It’s not that we did not know about it. It’s a long-standing problem that has been exacerbated by the growth in numbers of children coming into care since the Baby Peter tragedy became public knowledge. So the Fostering Network’s most recent warnings are in one sense ‘yesterday’s news’.
But these are warnings that must be heeded. They should have been heeded long ago. The Fostering Network tell us that 8,750 more families are required to provide fostering for the needs of the current population of children in care. That’s a huge mountain to climb and needs a serious policy initiative in support. And that means more than just appeals by government ministers for more people to come forward. It needs some innovative thinking, new resources and continued attention at every level. And it needs to be recognised that this is not a just passing difficulty, it is a real crisis that threatens the safety and welfare of thousands of vulnerable children.
The most dangerous types of crises are often not those that happen suddenly. They are the ones that creep-up, either unnoticed or unrecognised, with the situation becoming incrementally slightly worse everyday. The organisational behaviour theorist, Professor Charles Handy, (The Age of Unreason) had a powerful, if somewhat distressing, metaphor for this phenomenon. Apparently if a frog is placed in a beaker of cold water and then slowly heated, it adapts its body temperature gradually to that of the water until the water becomes so hot that it boils alive.
That’s what we are in danger of with the fostering crisis. Someone needs to get a grip.