Those who care for neglected children know many beautiful moments but they are also stressed and under-supported
Published by The Times on Friday, November 11 2022, 9.00 pm,
“What drives carers away, says Sarah Anderson – a child therapist who has nurtured the most hard-to-place children for 15yrs and who founded the website FosterWiki – is feeling alone, unsupported and prey to capricious inventions by social workers that need, yet take for granted, fosterered’ selfless care.
She found the John Lewis Advert “bittersweet”. It evoked beautiful moments, such as when she gave one girl she fostered, a survivor of abuse who kept running away, and a box of baking equipment. “Her face lit up when she saw all the icing bags and decorations” Supported by her school cookery teacher, she began to thrive.
But foster carer rarely has Anderson’s therapeutic background: most receive only three days of local authority training that doesn’t prepare them for traumatised children. Yet social services – deeply overstretched and with a teenager sitting outside court with a bin bag of possessions – play on the naivety and goodwill of new carers, longing to help a child.
The fostering paradox is that the huge heart you need to take in a troubled child also makes you vulnerable…Anderson notes that, despite her professional training, she couldn’t help absorbing a child’s heartbreak, grief and loneliness. The needs and mental health of the foster era must be respected so they can stay the course. Because a child is not just for Christmas”