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Key Welsh fostering service welcomes Dawn Bowden visit

l-r foster parents Anne-Marie Button, Lynette Bryan, Lynette Bedford, Jane Donovan with Dawn Bowden MS in centre

ACTION for Children’s fostering service in South Wales has hosted a visit from Dawn Bowden MS, Welsh Government Minister for Social Care of Wales.  The visit to their Newport base was an opportunity to showcase the therapeutic aspect of the service and for foster parents to express concerns about the issues and challenges they face fostering in Wales.

The foster parents spoke passionately about the need to validate fostering as a permanent option for children, that the current system works against creating long term family belonging for children in foster families by promoting contact with birth families whose serious difficulties still remain. This birth family contact often re-traumatises the children making them anxious and feeling as if they have no other option but to return.

The foster parents also spoke about social services still not recognising the impact that trauma and neglect has upon children’s development, and that many children need the long-term support and positive self-identity and belonging that a foster family can provide. Foster parents still feel that many professionals understanding of complex trauma is very limited and the system is overly invasive and stigmatising in children’s childhoods, for example social workers still using the word ‘placement’ in front of children to describe their foster family home.

Minister for Social Care, Dawn Bowden, said,  ‘Fostering is such an important and rewarding role that can make a huge difference to the life of a child. Third sector organisations like Action for Children are vital to the design and delivery of care and support nationally, regionally and locally. Their dedication, knowledge and skills will continue to be essential as we transform children’s services for the better and eliminate private profit from the care of looked after children.

‘I am pleased that Action for Children is represented on our eliminating profit programme board and very much hope that we can continue to work together.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet with its staff and foster carers and to thank them for their work and continued commitment to supporting vulnerable children in Wales.  Welsh Government is committed to doing whatever it possibly can to show our foster carers in Wales how much they are valued and appreciated.’

Matt Lewis, Action for Children’s fostering manager in Wales, said, ‘It was great to welcome Dawn to our service and she was genuinely interested in the therapeutic approach to fostering we use and the positive impacts we achieve.  I also felt our foster parents were listened to which is so important.  They voiced deeply held concerns around permanency, how undervalued they feel, the perils of returning children to birth families only for the children to repeat the cycles abuse they were removed from.

‘I am very grateful to Dawn and hope this is the beginning of a healthy dialogue with Dawn and Welsh Government and that best practice examples we are seeing in Scotland with regards to ‘permanence orders’ for children in fostering that need them, for example, are followed here.  Welsh Government have shown themselves to be very progressive on many fronts and I hope we can begin to see a lot of progress in the fostering sector.’

Lynette Bryan, an Action for Children foster parent from Tonyrefail, added, ‘It was really valuable to be able to spend some time with the minister talking about our concerns.  We felt heard and she was genuinely interested and asked the right questions.  Permanency is a big issue for me, the unseen disruption and trauma related to birth family issues and different approaches of local authorities can be immense. 

‘A permanency order system like Scotland have would bring a huge sense of belonging to a family, for the child.  I’ve seen first-hand the trauma a lack of permanency can cause and I really felt Dawn understood what I and the other foster parents were saying.’