On Saturday there was a detailed article in The Times about kinship carers (behind a paywall) - relatives who care for children that are not their own, usually because their parents aren’t able to care for them. The article highlighted the incredible role that kinship carers play in the lives of tens of thousands of children and young people, as well as some of the major issues facing this group of carers, especially regarding woeful under-resourcing. This is absolutely a subject that deserves national attention and we applaud Louise Tickle, the journalist, for raising such an important topic in a national newspaper.
However, we are dismayed that to emphasise the lack of support facing kinship carers, the article chooses to denigrate the role of fostering and foster carers. The headline ‘The kinship carers who save relatives from being fostered’ sets the tone. Fostering is not something that children and young people need saving from. Foster families offer safe, secure, nurturing homes with the focus of foster carers being on helping the young people in their care to have fulfilling childhoods, to have high aspirations and to have every chance of meeting them.
The introduction to the article says that children entering the care system face a ‘stark choice: either go into a foster home or be looked after by a relative.’ This sort of language paints a negative picture of foster carer which is far from reality. Good foster care transforms lives and enables young people to thrive. The vast majority of young people in care are living with foster families who love them and provide the stability and support that will see them grow into confident adults.
Rather than setting up a false conflict between kinship care and foster care (indeed many foster carers are related to the children they look after), we would prefer to see the benefits of both extolled and for it to be recognised that what is important is finding the best possible setting to enable each child to be safe and to reach their full potential – for many this may well be with relatives, but for others the most appropriate setting may be with foster carers who can provide a caring, family environment along with other therapeutic input that these children so desperately need.