I recently watched an interview on YouTube that felt earth-shattering. It was the personal story of a young prostitute called Kelly. Her horrific story, described in a largely emotionless voice, impacted me and many others greatly.
So much so, that a Go Fund Me campaign for Kelly, set up by the interviewer, raised nearly $30,000 in a matter of days. The video itself has already chalked up over 2 million views since it was uploaded on January 28th.
There have been subsequent queries since the video aired about whether Kelly’s story was in fact, true. There are claims of Kelly either lying outright or seriously embellishing her story to scam people out of money.
The whole sorry saga, led to me wanting to find out more about abuse in the foster care system generally, knowing that Kelly’s story whether completely true or not, was not a unique tale of suffering.
One of the first things I wanted to explore was the actual vetting system for becoming a foster carer. According to Alan Wood, the UK President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) from 2014-2015:
The process for being approved as a foster carer is rigorous – but no system can realistically be fail-safe.
But just how rigorous is the process to become a foster carer?
According to an article in The Independent in 2014, More than two out of five foster carers in proven child abuse cases had been subject to previous allegations – yet they were still caring for children.
With statistics as alarming as these, where a foster carer has been proven to be repeatedly abusive, it raises the question of background checks.
Exactly what checks were carried out before these foster carers were allowed to look after already vulnerable children?
As it is now an almost universally agreed premise that ‘hurt people, hurt people.’ It seems natural to assume that no one can actively and repeatedly abuse children without having experienced some kind of abuse themselves.
So I decided to find out what background checks for new foster parents entailed. I wanted to know whether things had changed since 2014 when the most comprehensive study of abuse in the UK was conducted.
The research was carried out by York University and the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty against Children (NSPCC). It uncovered and analysed local authority records on abuse in both foster and residential care.
In that study, they found that on average there were between 450 and 550 cases of proven child abuse every year in foster care in the UK.
Criteria For Fostering
Currently, to become a foster carer in the UK you have to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
The standard DBS checks for convictions (spent and unspent), cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
The enhanced DBS is the same as the standard check and includes any additional information held by the police that is relevant to the role the person is applying for.
The enhanced with barred list check is similar to the enhanced DBS but includes a list of individuals who are unsuitable to work with children and/or adults because of past convictions.
However, Repeat checks, that is – routinely updated criminal records checks for approved foster carers and other adult household members, are not mandatory but are classified simply as good practice and are conducted on a local policy basis.*
Anyone Can Apply To Foster Children
According to the gov.uk website, anyone can apply to become a foster carer. And if you type foster care in a search engine the first few search results are ads promoting the benefits of becoming a foster carer.
Yet the process certainly appears to be a rigorous one. Needing not only DBS checks but also the prospective foster carer needs to take the following additional steps:
- Attend a group preparation session with other people who are applying.
- Suitability to foster assessed. This can take up to 6 months.
- Application is sent to an independent fostering panel, which recommends the applicant’s eligibility to become a foster carer.
- The fostering service then makes the final decision.
With such apparent rigour, it doesn’t seem to tally that so many people who are extremely unsuited to the role, end up becoming foster carers.
When you hear the horrific stories of children and young adults like Kelly, who suffer extreme physical, verbal and sexual abuse repeatedly, it begs the question: “But how could this ever happen?
In part 2 of this series, I’ll be exploring just that.
*Source The Fostering Network
This article was previously published on LinkedIn
Yvette Bowen is a content writer and journalist at The Copy Keeper. She provides creative and effective content writing services for sole traders and entrepreneurs and writes articles with a message for wider publication. See portfolio samples or contact her here.