By Neil McMillan, Acting Head of Service for Community Developments at Kibble

ACCORDING to a recent report by the Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 87 per cent of children in foster care feel loved, which speaks volumes about a vital service provided by dedicated people.

Earlier this month, The Foster Network announced that based on annual recruitment targets and the number of carers who stop fostering each year, 580 foster places will need to be created in Scotland throughout the rest of 2019.

This isn’t to say that every child in need of care is suited to a foster placement. For some children who have experienced high levels of trauma and adversity a family home environment is not the correct fit.

However, for a child who has been rejected time and time again and who has no real sense of belonging, having a place to call home and a family to call their own can have a tremendous impact on the child.

We had one foster child who managed to turn his life around and reintegrate into his own family’s home. We’ve had young people go on to university and others who have come back to provide the kind of care they received themselves. Foster placements and a sense of belonging were instrumental here.

Human relationships, a connectedness and a belonging are extremely important, and are things that can easily be taken for granted. But they are also things that we tend to rank less important when thinking of care.

We think of safety as the upmost priority, and rightly so. But let’s also consider what else is needed to provide a happy and healthy childhood and work towards achieving this for every single child.

In a bid to place children who need care in a safe home, it’s easy to forget about the other necessities that they deserve, the things that we expect our own children to have.

When you actually ask the young people in care what they want, it’s not something that money can buy. It’s respect, it’s trust and it’s belonging.

Foster care placements allow children to build relationships and integrate within the family in a way that other forms of care don’t allow, with positive role models from both the immediate and extended family.

But how do we go about doing that if we can’t place the young people who need a home?

The theme for this Foster Care Fortnight has been #changeafuture and I sincerely believe that by fostering a child that is exactly what you are offering: the chance to change a child’s future.

Not every person will have what it takes to be a foster carer of course, it’s not for everyone, but there are people out there that will feel they don’t have the skills who would be an excellent fit for a child.

What is really required is authenticity. To truly care for that child and commit to providing a better life for them goes an extremely long way.

Caring and loving skills are not things that are normally quantified in a career sense, but they are important, in fact more than important, they are vital in a foster carer.

If a child doesn’t feel that they belong, we end up with a number of broken-down placements that build on the level on trauma experienced and increase the number of adverse childhood experiences.

Every 20 minutes another child comes into care needing a foster family.

So, as we approach the end of Foster Care Fortnight let’s drive forward the sense of belonging that every child deserves and provide the number one wish that money can’t buy.