’ So the residential care they are provided with becomes, quite wrongly, understood as a  'last resort’ sump of care when it is clear that for these children it is a ‘first resort.’ It is what they need. Let us hope that within a very short period of time the government will announce a similar level of support for children and young people who are in residential care beyond the age of 18 years. Their needs for further support may well be different, perhaps more expensive, but if such support is provided it will be a further welcome sign that as a community we are attempting to edge towards becoming civilised. We will have demonstrated that we are as determined to establish, as much as we can, positive future prospects for young people in residential care, which are equal to those now being put in place for children growing up in foster care.


John Stein writes : 
I agree with your comment about residential child care being 'first resort' rather than last resort. I couldn't agree more. (Except that I strongly prefer the term, 'residential treatment' to residential care). Virtually every child I met in residential placement needed coordinated treatment in the life space. 'Care,' especially here in Louisiana, implies 3 meals a day and a roof and a bed with an adult with no more than a high school education to look after them. After all anyone can care for kids. That attitude is all too pervasive in our social work profession here, and it runs the programs.
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