Why a Child May Need Foster Care
There are many reasons why a child needs to enter the foster care system. A Government report published at the start of 2018 identifies the reasons why thousands of children are currently living in foster care in England.
Taking a child into care is usually the last resort, a step in a long journey that sees support and help pour into a family. It is a long-held belief that the best place for a child to be is with their own family.
But there are times when this is not the case and, as a result, a child or children are removed from their birth parents.
Some children will live with their extended birth families, but when this isn’t possible or is not suitable, foster parents will step in and provide the safe, nurturing environment that every child needs.
But what are the main reasons for a child entering foster care?
Abuse & neglect
The majority of children in care in England (65%) have suffered abuse and/or neglect.
Not only is it damaging to the development, physically and emotionally, of a child, but abuse and neglect can also leave scars that take a long time to heal if they ever do.
Child abuse is any action of another person, such as a parent, step-parent, grandparent or other adult or child in the family, that causes significant harm to a child.
Abuse could be physical, emotional, sexual or a combination of all of these. It can also be a lack of love and respect, care and attention.
Neglect is just as damaging. Defined as the ‘ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs’, the resulting damage leads to serious and long-term harm.
For anyone considering fostering, they will need to understand how abuse and neglect affect children, issues that are discussed in depth during the initial fostering training.
When it comes to a definition, there is a broad spectrum of family dysfunction. In the case of a child or children who have been taken into care, it is defined as a family in which conflict and misbehaviour lead to damaging consequences, such as abuse or neglect.
There are times when every family has a breakdown in communication or issues that make living as a family tense. In the case of a dysfunctional family unit, it is not a one-off or an occasional issue but a chaos that occurs continuously and regularly.
This dysfunction, chaos, abuse and neglect become the norm, with everyone in the family adapting and accepting of it.
However, the consequences for children are long-term but in a safe, nurturing home, and with therapeutic help, it is possible for children to readjust. UK Government figures show that just over 8,000 children in England are in care due to family dysfunction.
Family under acute stress
8% of children in care in England were removed from their families for reasons of ‘acute stress’.
As the name suggests, the family may have been in a situation that resulted in children not having their basic needs met.
There are support measures that can be put in place, such as family support workers visiting the home, processes put in place to help manage issues and so on.
These interventions are successful if there is the long-term commitment from the family to work together to resolve issues.
But when it becomes clear that these issues are not being resolved, and children are or could be at risk, they may spend some time with a foster family until issues are resolved.
53,420 children were being looked after in the fostering system in England at the time the UK Government report was researched and produced.
The three main reasons why children were in care – abuse and neglect, family dysfunction and families under acute stress – accounted for 78% of children in care.
Other reasons for children living with foster families included the child’s disability, a parent’s illness or disability, socially unacceptable behaviour, low income and absent parenting.
Fostering can stop the downward spiral for children and young people. Could you provide the nurturing home that a foster child needs?
Foster Care Associates is a leading fostering agency currently recruiting foster families to care for children for both the short and in the long-term.