Chair's blog

January 2017

A Happy New Year to you all!

I want to think about the importance of ‘family’ a little bit this month, especially for those children and young people who, for one reason or another, can’t live with their own families. Those of you who know me, will also know that I have personal experience of fostering; to such an extent that I have direct insight into the value that it offers, even in the most difficult and complex of circumstances.

We’re all products of our families to an extent, and I for one am more frequently finding as I get older that I’m saying to others, the things my dad used to say to me! Often with the same sense of exasperation! As a thirteen year old for example I inherited a small amount of money from my grandfather. Just enough, it turned out, to buy a Sanyo music centre with a Dolby tape deck and a turntable as ‘thick as a brick’! To say my mum and dad were unimpressed is an understatement, and I remember un-wrapping it in breathless excitement as they looked on impassively. For mum and dad the money (£200) would have been better put aside for a rainy day, the deposit for a flat perhaps or a ‘nice little car’. As my dad looked on he sighed and gave me this simple advice, ‘now don’t go wasting your money on records son!’

I find myself these days similarly mystified by the ‘magnetic’ attraction of social media for those under the age of thirty, along with the ability to spend vast amounts of cash on things that are ‘virtual’ rather than real; all this at a time when many young people are getting back into the retro vibe of vinyl records. It’s a world turned upside down…

I also read increasingly in the research that more and more young people feel they lack self-assurance and confidence, and have lost their sense of security and hope for the future, which in retrospect seems to have been the endemic arrogance of my generation.

What I know from fostering is that the level of complexity we face in parenting our own children,is usually ‘ramped up’ still further. But that however deep and ingrained, that the context, security, investment and love of being and feeling ‘part’ of a family is still far more powerful.

Though my mum and dad gave me ‘duff’ advice from time to time, and certainly didn’t understand the world as I was experiencing it, I knew without a shadow of doubt that they loved me and always had my best interests at heart. What really counted was I know that they ‘had my back’, and that gave me the confidence and assurance to make my own way in the world, complete with my own ability to latterly offer duff advice and make my own mistakes.

In my experience foster care is transformational, and offers many of the most disadvantaged young people in our community a ‘lifeline’ of assurance and confidence that helps ‘set them up’ for life. There’s no doubt that it’s a hard road for any family contemplating becoming foster carers. But, when you speak to foster mums and foster dads, they usually tell you that despite all that, it has been the best thing they have ever done, and they get as much from it as they give.

I wonder, then is fostering something you might consider, or that you might raise with someone you know or in your family? Because although we don’t tend to think of fostering as linked directly with safeguarding, the single most valuable thing you can give to a child is the opportunity to be part of a family.