As someone who was raised in a family that fostered, it's clear that fostering is not just a one-way street. I've seen foster children from my family go on to flourish and succeed, which is why my parents, and many other foster carers do it. According to the Fostering Network, every twenty minutes across the UK, a child comes into care in need of a foster family. This means that during Foster Care Fortnight alone over 1,000 children will require a foster family.
The Fostering Network estimates that 11,000 new fostering families are currently needed to ensure that children are able to benefit from the most appropriate placement for their increasingly complex needs. Foster Care Fortnight 2016 may inspire you to open your home to a child or young person in need of a loving family.
The fostering covenant is currently being broken, to coin a phrase David Cameron once used to describe our neglect of the military. Austerity measures are having a devastating effect on practical and financial support for foster carers, and on children's access to their social workers and other services, including mental health services.
At the school gates parents mellow and become curious about this child's new lease of life. So often, they admit they were aware of problems, but felt it was not their place to become involved. Sometimes, there are genuine concerns for their own safety. But mostly, I am sad to say, it is down to indifference.
Yes, looked-after children are more likely to have lived in poverty, and they are more likely to have parents whose own lives were blighted by neglect and abuse. But we have also provided a home to children and young people who attended private schools, who wore preppy clothes and carried the latest smart phone in their back pocket. We have cared for children who told stories of foreign holidays and family days out just like our own.
It is an unlikely friendship. He's pushing 90, blind and not as quick on his feet as he used to be. She's not yet four, and until recently rarely said a word. Now she has found her voice and she has plenty to say for herself. Within moments she is holding the elderly gent's hand and he is laughing out loud. If he's not careful she'll soon be helping herself to the cake from his plate.
The season to be merry is in full swing, and all around us people appear to be having a great time. As a family we love Christmas and everything it stands for. We celebrate with close relatives and friends, reflect on the year that is drawing to a close and to make plans for the year ahead. But as foster carers? Well, it is complicated, isn't it?
As she runs off to play, I contemplate the wondrous capacity of the human spirit to overcome adversity. Just a few weeks ago this same child did not know me, and had never set foot in our home. All this is new and alien. She has been removed from everything she has ever known to become a looked-after child in foster care, with no sense of how long this might last.