Children in Care Need Better Support
The different structures for care of children in different countries vary, but what they share is letting the most vulnerable children down.
New guidelines have been published in Britain, developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
The new guidelines say that workers in children's services should share information better. Social workers, teachers and healthcare workers must work better together to improve the lives of children in care.
Lack of information is a major cause of failed placements. Foster parents are frequently not fully informed about the child’s mental and emotional health and history. This information should be confidential, but not for the foster parents who have a need to know what they are getting into, and for an understanding of why the child behaves as s/he does.
The report said that many children and teenagers in care did not have positive experiences and were unable to stay in the same place with the same carers or attend the same school for extended periods of time. One reason for this is the lack of support for foster parents struggling with difficult children.
Moving a child from one foster home to an institution and on to another foster home is bound to cause traumas. All children need stability and these children need it to overcome their past traumas. A child in the care system has traumatic experiences in their baggage. A stable home and educational environment is vital for these children to develop into successful and secure adults.
Children in care, or social orphans as they are sometimes called, have worse physical and mental health than their peers and do less well at school - with only 1% going to university. In Poland 90% of adults who have spent their childhood in institutional children’s homes, do not succeed in life. Of the 10%, who do succeed and have a career, the majority have failed relationships. The homeless in Poland have a disproportionate number coming from the institutionalised children’s home system.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is difficult even for teenagers from stable homes. For children in care systems this is often traumatic. Starting an adult life without a family support, for someone who is emotionally hurt, has low self-esteem and often emotionally handicapped, leads to homelessness, drug abuse and alcoholism, unemployment and even jail.
The cost of giving serious child care support is more expensive than token care (food, clothes, shelter and school) in the short term of most administrations’ budgets, but is cost-effective in the long term, counting the social costs during the person’s life. Many children in care have biological parents who themselves were in care. Children and young people in care should be a priority and not given the low level priority that they usually get.
The guidelines recommend:
- Ensuring decisions on changing placements are based on the needs of the child.
- Designing services to cater better for children with specific needs, including those with disabilities.
- Keeping accurate and up-to-date health information on children and stopping this from being lost in the system.
- Providing practical support and encouragement for young people leaving care before and during further or higher education, including information about bursaries and help with accommodation.
- Use “life story work,” where photos and letters from a child's biological parents are collected, to improve the child's sense of identity.
- Work to keep siblings together.
Moving between failed placements and residential care homes and the change of school that is the inevitable consequence, is traumatizing and damages the child further emotionally, as well as instilling a sense of rejection and worthlessness.
Every child should be heard and their needs and feelings taken into account when considering moving them from one placement to another. Their history should not be whipped clear with each new start. Foster parents and teachers should have information of the child’s past and support to cope with situations at home and at school.
A child needs a long time to develop trust. Foster parents need to know what to expect from the individual child, and a two-year period where the foster parents are given full support should be a minimum for any placement.
October 20th, 2010
Agape Trust needs support to be able to help those social orphans we are in contact with.
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