Too many foster carers feel that they cannot count on the support they need to care for vulnerable children and young people. They are excluded from the most important decisions about the children, when their views and experiences are not taken into account. And the allowances they receive for this vital work do not always cover the costs they incur.
This biannual survey is critically important to foster care, not least because it is the only one. But it has limitations. A record 4,000 foster carers took part, which is encouraging. But this is only seven per cent of those who were eligible, which is frustratingly low for what is, in effect, a membership survey (a typical response is 30 to 40 per cent). This makes it a good starting point for a discussion but shaky ground on which to lay foundations for wholesale change.
The foster care workforce is extraordinarily diverse, from single parents to large families, and including people on high salaries and some on no other income at all. This is both a strength, in that it reflects the society from which children and young people come, and a handicap, for it is mightily complex to create support structures that meet all carers’ needs and aspirations.
Most foster carers (ourselves included) are not …