It’s official, Edward Timpson, the Children’s Minister, is going to throw 16 million pounds into the voluntary adoption agency market to help create more opportunities for recruiting adopters, but whilst children all over the country are raising their arms up for help, the only waving arms we see being supported are grown ups’.
Community Care’s article makes for concerning reading. The funding is being touted as a way of bringing on board new agencies, spurring on ‘creative working’ and providing agencies with training and coaching to expand. In other words, all of the money is going to go to business consultants and top end management inside adoption agencies, both old and new. How this is supposed to help the 4,000 children whose futures, Timpson says, “hang in the balance” “, is laughable, because once again, we are watching the government steal from the public to try to boost business, rather than to fuel these organisations to improve the lives of children on the ground.
The sector desperately needs funding, but not the kind that creates large, genetically modified organisms, which provide absolutely no sustenance to those who need it. It will be a short-lived windfall, which will be used for short-term gratification. Once the money is all spent, we would like to wager that children who need loving homes will be as badly off as they are now.
Because finding loving homes for children who need them, is not about pumping cold, hard cash into Management to boost the size of an organisation, it’s about the quality of service offered, the mechanisms used to find prospective adopters and putting the right kinds of barriers in place, which should be useful, not obstructive.
And to make matters worse, off the back of the new funding, the government has issued a not-so-veiled threat to councils all over the country: boost adoption numbers or we’ll outsource the work to other, hungry, grabbing adoption agencies in the sector. With that mantra, it’s hard to believe that councils across the land will take up their pitchforks and retaliate with the cry that good adoption practice requires great adoptive parents – and that, can take time. This, coupled with the Children and Families Bill, which will also place pressure on councils to ‘perform’, will mean that there will be no looking back, as councils join in the financial feeding frenzy, gorging themselves without a guilty conscience. Their post-mortem of the funding fiasco will be simple; they will say they had no choice.
But the way these issues are tackled are still devoid of any common sense. Mr Timpson seems to be under the illusion that more money means more happiness for children in care homes waiting to be adopted, yet attracting more adopters is not synonymous with attracting the right kind of adopter. Financial incentives are unlikely to draw out the genuine and earnest Earth mothers and fathers, although we don’t deny that financial help when taking on more children is a positive thing, but the way the government seems to do these things sits at odds with what actually needs to be done.
And yet, it is really so simple. Make care homes loving, warm environments, filled with people who genuinely love children, and give these children a great education with all the support they need. How hard would it be to ensure that for every thirty children in a care home, there were two or three Mother and Father figures there to love and nurture them, until each child finds the right parent for him or her. And if they don’t, it won’t matter, because they will have a home already, with the other children in the care home and the people who love them there.
Is this picture realistic? Does it cost more than the government is willing to give? The answer to the first question must be yes – it will be far easier to find a few good men and women, to love these children and support them (with the right kind of training for children who are emotionally traumatised beyond a certain level), than to scour the country for parents to take thousands of children on a year. In the long run, it will save the government money; loved and nurtured children very rarely go on to be dependent on the state and it will ensure that these children will go on to live happy and fulfilling lives, which will benefit the country and its economy.
The answer to the second question must be, no. If we were to add up all the ‘funding’ to this sector over the years, it would run to sums beyond our wildest dreams. But the government, nor the adoption agencies who survive on its handouts, seem to care about implementing solutions that actually tackle the problems faced by children in care, still focusing on the profitability of pumping sterling into sketchy strategies designed to make the sector look a whole lot of busy, but which in reality, is busy doing nothing.
So, let’s hear it for the Masters of Shuffle at Westminster. It’s another tragic moment in the history of child welfare, and we’re starting to feel even more uncomfortable, the more we see.