“O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;

You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear

To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,

So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.” Psalm 10:17-18

The number of children in foster care rose from 53,040 to 54,870 between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, a rate of increase of almost five children a day.1

Over the same time period, there were 2705 allegations of abuse made against foster carers, the highest number in any year since 2014 to 2015. There were also 27,805 incidences of fostered children going missing involving 6395 children, around 8% of the total number of children in foster care. The number of children who went missing while in foster care has risen 26.5% over the past four years, while the number of incidents of children going missing is up 57.7%.

According to the Report, Suffer the Little Children, “Many children suffer greatly from having been in care. They are four times more likely to attempt suicide and experience mental health difficulties.”2 One story from the report highlights amply how families’ wishes are being overridden by the court system:

“During the court hearing to decide on where the children were to live, the oldest boy wrote to the family court judge saying that he wanted to live with his mother and that if he was taken away from her he would turn to a life of crime. The court ordered he should go into care anyway.

“The boy was very upset and angry, and repeatedly ran away from children’s homes and foster carer after that. At the beginning he returned to his mother’s home. But she was obliged to let the authorities know so he couldn’t stay with her. Soon he went missing and no one knew where he was. Neither social services who had parental care nor the police. His mother was terrified not knowing if he was alive or dead.” p. 41

The primary reason for children going missing is contact with family and friends, which together with research on adoption in England showing that 90% of adoptions are done against parents’ wishes, suggests that suggesting that most children in foster care would rather be home again with their parents.3

In widely-cited research, Emeritus Professor Andy Bilson has highlighted the monstrous levels of referrals to child protection services in England. According to his analysis, 22.5% of children born in 2009-10 had been referred to children’s social care before their fifth birthday. Dr. Bilson writes, “The current wide interpretation of ‘risk’ of significant harm has led to the investigative turn and an increasingly intrusive and out of control system.”4

The statistics from Ofsted also showed that far from struggling for interest from prospective foster carers, there was an increase of 23.7% in expressions of interest over a four-year period, suggesting that the demand side of the care industry is strong, which may well be connected with a growth in the number of couples unable to have children of their own.

The forced separation of a mother and child is never a morally justifiable state action. Instead it is essential that the minute percentage of mothers are at risk of harming their child be supported and mentored in other ways by family, society, churches, and, as a last resort, the state.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/846120/National_and_sector_trend_data_2014_to_2019.csv/preview
  2. http://legalactionforwomen.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/LAW-Dossier-18Jan17-final.pdf
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/18/children-parents-foster-social-care-families-adoption
  4. https://bilson.org.uk/child-protection/deprivation/?doing_wp_cron=1573728489.5639369487762451171875
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