I sat down with my friend google the other day and searched for magazine publications on probation. I have seen enough written over the last few years to know that working in probation is an incredibly hard area amidst radical structural change which, as an outsider, seems to be causing a lot of resentment.
It seems that wherever you look these days, any government funded system is creaking and without doubt at times failing. Children’s services is no different. The core service struggles, attitudes are changing, no longer do financial considerations get spoken about in hushed tones, these days making decisions based on finance and not children is an open discussion, although central government might have you think they have made things better for everyone.
Irrespective of the challenges, positive outcomes for children continue to be made, and in the main this is down to the skills and dedication of foster carers, many of whom feel at times they do so alone, or, as is the case at UK Fostering, they do it alongside us when at times more local government support is desired. It’s not all broken and I don’t mean to negate that some elements of local government continue to achieve great things, what I do mean to emphasize is that foster carers are doing amazing things in difficult times and without them, our society would be heading to an even more rocky path.
I ponder that some people working in probation may have a perhaps skewed perception of the success or otherwise of the care system, being as so many adults within probation or prison services have had some contact with the system. But of course there will always be thousands who do not enter the criminal justice system as adults because they have received the care and opportunity they needed.
One of my best ever foster carers was a probation officer. She worked full time and her husband was the main foster carer. She was however, fully involved. They specialised in caring for young offenders. You know the type that have got into low level crime, followed the crowd, fought to survive from a young age in inappropriate ways. The type that society judges the moment the word ‘offender’ is added to their profile.
No one was too difficult for them because they had heard it all before and the probation officer carer said explicitly that whatever profile of child I was to send to her would unlikely compare to the adults she was dealing with every day. It turned out her experience gave her the confidence and skills to make a real difference to approximately 40 children over a 10 year period, one of whom I now employ as a mentor and is a great example.
Having been closely involved in a pan European study funded by the EU and managed by BAAF on alternatives to custody for children remanded, it is clear that we are more advanced than some other countries in our thinking. This is great news. We are geared up to support more children from offending backgrounds into suitable fostering arrangements. The difficult reality is actually finding these carers in the first place.
Of course there are many foster carers that care for young people involved in offending behaviour. Many of them understand a child is not defined by their past actions. Unfortunately not enough of them exist who either have the capacity, confidence, will or desire to work with these young people.
I sincerely believe that probation officers, those working in the probation service, and certainly those that may be wanting to find new ways to make a difference to society, could well make a significant impact to the adults of tomorrow who at this stage are a much younger proposition.
Thank you to Jim Brown who has agreed to post our blog when I introduced myself as someone desperately trying to find new people to support our young people who otherwise end up in a last resort form of residential care when they could in theory thrive in a family environment.
If you think you might be interested in finding out more about youth offending fostering please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org tel 01322 473243, www.ukfostering.org.uk