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The importance of permanence and belonging

As we near the end of Foster Care Fortnight I have been reflecting on both the importance of foster carers across the country and also the importance of permanence and belonging for our children in care.

Foster carers transform children and young people’s lives. They provide a loving, caring, safe home and nurture an environment where they feel secure, valued and belong. Foster carers, kinship carers, supported lodgings providers and independent visitors all provide unwavering support and are a fundamental part of providing permanence and belonging for children in care.

Last month I was sent a video message that one of our children in care had sent to his Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO), to say (in his words) ‘thank you for sorting out permanency – I’m happy!’ What was most wonderful about this message is the affirmation of how important permanency is for children in our care. This young person had been living with his foster carers for 15 months and was over the moon when the decision was made that this would be his home, permanently. This is obvious though, isn’t it? We all want to belong, to feel secure and supported, a sense of acceptance, inclusion and identity for us all, with those we love and live with. For our children in care and care leavers, the social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other issues, develop resilience, and feel supported. Hand in hand with belonging is mattering. Feeling that we matter is fundamental not only to self-esteem and sense of being part of society, but also health and happiness. The sense that they belong and that they matter is critical for our children in care to thrive, achieve and excel.

The government recently consulted on its plans to reform the children’s social care system via its strategy ‘stable homes, built on love’ and you can read the ADCS response here. I have no doubt that many of the responses to the strategy would have included a strong focus on the important ingredients that are necessary across the system to get it right for all children and in particular those children in our care. Care, love, consistency, belonging and mattering need to be at the heart of this and to achieve this we need a greater and more urgent focus on stabilising, valuing, and recognising the brilliance of our social care workforce as well as our foster carers and kinship carers who do great things day in and day out to change children’s lives and provide loving, stable, safe homes for our children.

Foster carers are a fundamental part of belonging and mattering, as are our social workers, support workers and all those that work with and around children in care. The vital role that social care staff play across all local authorities points even more to the need for permanence and stability for children. Children gain huge benefit from strong, consistent relationships with social workers and many other professionals with whom they come into contact. The need for stability, consistency, security, permanence and belonging remains as important as it ever has been for children.

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