FosterWiki Opinion Piece

Foster Care Fortnight – Haven’t you forgotten something?

Foster Care Fortnight - Haven't you forgotten something?

Carolyn Moody MBE

Fostering is the most wonderful thing you can do. As a foster carer, we keep children safe and give them stability and support during some very challenging times when they are unable to be with their own parents or family. We can provide essential care, good outcomes, memorable experiences and a sense of belonging.

However, in all these ‘memorable moments’ in Foster Care Fortnight let’s not forget that our children already have parents and siblings of their own who are still very important to them.

Family gives them an incredibly important sense of identity, familiarity, and connection. Often their parents need support, and as foster carers a crucial part of our role is to promote and support the family time and contact a child has with their birth family, and where possible we play an integral part in their journey towards reunification or resolution.

Where are their own parents’ voices in these ‘magical’ moments and milestones? Are they able to celebrate too? Has anyone stopped to consider how a birth parent might feel seeing all these people ‘celebrate’ their own children’s milestones or ‘magic’ moments? Devastated I expect.

Fostering is not just a responsibility, it’s a calling that holds immense significance in the lives of vulnerable children. It is a huge commitment full of happy and equally sad times that you share with the child. To be a foster carer is about giving a child a chance for a brighter future, filled with hope and possibility, and the duration of a child’s stay doesn’t diminish the impact we have on them, whether it’s months or foster carers make a lasting impression and difference to a child’s life and future.

However, children deserve to know and understand that foster carers are not replacing their parents but rather offering support and stability, with the hope that they can either return home or find permanence somewhere that embraces and encompasses familiar connections.

Part of this narrative is how crucial it is to understand that foster carers never have parental responsibility. We are so often pitched as foster ‘parents’, by providers, the government, marketing departments, recruitment drives and organisations with politically driven agendas, however, the reality is we are fostering families, we are foster carers.

So let’s celebrate being a very good version of what we are to these children and stop trying to replace their parents, something that causes untold damage, attachment issues, problems in adolescence and placement breakdowns.

As foster carers, it’s important to be honest about the nature of our work, it’s crucial to stop portraying foster care as traditional parenting or a ‘forever home’, it can never be forever because of the nature of fostering, and even though adoption is heavily promoted as the ‘happy ever after’ solution, it often isn’t either.

So children deserve transparency and honesty about their situation throughout their journey in care, as it is often the ‘not knowing’ that affects them badly, or even worse false promises that turn to dust.

Being paid as a foster carer isn’t wrong. Many individuals make sacrifices, including giving up other paid work to provide foster care, and in today’s socio-economic climate you won’t find many who are rich enough to foster as a volunteer.

Over 60% of foster carers are full-time, so it’s time to recognise their true value, the quality of their skills, 24-hour round-the-clock dedication and the huge personal sacrifices of the whole fostering family.

Great foster carer is about providing safety, stability, trauma-informed care and unwavering support during times when children can not be, for whatever reason, with family. As foster carers, we have the power to make a profound difference in the lives of these children, but in doing so we need to remember who’s children they are.