There was some startling research from the charity Action for Children recently. Based on Freedom of Information requests to local authorities they found that one in four foster children in the UK (over 14,500) move home two or more times a year . This is based on April 2014 to March 2015.
A spokesman for the charity makes the following comment:
“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.
“They have “launched an appeal to find thousands of new foster carers to help provide the best homes for vulnerable children at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, 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.
“It is impossible to imagine the damage to a child or young person, who has already had the toughest start in life, to have to move several times a year until they find the right foster carer who will stick with them through thick and thin.
“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.”
Far more children should be taken out of the care system and placed for adoption thus allowing a permanent loving home. All too often children in care are returned to their birth mother to face more abuse or neglect. They then are returned to the care system with a different foster carer.
At present the interests of the child are not paramount. The system is hugely skewed towards the “rights” of the biological parent – even when their conduct has shown any such rights should be forfeited. . Thus, quite routinely, children in care are returned to their mothers – even when the risk of abuse is very high. The mother goes back on heroin, she has a new live in boyfriend who is violent towards the child or various other horrific scenarios – which are predictable and simply repeat what had happened before.
Meanwhile the obstruction and delay in for those wishing to adopt is disastrous – despite such risks when such placements are achieved being vastly lower. If decisions were based on evidence there would be presumption in favour or adoption – instead the system is rigged the other way.
This will not be the only factor in the high turnover of foster placements. Foster carers have a difficult job – low pay, often challenging children to cope and considerable bureaucratic intrusion. Sometimes they won’t be able to cope with a particular child sometimes they will quit altogether.
Within the tally the information gathered by the charity there are some councils with a particular poor performance.
These were the ones I spotted with a figure of over 30 per cent:
Barnet 30.7 per cent.
Cheshire East 30.5 per cent.
Cornwall 35.5 per cent.
Dumfries and Galloway 54.5 per cent
East Riding 42.1 per cent
Lancashire 34.2 per cent
Oldham 40.7 per cent
Orkney Islands 35 per cent
Plymouth 37.4 per cent
Reading 32.6 per cent
Southampton 40 per cent
Stockton-on-Tees 30.5 per cent
Torbay 57.6 per cent
West Lothian 32.3 per cent
Those councils, in particular, have some explaining to do.