16 February 2018

 What would Abraham Lincoln think? 

It’s not like me to sit on a fence, but with employment status; I am reaching for a cushion.

However, recent debate on that, and the conclusions of Sir Martin and Mark’s Review, do raise a couple of issues for me…


The Review quotes people arguing that employment for foster parents is impossible, because we can’t afford it.



I believe that argument was made to President Abe Lincoln, by the plantation owners of the southern states of America.

It didn’t work then, and it is not sound now...claiming we cannot afford to pay people for their work, is not a good argument for not paying them.


One dude went so far as to say, and SirM&M saw fit to quote, that: "...[employment] would mean - literally overnight - the end of foster care.”

Really? So where would the kids sleep, the next day?

Local authorities may be bankrupt - almost overnight - but the kids would still need to be somewhere, and assuming we’re neither paying their foster parents, nor sending them home, nor leaving fifty-odd thousand children on the streets, all at once, someone will be paid to look after them.


So the dilemma and potential catastrophe of employing foster parents - in purely financial terms - is that society cannot afford to pay people to look after our vulnerable children, on an employed basis, with all the implications of doing so.


SirM&M go on to conclude that employment status would, undesirably they say, turn foster “homes into places of work.”

Where self employed people conduct their work within their home - the home is already a place of work. Ask any foster parent who has had their home treated as nothing more than a venue for a meeting, with all manner of etiquette trampled upon carelessly, by those who also do not understand the unique nature of home as fostering workplace.


They further observe that they do want high quality people, who may be attracted by the fees that are sometimes paid (why is it ok to not pay people who look after babies, or people who are new to the work?) combined with the tax and benefits advantages available.


It’s true that if you have a total fostering income of about £500 per week per child, and are looking after two children, your net income - after costs of bringing up the children and tax - is about £37,000...not bad for someone who might otherwise be a teacher, nurse, counsellor, mechanic, police officer, teaching assistant, bricklayer, electrician, office manager...social worker... etc.


Yet SirM&M still do not want to give equity of professional status to these people, who:


  • Are self employed - willing to take the risk of temporary or no income, because society cannot afford to pay them minimum wage and provide employment security.
  • Despite being self employed will be restricted to working for only one organisation, with potentially months of no work if they wish to transfer.
  • Are willing for their income to derive partly from benefits.
  • Are high quality thinkers - suited to other professions...
  • and have exceptional emotional literacy, because they are living alongside...
  • often high need, high risk kids…
  • or those who hardly sleep...
  • in their own homes, unlike any other practitioner.
  • Yet are not equal to the social workers in planning what’s best for the child,
  • despite being highly regulated,
  • and should not be considered professionals, because they couldn’t possibly provide the excellent parenting experiences necessary if professional.


Sorry guys, it just doesn’t add up.


This list - your list - describes people who are exceptional. And we can see - from evidence in the report - that they are often not treated well. Yet you have reinforced the inequity that leads to the poor treatment. You have failed to recognise the unique nature of their work. You argue that they are fab, and should always be treated professionally - I’m not sure what that means given the rest of what you state, and I am sure it won’t make any difference.


The Loughborough research quoted in the Review refers to studies that state money is not an initial motivation for fostering applicants, but is important in whether people stay, and the majority of reasons for leaving are overwhelming to do with inadequate services to the family, stress and impact of the work on the family… fostering is hard, foster parents need excellent recognition and reward if they are to continue and do well.


This has been known and understood for decades.


But we have again sidestepped the unpicking of what it is to foster, and how to build frameworks that promote great, not just adequate services to children.

Things need to change - let’s keep doing it the same….? I don’t think Abe would be impressed.


We of course welcome delegated authority as default, inclusion of foster parents at children’s reviews as a must (that still needs saying?!), and shunning the ludicrous resistance to hugging children. We see that some recognition is given to those who provide an alternative to massively more expensive residential care, and that obviously foster parents should be paid if nurses are (apart from those the Review says don’t need to be?!)


But the unique identity of professional parent has again been added to the too difficult pile.



Image credit: pexels


written by

Jane Keenan

Recruitment Manager


Last modified on Friday, 16 February 2018 15:34

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