FosterWiki Opinion Piece

Recruitment of foster carers – intrinsically linked to attachment

Recruitment of foster carers - intrinsically linked to attachment

Recruitment of foster carers – intrinsically linked to attachment

The far-reaching implications of attachment on foster care, and why it has such a significant impact on recruitment and retention.

Author: Niki Kalisperas, FosterWiki Campaign Manager

On November 6th we launch Noah’s Campaign in the Houses of Parliament, to bring about change, preventing the loss of attachments for children in care. Our hashtag is ‘it takes a village’ because fostering is more than one person. However, what we have seen at FosterWiki is that we need to honour and cherish that village as well, they are all people too, and when they break so does the village.

Here I want to explore those deeper, far-reaching implications of attachment on foster care, and why it has such a significant impact on the retention and recruitment of foster carers. Just imagine you are a child who has been taken into care, you become part of a whole family and community, your foster carers, your foster siblings and extended family, your school friends, your clubs, your teachers, there are neighbours and a whole host of other people around you, even including much-loved pets.

Imagine becoming settled, loved and attached, even after a rocky start to life you begin to feel safe and loved. Then, for a reason you don’t understand you are suddenly uprooted and moved to start a new life elsewhere with new people, your old life vanished, and all those you held dear are nowhere to be seen, ever again.

Then imagine how everyone in the ‘village’ around the child feels, the impact on them after nurturing that child for so long, only for them to never see that child again or stay connected, even in some distant role, can you imagine how that whole community would feel?

Grieving foster carers, not given a second thought, are left confused as they are now being told not to ‘be emotional’ and that it’s ‘just a job’, dreading the question from family, friends and the community “Have you seen them” and “how are they” and they have to reply “I don’t know” with a heaviness in their hearts that only another foster carer understands.

The child’s best friend at school, forever friends in their minds, joined at the hip doing everything together. That child is left bereft, they are lost without their little friend, and they didn’t even say goodbye, which gets them thinking relationships can’t be trusted.

That child’s mother then grieves for their own child’s loss of their friend, frantically calling the foster carer for news as she’s worried for them both.

The foster carer’s children, the foster ‘sibling’, who loved the child like a brother or sister for years, were bemused at the sudden unexplained absence of their much-loved family member.

Their feelings were not acknowledged by those who removed the child and never allowed to see them again. Loss, sadness and fearful it may happen again.

Then you have the grandparents who step up, to love and look after the child, sleepovers, Christmas and other festivals, picnics and days out, all in, unconditional. Only to feel brokenhearted when the child suddenly disappears, knowing how much that child will miss them, not being able to ever see them again.

Then you have the neighbours, friends and extended family, who have welcomed the child into their homes, sleepovers, BBQs, days out, nurturing and caring for them. Once this has happened a few times they begin to no longer engage, for fear of more loss and trauma, and not just for themselves but the child.
Foster carers begin to tire, their emotions in tatters, burnt out, fatigued and traumatised, no longer wanting to be part of this broken system. They leave and no longer recommend fostering to anyone. The friends, family and the wider community, seeing the effects, do not want to become foster carers either or promote it to others.

This was how we traditionally recruited foster carers, through the ‘village’, but they now see it for what it is, a broken system inflicting long term damage to children and all those around them, no amount of persuasion through advertising, golden hellos, or people telling them how brilliant it is to foster will persuade them once they have seen it through their own lens.

Now imagine if we changed that…

Foster carers would continue fostering, knowing the children were safe, well and still connected, the ‘village’ around the foster carers and the child would see the benefits of foster care, they would love being part of the solution, seeing the child rooted, valued and cared for, they would recommend others to be foster carers, and indeed, as traditionally has happened, become foster carers themselves.

A child surrounded by love, security and a huge village, now and as they step tentatively into the future when they leave care. Imagine them surrounded by that, how different the outcomes would be.

We can change this, and it begins with Noah’s Campaign, if we simply prevent the loss of those attachments throughout a child’s journey in care, then the rest will fall into place.

We have no time to lose, according to the Social Market Foundation we need 25,000 new fostering families to keep up with demand over the next couple of years and at present it seems we are losing more than we are gaining.

We need to do it properly, respect the research, be honest, we need a hunger for improved outcomes, and we need to do it now, and we need to value the village, raising it up to the importance it holds for each child who comes into the care system.

As one of the care-experienced young people in our campaign said to us “If not now, then when”.