The Who Cares? Trust explain why it is involved in the Care Inquiry
A focus on poor outcomes and talk of children ‘languishing in care’ has created a climate where care is often seen as the worst possible option for a child who can not live with their own parents.
We must not however, allow the care system to be seen as the poor relation to be avoided at all costs. Sometimes the care system is the best place for a child to be.
The challenge is to ensure that this system offers not just a place of safety, but that it is consistently a place where children are raised by people who love and value them. A place where every child receives the support, encouragement and opportunities they need to enjoy their life and to achieve – just as all children should.
When a child comes into care, the corporate parent should wrap itself around that child, ready to protect, to nurture. Ready to treat that child as a precious individual and never, not even for a second, to treat them as a statistic or a drain on a local authority’s resources.
We need a care system that puts the needs of each child firmly above the needs of organisations and above assumptions about the best way for society to look after children who can not live with their parents.
Adoption offers a new life for a minority of children in the care system: those who have no chance of being reunited with their birth parents and who are relatively young and able to settle with a new family. It’s vital that we see adoption as one of a range of options, but not as a gold standard which risks drawing resources and energy away from improving the experiences and outcomes of the many thousands of children who remain in the care of the state or of their extended family.
My hope for the Care Inquiry is that it will put an analytical, informed and open-minded spotlight on all the potential forms of care, bringing together the perspectives and knowledge of academics, policy makers, social workers, foster carers, workers in children’s homes, extended family members caring for children, adopters and most importantly in my view, children and young people themselves. The Who Cares? Trust has 20 years of expertise in supporting young people in care to get their voices heard, and we will be helping the Inquiry to ensure that the experiences and views of young people across all forms of care remain central to our deliberations.
Society has a responsibility to create a care system with the capacity to redress the wrongs and pain which the young people who enter it have experienced. Most children in care will need support to address traumatic pre-care experiences of abuse, neglect and severe family dysfunction. But underpinning this must be the drive to create stability for these children, a place they feel is home, whatever setting that might be in. We all need to belong somewhere. Working out how best to achieve that for children in care is the brave challenge The Care Inquiry is taking on.
By Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of The Who Cares? Trust