Children ‘pinballing’ around care system

21 April 2017

iSTOCK

THE Children’s Commissioner for England has warned that children are “pinballing” around the care sys­tem after new data showed that 71 per cent of children in care moved foster placement, school, or social worker in just one year.

The Commissioner, Anne Long­field, said last week that children in care “crave stability”, but when they were “pinged around the system, it can damage them and their future prospects”. She was speaking at the launch of a report that sug­gests that 50,000 children in the care system — 71 per cent of the total — experienced a change in their circumstances in the 12 months to March 2016.

One in 20 children in care even experienced the dislocation of see­ing their social worker change, mov­ing school, and changing foster placement in that year. This is the equivalent of about 2000 children across Eng­land.

“Having reliable, consistent adults in their lives is critical to helping them flourish and overcome problems they may have experi­enced in the past,” Ms Longfield said. “Many of these children enter care with complex issues and are highly vulnerable. We must find a better, more consistent way of meet­ing their needs.”

Three in ten children experienced at least one foster-placement move, or at least one change of social worker, in the period measured, and one in seven moved schools during the summer holidays. While this last figure is similar to the national average of one in eight, one in ten children in care moved school during term-time, which is much higher than the proportion for all children — just one in 35, or three per cent.

One child in care quoted in Ms Longfield’s report said: “If you move places constantly, you will never feel safe in a secure home. If you move about a lot, you can lose trust in people.”

Dr Krish Kandiah, a foster carer and founding director of Home for Good, a Christian charity that promotes adoption and fostering, said that the figures were not sur­prising. “It’s really sad news that children are being bounced around, because the statistics for children who have had those number of bro­ken placements aren’t good,” he said.

“Everyone knows it is in the child’s best interests to have a steady, loving, and secure placement — that’s not often available. There are a shortage of foster carers in the system, and, therefore, sadly, kids are moved around more than they should be. That’s why we are calling on the Church for a new generation of foster carers.”

It was thought that about 9000 new foster carers were needed, in addi­tion to the 5000 children currently in foster care waiting to be adopted, he said. “We did the maths when Home for Good first started, and thought we had easy access to around 15,000 churches. So one new family to foster or adopt from each church and we could meet the entire need.”

Churches could also provide community and support for families who became foster carers, Dr Kandiah suggested.

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