The keys to our success are our amazing foster carers. They do a fantastic job providing the love, care and support needed by children and young people who have too often had a very tough life. The stability those foster carers provide can make a huge difference to the futures of the children they support, in so many ways: in education, health, career, family life.
One day children who have been in our care will ask questions about their past that simply cannot be answered in a memory book. Above all, we hope that they understand that they were loved and cherished. And we hope that they know that they can come to us for those elusive answers. We are, after all, merely custodians of their memories.
As for our own child on the beach, he is safe and well. Life will never be easy but he is strong and bursting with energy, and with support and guidance his future is full of promise. He visited us recently, and was received with an extra strong hug, in memory of Aylan. We promise he will never become a refugee in his own land.
Parents chose to become foster carers, and their children, to one degree or another, go along with that choice. They may not do so with the same conviction, even if they understand its value. But their consent is absolutely essential: they may not realise it, but the success of a placement is down to them as much as it is to the adults, and often even more so.
Foster carers have been unsung heroes during the Calais migrant crisis. Hundreds of migrant children have been taken into care and placed with foster families. Many of these families live in Kent but children's services are already having to look beyond the county for support because it is increasingly difficult to find suitable placements.
Foster care would be that little bit easier if you could press a 'pause' button on your own life. What would we not give for some sort of arrangement to put everything on hold, as we work to resolve the seemingly intractable problems of the children who come into our care? But the reality is that our own lives carry on: stuff happens to us too, with no regard for the children and young people who have been entrusted to us.
Stability affects us all, and when you have none you feel alone. Children in foster care are our children, and as a member of a fair and good society we have a duty to do all we can to make them feel loved and supported. They deserve a positive future as much as any child and at The Fostering Network we're determined to help them achieve that.
As I recalled my earliest memories I was keen to impress on the group that I don't look back and see my time in foster care as a negative, my expression wasn't from feeling sorry for myself, I completely understand that in the absence of my biological father, my very young mother, too young to even consider a woman would want to get herself together after having me at the age of 15 and, in some respects I think it was very brave decision to take. I didn't say this in front of the room of kids but I'd prefer to be fostered than to have been aborted and to not have had the privilege of life in the first place!
I'm sorry that when the DOCS ladies dropped us off at Grandma's, you weren't allowed to stay because you were too much for her to cope with. I can't imagine how awful it must have been to watch your sisters get smaller and smaller in the distance as you were driven away in a car you didn't recognise.
In an ideal world, nobody would need to be adopted, but this is not an ideal world. Adoption parties cannot prevent a child being taken into care, but they can help take them out of care. They give 'hard-to-place' children a greater chance of placement. They tackle some endemic problems in the adoption process.