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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Economic Barriers to Adopting Siblings

I was reading an article the other day about adoption and fostering, and I felt it missed a really important point about the economics of fostering and adopting.

The article talked about a set of three siblings. They had moved from foster carer to foster carer, and could only have got adopted if they had split up. The article talked about why it was difficult for three older children to be adopted together: emotionally hard for parents, would need extra bedrooms etc. It didn’t mention the financial issues of suddenly having three more children in the house. In fact, it didn’t mention the economic barriers to adoption at all. However, it made a pejorative statement when talking about the quality of foster parents: “some foster parents only do it for the money”.

Here’s the thing. If you foster, most local authorities will pay you around £130ish per week per child. That’s for two reasons: 1. To cover the additional costs of having another child 2. Because at least one foster parent is expected to treat the fostering as their full-time job.

It used to be the case that foster parents were simply willing volunteers, but that’s changed. Why do they need to treat it as a full-time job? Because the foster children often have complex support needs, some emotionally, some physically. You would not, for example, be expected to foster a child of under-5 and then be able send them to a day nursery and expect them to get on with it while you continue a full-time jobs.

So, the siblings are fostered, but the ideal for most children in long-term foster care is to be adopted permanently. But what happens if you’re fostering three children, with complex emotional and behavioural support needs, and you decide you’d like to adopt them?

Well, of course, you stop getting that money. The state doesn’t pay people to have children whether they’re your own, or adopted (with the exception of Child Benefit, but that’s not a huge amount). The addition of three extra people is going to be difficult to absorb into the household finances.

First – you need to give up your full-time job of fostering. Second – you can’t get another job because you’re now required to do your previously-paid full-time job for free.

It strikes me that the difficulty of placing siblings together is more of an economic issue than adoption organisations and councils have thus far admitted.

I know I couldn’t suddenly take on three more children without little financial support and at the same time need to give up a full-time job.

Despite what that article claimed, most people who foster do not do it “for the money”. I have known foster parents and they have done it for a variety of reasons. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not easy money. The foster parents I knew were not rich, but they did something they thought was right, often at great cost to their own families and even their own mental health. It is difficult to bring in a child, to form a bond, to do your very best for them and then later watch them be returned to the family that caused all the issues.

The article implied that more of these foster parents should be less money-grubbing, and simply adopt the children.

How? How would be that financially possible for the majority of people?

But what’s the alternative? Pay people to adopt children, and keep on paying them for years? I’m not sure that would solve the problem.

The problem with adoption is that the people who want to adopt siblings can’t afford it, and the people who could afford to adopt 2 or even 3 siblings don’t appear to want to adopt. Until either of those two things change, children like those three siblings will not get the permanent, loving home that they not only deserve, but that they have a right to expect.

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