Being a foster carer is far tougher than you think

29th November 2013 at 00:00

I fear for Beverley Briggs in the same way I worry for those listening to local radio advertisements calling for foster carers ("Fostering hope", 22 November). Emotive descriptions of brushing hair, tucking children into bed or reading about Postman Pat are diametrically opposed to the likely reality.

She will be asked to care for a child who has been taken into care, probably owing to neglect or abuse. They may very well have an attachment disorder. Emotional difficulties are a given for any child who is apart from their mother, and behaviour difficulties are generally a concomitant issue. Ms Briggs' pasta bake may well be sneered at and all structures of parenthood railed against. The system is in crisis and those answering the call through worthy altruism, or indeed in order to make a living, are neither adequately trained and supported nor made well enough aware of how their lives will be changed.

The result is unsuccessful or unsatisfactory placements and further damage to these vulnerable children. They fail educationally as a result of aspects of nature and nurture that the education system has little control over - although the pupil premium for disadvantaged students and the focus on looked-after children are welcome and do benefit individuals.

I wish Ms Briggs well. I know that her experiences as a teacher, reflective practitioner and parent leave her well-placed to become a good foster carer. Perhaps a policy of teachers being encouraged in later years to go into fostering could be inspired by Ms Briggs' example.

Simon Birch, Deputy headteacher, Longford Park School, Manchester.

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