Having completed the Chairing of my last Fostering Panels of 2018, it’s been a time for some reflection. Joys again at hearing how some foster carers really do embrace their role. And accept, and care deeply about  the children they look after. Despair sadly, at the way some of them appear completely exhausted, and feel undervalued. With concern then about what it must be like to share their household….

Frustration too when the new world of technology lets us all down again. As the Skype disconnects . And we are all left hanging ahead of delivering some tricky news…..

I know I'm old, and I have to accept how things move on. But do we really want a future of panels where we feel one step removed from the people we are maybe meeting for the first time, and can’t make a real connection? Isn't one of the reasons for bringing applicants & carers to these meetings going beyond what’s written on the page. To get some kind of sense of who they are?

I also have to accept that as agencies expand we can’t expect people to travel great distances for these meetings. But please don’t ask me to believe that it’s really the same to conduct them  in this way. Even when the technology is slick……

And, being involved in fostering across the sector has made me think about the wider impact and meaning of these changes. As agencies grow and get bought up, they usually become more remote in other ways too.

‘….and then you feel like a number, rather than a person. And no one cares about who you are. Or the kids you’ve got with you.’

That’s what one foster carer last week told me about her decision to move back to what she described as a smaller ‘family’ organisation. And my experience holds up that view. Most carers are not motivated by money. As Ian Sinclair evidenced long ago, they want to feel valued. Respected. Even part of a community where they can share experiences and know what keeps them doing it……

I’ve seen this in action too over the past few weeks. Real life foster carers who tell you about the culture of the agency they are part of. And how important that is. And foster carer events where it’s clear expectations are very high. But carers are also very highly valued and treated well…..

So at this very challenging moment when we are all hopefully able to take a break. Let’s pause and think about the people. And what works best for us all. Because that’s why most of us got into this - isn’t it?