As many of you will know the IWGB opened its first office outside of London at the end of May. The great news for Scottish foster carers is that it is in centre of Glasgow right next to Central Station for very accessible for our members who need help and advice. As I’ve said before it is very sad that as foster carers we need the help and support of a union but the huge and continued growth in our membership and the number of requests for help and advice we receive tells us that not only it is desirable that we are here but it is essential if the country is going to retain highly experienced and well trained foster carers.
Over the next few months we are going to start running our membership workshops which will give foster carers advice and tips for keeping themselves safe in a precarious working environment. This will not in the main be information about how to look after children in a caring and therapeutic manner and this is something that all foster carer should receive from their LA or agency, it will be advice about how to work in a cash strapped, defensive and risk adverse care system and how to avoid being scapegoated when things, as they inevitable will from time to time, go wrong.
Foster carers look after children who to a greater or lesser extend have suffered grief and loss. Many of these children have also experienced profound and prolonged neglect and abuse at the hands of family members of others who have access to them. This kind of difficult start in life leads to life long challenges which are becoming more widely acknowledged due to the rise in understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) research. As foster carers we are the ones who are with children living with these challenges on a daily basis and we know them and their needs very well. However we are not the budget holders or even have direct access to the those who hold the purse strings so accessing the right help and support can be very difficult.
So sadly more often or not it is the foster carer who is blamed when despite their best efforts the children in their care do not get the professional support needed. Many carers tell us that if they do repeatedly ask for help they are seen as trouble makers or labelled as not coping so many keep quiet and hide their concerns until a crisis point is reached. Despite the rhetoric that is often used in fostering adverts we are not viewed as an equal when it comes to decision making for children who we live with. All too often ‘Professionals Meetings’ are held where major decisions are made without us, the carers providing the day to day support, present. We are not viewed as the highly skilled and experienced workers that we but until this changes and the role of foster carer is acknowledged for what it is, children in foster care will not have their needs met as well as they could be.
By doing this work and providing this support to our members we know we are positively influencing the lives of many children. A better supported and more informed foster carer will be better able to meet the needs of the child in their care. None of our calls for worker status or a central register will adversely affect the relationships that foster carers have with the children and young people who live with them. I can be a worker and have rights and still be mum to my foster child. I will still be there to offer encouragement and hugs when needed, still there to help dry tears and help children make sense of their past and most importantly will still be there when things are get difficult as the knee jerk reaction will no longer be to lay the blame on the foster care but instead to take a proper multi agency approach to supporting children in Scotland who through no fault of their own are unable to live with their birth families.