We hope you all had a wonderful festive season, despite all of the threats – at home and abroad – to the joy and peace that most of us long to connect with and share at Christmas.
A few weeks before Christmas we did an impromptu survey to find out what term children in the care system wanted their parental figures to be called: ‘foster carers’ or ‘foster parents’? It was in no way a properly conducted, scholarly survey; we just put the word out there among a fairly small circle and noted the responses. Those that did respond were clear that they preferred ‘foster parents’ to any other term; ‘carers’ – for some of them – had overtones of the elderly and ill being cared for in institutions. Parents are what the children need. Presumably those children who come into care temporarily, for example, due to the sickness of a parent – and the plan is, from the outset, for them to return home – would feel differently since their parents are still firmly in the frame of their lives. Moreover, one or two of the older ones said emphatically that the fostered child or young person should not be required to call their foster parents, ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, but for them the designation reflected the reality that the quality of care that all children need in their growing up is the nurturing parental stuff.
Given Josh MacAlister’s ‘Independent Review of Children’s Social Care’ (2022) where he made a plea for love to be in the emotional vocabulary of those building relationships with children in out-of-home care and stated his determination that: ‘All children in care have a loving, high quality home that is as close as possible to a family environment’, the renaming of foster carers as foster parents seems a logical progression.
More recently, on December 15th, Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, published the second part of her Independent Family Review, calling for a shift in government departments to more ‘family-centred language.’ She was referring to birth families, but it will only be a matter of time, I suspect, before local authorities transfer the intention and principle behind her words to children in the care system.
As a result of our own findings we decided at AC Education to replace ‘foster carer’ with ‘foster parent’ in our online courses and face-to-face training materials. It will take us a while to go through everything but we have made a start and several courses have been reviewed and revised. Let us know what you – and your children – think.
And Happy New Year to you all!
Martha and Rachel