The News of the World reported today on my fight to stamp out child dumping in Kent. 19,000 out of some 50,000 children in care, having been taken away from their parents are ripped out of their home communities and 1,301 are placed in Kent. We're the child dumping capital of the country. It's not for their "safety", now, is it? The News of the World report that it's more likely to be about money - Kent foster parents get less money than elsewhere according to figures the paper has obtained. And it's not right.
More importantly, I think this is incredibly unfair on the kids. They've been taken away from their families, then they are taken away from everything else they know too. The way things work, placements don't last more than two years as often as they might. So off they go again, all friendships made at school lost, all stability gone, no-one to form that all important parent-child style bond of love with. Frankly, I think it stinks. It really does. We wouldn't treat animals like this, so why do we treat the most vulnerable in our society in such a disgraceful way?
And we should not be surprised that all the numbers show they fail really badly at school, get into crime and their lives are so often a total mess. Small wonder so many feel so little affection for the rest of society and get into trouble. Everyone loses.
So what should we do about it? I think the care system needs wide ranging reform that will give children the stability and love they need to do well at school and succeed in life. That means we don't take fostering and childrens' homes as first resort. They should be last resort. First resort should be someone else in the family, since blood is thicker than water. Second resort is adoption - reform it, make it easier. Who cares if they smoke, are old or have different lifestyles? For me the test is simple - will they provide love and stability and care as a parent would? Any parent will tell you that's what really matters.
Lastly fostering is necessary, it is important, foster parents really do care and almost all do a great job. Yet it needs to be longer term. And even in childrens' homes, there needs to be a role model the kids can settle with, not the impersonal factory style money production line that some of them sadly are.
I am indebted to some good and true residents of Deal for bringing this to my attention and speaking of their concerns for the safety and wellbeing of children they see in their daily lives. That's what community spirit is all about.
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