Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Children in foster care aren't waiting for a loving home – they are already in one

Children in foster care aren't waiting for a loving home – they are already in one

Andy Elvin

The government’s new vision for adoption is to be welcomed, but Nicky Morgan should cut out the divisive rhetoric

The education secretary Nicky Morgan, who said recently “We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available.” 

The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, unveiling the new adoption strategy over the Easter weekend, said: “We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available.” But children in foster care are not “waiting” for a loving family: they are in one.

Foster care isn’t a substandard second-best to adoption, it is the permanence option for 75% of children in the care system (pdf). It offers stability, consistency, care and love and delivers fantastic outcomes for children. Sadly, I suspect some bright young thing cynically judges that contrasting loving adopters with the evil care system plays well with the party base. Such reductive thinking disheartens the tens of thousands of foster carers who look after more than 50,000 of the UK’s most vulnerable children and do a fantastic job.

Related: Adoption is a traumatic upheaval and our care systems aren't helping
The Department for Education’s paper itself is nuanced and includes some excellent proposals, so it is sad that the new vision came with a side helping from Morgan of the old divisive rhetoric. 

To the DFE’s credit it has recognised there are a variety of placement types that can meet the long term needs of vulnerable children and that each case must be judged on its merits.

The paper states: “Where birth parents cannot meet a child’s basic needs it is one of the state’s most important responsibilities to step in and ensure that children can have a childhood which keeps them safe and enables them to flourish. The right permanence option for a child will always depend on their individual needs and circumstances. If they cannot live with their birth parents, there are a number of placement types – foster care, living with a special guardian, kinship care arrangements and residential care – which can all provide the right placement.”