Love is often viewed as an incidental to life once adulthood kicks in, something we don’t really need to survive, a luxury, a whim but in a world where love is more than just an aspiration, is this wise?

It may well be that what we call love is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions but they are reactions which make the world a special place and a world that understands the power of love is a world in which survival actually acquires meaning. And whether that meaning holds the secret to life really doesn’t matter – what matters is that affection is a conduit for the best the human condition has to offer.

So it dawned on us whilst we were reading the tweets from a foster carers agency, called Foster Care Agent, that one of the big problems in the family sector and the family justice system, was the weight given to love as against the weight given to wonga. This agency even offer holidays as part of their promise to potential foster carers who ‘transfer’ over to them, and the assurance that they will “act on the foster carer’s behalf…. negotiating, in complete confidence, with the agency to get the best support package for the foster carer”. And although we could be wrong, we could find no mention of the word love on their website.

Now, we are not naive, we understand what makes the world go round (pralines make the world go round, everyone knows that), but in the family justice system, not to talk about love or even contemplate its value in getting the job done right, is, to our mind, a serious oversight. And it’s costing lives as well as eroding competence.

Of course, not every problem in the family justice system is about love – it’s also about quality of care, training, knowledge and creativity, but love is the best place to start and coupled with a passion for children, would go a long way to making the system healthy and responsive.

But what do tweets from a foster care agency have to do with love? Well, actually, everything.

We have been watching this agency tweet for some time. Their typical tweets will read:

  • #FOSTER CARERS NEEDED! EARN £400 #jobs PER WEEK PER CHILD. Consider doing the most rewarding of #jobs Pls RT” or;
  •  “All good people of #[COUNTY] we need #foster carers- £400 #jobs PW tax free, all training given. Free advice PLS RT!!” And to be fair to this agency, they will, very occasionally, tweet something like this;
  •  “We are always looking for more #foster carers to provide safe, loving and supportive homes to children of all ages.”

And so it struck us, that the message they were really sending out was at best a corporate one and at worst, an invitation which would encourage families with the wrong sets of priorities to come forward.

We have met several carers. Some are absolutely amazing. We remember one lady who took care of and loved a little girl who had had a very hard time growing up and now this little girl has grown into a kind and truly accomplished young woman – she is now studying for a degree at Cambridge University. All that love and affection provided by the carer almost certainly had a very large part to play in providing this young woman with the confidence and self esteem she now has to go into the world and make her way. But not all carers are so loving. We have come across carers who ‘care’ purely for the money and the things we see and hear are awful. Children who are not listened to, shouted at, made to feel second best, beaten, the list goes on. So, is the search for foster carers using sterling as bait really a clever option?

We asked Foster Care Agent what they thought, in a series of tweets:

Foster Care Agent: All good people of #Bucks we need #foster carers- £400 #jobs PW tax free, all training given. Free advice PLS RT!!

Researching Reform:@FindFosterCarer May I ask why you always tweet about the money you’re going to pay and not the need for loving families to come forward?

Foster Care Agent:@SobukiRa we tweet both, but the reality is ££ grab people’s attention, just as it has yours

Researching Reform:@FindFosterCarer Sure, but not in a good way. Grabbing peoples’ attention with cash, encourages people with the wrong priorities to foster.

Researching Reform:@FindFosterCarer And I don’t think I’ve ever seen you tweet anything like “Loving, kid crazy families needed to care for children”.

It takes this agency a while to respond to our tweets (the first response we got came a day after we tweeted them), so at the moment we have no further replies from them to add, but we will add them in due course, should they respond.

We do find it shocking that the money being offered to care for kids is what drives the marketing and the advertising, but then again the agency is clearly working to a corporate model and as such in and of itself that makes sense. But is this really appropriate and are they simply encouraging people to come forward, regardless of their intentions? Given the way the system operates, this kind of brazen ‘Here’s the cash! Come get it!” attitude is so ingrained that no-one thinks twice about offering ‘earnings tax free’ as an incentive to take care of children. And this is what bothers us, because, ultimately, it does not serve the best interests of any child.

We have no doubt that the good people at Foster Care Agent mean well, but this small corner of the family sector is just a metaphor for a more global problem inside the system: that of failing to make the welfare of each and every child paramount. And with ‘agencies’ dedicated to getting ‘the best deal’ for carers, it does seem as if something’s gone terribly wrong.

In a world where no-one thinks twice about a tweet which suggests one can foster-kids-for-cash, are we really acknowledging the reality or are we simply ignoring the truth?