Urgent need for more foster carers
In her remarkable BBC2 documentary, Fostering & Me, aired earlier this year, Lorraine Pascale highlighted the importance of foster care and the urgent need for more foster carers in Britain today..
Adopted at 18 months old and then fostered at eight, Lorraine believes that fostering “saved her life”.
Lorraine was born on 17 November 1972 in Hackney’s Mothers’ Hospital. She spent her first 18 months with foster parents but they reluctantly gave her up for adoption to a middle-class couple from Oxfordshire – Roger and Audrey Woodward. They believed it would guarantee her a better education and future as Roger was an academic who had taught Spanish at Oxford and his wife was a nurse.
Pascale’s adopted mother was unable to bring her up and in 1976, she was put on an at-risk register and sent to a new foster family. Social workers’ records revealed that her adoptive mother, a secret drinker, failed to cope after her marriage broke down. She told social workers she was in danger of hurting three-year-old Pascale and had tried to strangle and suffocate her and had fantasised about pushing her under the wheels of a passing lorry to “solve all my problems”.
Empathy for her mother
However Pascale argues about the way journalists portray this story; her reaction is simply concern for her mother. Her mother suffered from dementia and needed more help than she received. She doesn’t feel she needs to forgive her for anything. “Forgiveness is one thing,” she says, “this is about understanding. When people have problems, it is because there is an issue within themselves. You have to acknowledge this and have empathy.” Does she understand her mother’s behaviour? “Of course,” she answers.
Pascale met with her foster mother but struggles to explain how it felt: “It is difficult to say what it feels like because I have nothing to compare it to. I have met my biological mother and you don’t really feel anything because you don’t know them. You can have feelings about what you learn through other people’s memories, but you can’t really feel. It is not like some long-lost cousin because they are people who, as far as you are concerned, you have never met before. So it is not like a reunion.”
Pascale is using her experience of a foster child to try and promote fostering. She has been talking to the minister for children and families: “I wanted to know ways I could help. They did wonderful things with adoption. I’m hoping they can do the same with fostering.”
Foster care is the Cindarella of the care world
A child is placed in foster care every 22 minutes in Britain and the number continues to rise. Eight-thousand seven-hundred and fifty new foster families must be found across the UK over the next 12 months to avoid a real crisis. But, despite this urgency, fostering is still the poor relation of Children’s Services. Adoption often hits the headlines but only 5 per cent of all ‘looked after’ children actually end up being adopted.
As Pascale reiterates, there is an urgent need for foster carers: “I believe foster care is the Cinderella of the care world and there is far more emphasis put on adoption. I’m throwing the spotlight on to fostering and will hopefully encourage more people to consider it as an option,” explains Lorraine.