TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) explain why it is involved in the Care Inquiry.
As a fostering and adoption provider TACT is committed to meeting the needs of children in care. We recognise that traumatised children have complex and often similar needs and that, increasingly, practice around matching and support for children in placement was overlapping.
Following on from this we believe that historic views of how fostering, adoption and other care services are organised have become increasingly unsuitable. Services should support the sometimes lifelong needs of children, many of whom have suffered abuse or neglect.
I hope the Care Inquiry will look at what works to meet the needs of these most vulnerable children and will help practitioners and policy makers in the challenging decision they must make. Resources to support children and their carers must follow the needs of those children rather than be aligned to the legal status of the child.
It is also important to recognise the role of all carers and to avoid a hierarchy of care. What children require is a stable, caring environment with appropriate attachments to their care givers. They need to be loved. Of course different placement types and different legal statuses are needed to meet the needs of individual children.
What is crucial is that children in permanent foster placements should not be seen as receiving an inferior choice option than those who are adopted. Neither should residential care be seen as a placement of last choice when all other care options have been tried and failed.
Rather we need to acknowledge that it is the right option to meet the needs of some children, many of whom will have suffered abuse and neglect in family settings and who are unable to prosper in similar environments. Meanwhile, family and fiends carers require support to provide loving homes children who will have the similar, and often complex needs, as those in the care system or placed for adoption. For too long resources have been allocated according to the legal status of children, rather than according to their needs or the needs of those those caring for them.
A wide context will determine what constitutes the best care option and legal status for a child. Their age, their birth family circumstances, their relationships with siblings, uncles, aunts and grandparents and their individual on going needs for support will all be contributing factors. These should be the drivers for such decisions rather than a blanket one size fits all approach. All care options need to be considered.
I hope the Inquiry will look at these complex issues to help us all look at what works for children. I want it to show how we can learn from each care setting to improve areas of practice in other settings. The Care Inquiry will provide a much needed review of current policy and practice in what is a complex area. I hope and trust it will make a difference to some of our most vulnerable young people.
By Kevin Williams, chief executive of TACT.