Positivity is incredibly important in fostering. The life stories of the children entering the care system are often extremely sad. As social care staff or foster carers, reading these stories is something we do regularly. Dealing with the resultant feelings of anger, sadness, disgust and confusion is par for the course.
It is from those initial feelings that we have to pick ourselves up and start looking at things positively. Whatever the background, that child is coming into a home and we need to do our best to make things better. We can’t wallow with the child, we have to be optimistic and driven to make a difference. When the child needs strength we give that strength, be it through time, warmth, opportunities or just simply an effort to provide ‘normality’.
Children in care are supported by a vast array of different services and individuals, who, by performing their specific function, form part of strength injected into the child. But what happens when one part fails? Several foster carers in the last year have exasperatedly asked why the reality of fostering was so different from the training we had given them. “But you said the child is at the centre of the decision making, no they’re not,” and “This isn’t a child centred decision,” were just two of the comments we have received. Thankfully none of the comments were directed as a criticism to us as an organisation.
It’s hard to respond without laying on a level of cynicism, which, from an agency that actually has a pretty positive outlook goes against the grain somewhat. It is true to say ‘we are stronger as a team’ but unfortunately it is becoming ever so clear that financial pressures in local authority budgets are sometimes working to erode the principles of good practice. We find ourselves having to deliver a day course which effectively trains foster carers to deal with their disappointment and anger at working within the system that is meant to protect the child in their care but which, at times, falls woefully short.
Don’t get us wrong, most of the individuals working in the social care field have only the best of intentions and practice. However, when the sector itself is so very much budget lead, we end up all working within a system where the lives of children are defined not by their needs and outcomes but by what a person with the purse strings thinks their lives are worth.
Whatever the challenges, I know it’s worth it for what we can do rather than what at times we can’t, and about that I’m positive.