One of my favourite songs from the People Have Names album is “Pick a Story” and I was so pleased when Louis McCullagh, photographer and film maker asked if he could use the song in a short film he was making about a young boy within the care system. The film is sceening in the Manchester/Salford film festival in November and in Australia in March and it highlights the fact that thousands of children enter the care system every year and how many have to move from foster home to foster home, mostly transporting their clothes and belongings in a black bin liner. To find out more about the film visit Call me Son and click on the screen

WHAT WOULD IMPROVE THE LIVES OF CHILDREN IN CARE?

The answer is relatively simple. More foster parents. In the UK about 10,000 new foster parents are required. Fostering is undertaken by a wide range of people but at any one time when a social worker is looking for somewhere to place a child their options can be very restricted due to lack of foster parents.

The child’s placement can be far from ideal. It may mean splitting them from siblings, being placed far away from their home area, being placed with foster parents who are not ideal (different ethnic background, religion, social interests, expertise, length of placement eg may only do respite fostering etc.)

Getting a good matched placement where the child can have stability would be perfect. The lack of stability creates “problem” children.

WHY ARE CHILDREN MOVED?

It might be cheaper for the local health board to use another foster home, the match with the foster carers may not be good, bad behaviour, the foster carers may only do short term, the foster carer is stopping fostering, social worker may wish to move the child back closer to original home area, foster carers circumstances change e.g. illness, job, moving home.

In the 10 years to 2006 the number of children in care per 10,000 children in the UK increased by 19%.

17% of children are placed over 21 miles from their original home.

Under 1% of children over 10 are placed for adoption, 18% of kids 1-4yrs old are placed for adoption. If you are 12 you aren’t going to get adopted.

A recent survey in Scotland found 40% of children in care had run away at some time.

The rate of staff leaving social work varies between 10.8% to 24.7% depending on where you are located. Each worker would have about 20 children in their files to look after. The statutory minimum visits they make are once per month but this could be once a week or more.

47.5% of all placements are 3 months or less.

All is not bad, a higher percentage of children in care are now put into foster care (as opposed to residential homes/schools) in recent years. The percentage has gone up from 66% to 70%.

62% of all kids are in care because of abuse and neglect a further 25% because of their parents leaving or what is termed having a dysfunctional family. One scenario might be that the mother may have a new partner who now wants his own family and so the existing kids are not wanted.

Going into care is a very traumatic experience. Trying to understand why it is happening. Meeting new people with new rules in a new environment. The child may be ashamed of its unfashionable clothing, split up from his or her siblings. Maybe only seeing them infrequently. Changing school, losing friends. Trying to fit in with new groups of people. Being moved. Thinking always that it is your fault.

Children want to be with their own family, however some do realise that fostering is the best option for them.

When in care 1000’s of these children/young people are being moved around and around.

Children in care can be different in some ways .They may not know their father and/or mother and so they might fantasise about them, that they are rich, really cool, wonderful e.g. like David Beckham etc. They may equate love with material things and be very materialistic. They may have no personal history, no photos, no one to tell them what they were like when they were small. Longterm being in care and the instability it brings can be very destructive to young lives.