One of our greatest bug bears here at Researching Reform is the continued insistence by government, foster care and adoption agencies of trying to source carers for vulnerable children through financial incentives. It is a battle we have been fighting for several years and we are dismayed by the current figures showing a sharp rise in children going missing from foster care.

Clearly, the current system does not work, and it is making things worse.

As far back as 2012, adoption agencies for example, have been at liberty to not only advertise children for adoption, using their photos, names and other personal details, but they have shown no hesitation in using so-called ‘benefits’ to attract carers. Remember Foster Care Agent? They were, and still are, an active agency looking to recruit foster carers through financial incentives like holiday breaks, income and other sources of financial ‘reward’.

And remember this?

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“The reality is that ££ grab people’s attention, just as it has yours.” Yes, but the difference is that we are not looking to take children into our home so that we can increase our income. We are reading on, in horror.

Google the phrase “why foster care fails” and what comes back is astounding. From glaring oversights where children have been subjected to the most awful sexual and emotional abuse, to the ongoing debate over whether carers should be paid ‘professionally’ for parenting often very vulnerable children (the comments section makes for enlightening reading), the one thing that seems to be missing from these discussions is the critical aspect of love.

As long as we allow cost to dominate the debate in foster care, we will never make any headway in helping distressed children blossom into confident, happy adults. And whilst everyone understands that looking after a child is an expensive affair, this element of parenting, because that is really what this is all about, should be very much secondary to ensuring that these children get what they need – a loving, and secure home.

We already know that placements break down because the families taking in children are not prepared or able to look after and love them, and we also know that a lack of stability runs through the entire system, making children feel even less cared for and secure. The most commonly cited factors for foster care placement breakdown are:

  • A change of social worker
  • Over-optimistic expectations
  • Placement breakdown, particularly for teenagers
  • Any policy or practice which generally discourages children from remaining fostered after the age of 17
  • The child’s level of emotional disturbance and motivation to remain in the placement also appears to be a key factor.

It should be obvious that these factors cannot in any way be addressed by financial incentivisation. What we see is a system which is under incredible strain, staffed by fleeting and often less than competent professionals, and far too many carers who are clearly not fit to love and care for these children. Financial incentive does not target and attract the right carers – it simply fulfils a function by dumping children with anyone who will take them.

Isn’t it time we looked at the way foster care, and adoption is run in this country?

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