Melissa Green is our director of operations, with a responsibility for our projects and programmes and our work across England. Here she looks at the year past, the year ahead and thanks foster families for the change they bring to the lives of the children and young people they care for.
As I reflect back on the year since our last Foster Care Fortnight, the amazing work I have seen happening in fostering services across the UK, the extraordinary young people, carers and fostering teams I have met and the distance our sector has travelled, I feel humbled.
Over the year, in England alone, our sector has been scrutinised and reviewed by committees and stocktakes, the debate on status continues to intensify, we have weathered some fairly viscous media storms and navigated through uncertain political and financial times…and we have come out stronger.
Fostering continues to provide love and stability for children and young people who need it most, we daily demonstrate the dedication and professionalism of foster care and our collective voice is getting louder about what we need to make the system work. Though there is much to debate about the fostering stocktake report, I wholeheartedly agree that foster care is a success story.
Looking to the year ahead, if I had to choose one word that jumps to mind it is ‘love’.
Whether it is leading the debate about balancing the personal and the professional as a foster carer, exploring what ‘safer caring’ really means or focussing on our relationships and wellbeing, love keeps cropping up. It can be a tricky concept for our sector and, at time, a divisive one. I was pleased to see it touched upon in the stocktake, but I think it (and the inevitable media hook it provided) raised more questions than it answered.
As I look ahead to our work across The Fostering Network this year, I see countless examples of where we will keep coming back to this concept of love. Exploring the power and nature of extended family networks (for adults and children) in the rapidly growing Mockingbird community, focussing on the legal status and expectations placed on foster carers with national decision makers, starting the conversation about what ‘safer caring’ looks like in 2018 and introducing a new training programme that explores how we keep a focus on our own emotions and wellbeing (as well as those we care for) are just some of the examples of where ‘love’ will keep cropping up.
It is at the heart of what you do as professionals, it is what drives your work, what makes you (and us) frustrated when the system throws up challenges, what keeps you (and us!) going when things are tough and ultimately what makes a difference to the children and young people you care for. It is what makes fostering a complex activity but also a rewarding one.
A foster carer recently shared with me something that has stuck in mind… that despite all the other elements of his role as a foster carer, some days it is enough for him to know that the young girl in his care leaves for school in the morning with the confidence that she is loved.
Thank you for what you continue to do to change the lives of the children and young people in your care and for your extraordinary contribution to our community and our network.
Fostering is a success story.