HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY for this Sunday to all of you who are lucky enough to still have your mother around or you are a mother yourself. May you enjoy spending time with your parent(s) and your children and relish in the fact that we are very, very lucky. But as I get older, this day bothers me more and more, because I really feel for all those people out there who don’t have their mother’s around anymore or who can’t become a mother themselves. If that is the case, then I drink a toast to you and donate my flowers and chocolates this Sunday (which I probably won’t get) because I am quite sure that being so in-your-face reminded of the space that has been left can be very painful and I am conscious that we really should be focusing on them and not patting ourselves on the back. I do worry that our increasingly smug insistence on creating endless enforced days is hurting others (trust me, I wasn’t very happy on Valentine’s Day).
So instead, why don’t we think about the 93,000 children across Britain will not be with their mother’s this Mother’s Day – because they are in care and this number has been steadily rising for at least seven years across Britain.
The numbers highlighted by the children’s newspaper, First News, are startling:
· In England, the latest figures show that 69,540 children are in care – the highest since 1985
· In Northern Ireland, the number of children in care has increased for the eighth year in a row
· In Scotland, there are more than 15,000 children in care, greater than the entire population of Skye
· In Wales, the number of children in care has increased by a third in the past 12 years
But, although the number of children in care is rising, the number of children being put forward for adoption is falling. And the Prime minister’s promise to speed up the adoption process is faltering as figures show a drop in children being matched with families. The DfE (Department of Education) blames a family court ruling made in September 2014, in which a judge criticised local authorities for bringing forward too many “sloppy” applications for the decline in adoption placements in recent months. Charities are concerned this means many children are not getting the “forever families” they need. I also know from experience that the adoption process is very difficult and off putting for many potential parents.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan says a “real crisis” is developing. He says: “We are deeply concerned about the drastic 24% fall in the number of children being put forward for adoption. It’s crucial that local authorities don’t shy away from acting decisively on adoption. These can be tough decisions, but the best interests of children must be put first.”
Although the number of children waiting for adoption is lower than in previous years, there is still a real shortage of new parents for some children. Chris Burton from First4Adoption, the national adoption information service for England, told First News: “There are more than 2,800 children in England waiting to be adopted. The average age of these children is four years old and a child in care generally waits around 18 months to be placed with an adopted family. Sadly, there is a shortage of parents coming forward to adopt children over four and a desperate need to find families for black and minority ethnic children, those with a disability or brothers and sisters together.”
With more children in the care system, there is also a shortage of foster carers, so Barnardo’s is putting out a plea for more. Mr Khan says: “Everyone deserves a childhood where they remember feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. Tragically, this is not the case for some children who, through no fault of their own, cannot live with their parents. When life gets tough, they need a caring adult to look after them.”