It’s Foster Care Fortnight. It should be our annual celebration to showcase the, highly skilled, all-consuming, heart-breaking, joy-making, hair-pulling, love-giving, outstanding work that we do. To proudly stand and represent the countless ways we have supported the amazing children we love and care for.
Instead it seems lip service is barely paid to current and long standing foster care workers while the annual parade of Local Authority and Fostering Agency recruitment adverts get into full swing. Where is the reality in any of it? Adverts everywhere touting the amazing difference you can make with just a spare room and a big heart. As if that’s all that it takes.
We, who do it, know the reality – and that alone should be enough to make our LAs and Agencies put our care and well-being at the top of their priority list. This is what the job description really looks like:
- Working hours are Mon – Sun, 12am – 11:59pm, 365 days a year.
- Little or no practical training or support provided but you will be the main person responsible for the care and wellbeing of a traumatised, vulnerable minors.
- As a minimum, must be a competent in social work framework, child development, child psychology, childhood trauma and attachment, bereavement counselling, child health, diet and nutrition, school/education/learning framework, advocacy, negotiation and diplomacy, first aid/fire safety, record keeping and reporting, administration, housekeeping and taxi services.
- Homebased with the required volunteer support of your family.
- Must take direction on the care you provide from a team of professionals who may have little to no direct involvement.
- No annual leave, no sick leave, no pension contribution
- Less than minimum wage – and even less or no wage when there is no child in placement
We do it and we do it all to an incredible standard with love and compassion, putting the best interests of the children first. How come doctors, nurses and teachers can be paid a living-wage and have access to benefits and no one ever questions their dedication or care for those they help?
Local Authorities are in a financial panic and recruitment is their holy grail. But the answer is much, much simpler. Give foster carers the level of recognition they deserve and means by which to do the job and none of us will have to suffer another fortnight of desperate ads ever again.
by Leanne Morton
Foster carer and Secretary of the Scotland Foster Care Workers Union