As far back as I can remember, Social workers have faced accusations that we get paid bonuses for taking children into care or completing adoptions. Worse than that, some people also forward the belief that we are part of a clandestine paedophile ring that works together with an ‘elite’ group of child abusers to provide them with readily available victims.
If you feel you can stand the pain of reading such horrific attacks against social workers, a quick search on Facebook or Google will bring up many ‘Social Work Name and Shame’ sites where such accusations of forcing through adoption for financial or sexual gain are rife.
Although I try my hardest to be strong and block out these hateful lies, it’s hard not to be hurt when we all work so hard to help children stay with their families.
As I always tell the parents I work with:
“We all want the same thing here, your children to be happy and safe”
Sadly, this false narrative about Social Workers helps create a division between parents and professionals; the focus being shifted from the real reasons children end up requiring social care intervention and towards phony excuses for why children are adopted or placed in long-term foster care.
Let me say this very clearly:
In fact, the opposite is true in that Social Workers strive to do everything we can to keep children safe and secure in their family homes. Not only is this best for the people involved, but taking children into foster care costs a considerable amount of money. Far from making money from taking children into care, Local Authorities must endure costs of up to £200,000 a year (if children require secure residential placements) for each child they take into care.
In an era of squeezed council budgets, all Local Authorities are looking at ways in which they can reduce the number of children coming into the care system. On a national level, many projects funded by the innovation fund are looking at ways in which they can reduce the number of children coming into care via more effective earlier intervention and improved partnership-working with parents.
Not only is there no financial sense in a hidden agenda to take children into care, but Social Workers are aware of the personal cost that the care system can have on the children who inspire us to get up and go to work every day.
Despite improvements in the security, quality and stability of care, young people who have experienced care are still more likely to become teenage parents and five times more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system. Added to these negative outcomes, children placed in foster care have higher rates of depression and anti-social behaviour.
There is neither a financial nor a moral argument for unnecessarily taking children into care or placing them for adoption.
Care is costly to both the Council who funds it and the child who must endure it.
Whilst care order applications are at an all-time high (12,741 care order applications involving 21,666 children were made over the past year), this is in the context of 394,400 being classified as ‘In need’ and therefore requiring support from Children’s Services.
This makes care applications rare as thankfully only 5% of children who require a Social Worker reach a point where they are at such risk that this step is needed.
Of course, that is 5% too many children, but it still makes care orders unlikely for the clear majority of young people who need the support of a Social Worker.
Not only is long-term foster care or adoption rare and costly, but it is truly a last resort. This step is only taken when either all other efforts to bring about positive change have failed, or leaving a child with their parents would put them at risk of significant harm; the child either having suffered, or very likely to suffer from, abuse or neglect.
By the time this ultimate form of protecting a child has to be considered, children have often been known to children’s services for many years- a succession of plans, interventions, assessments and reviews having failed to bring about the changes that these young people so desperately needed.
If we’re allowed to consider ourselves for a moment, removing children from their family homes comes at a significant cost to Social Workers as well.
Knowing you must deliver that news.
Knowing you’ll be helping pack those bags.
Knowing the tears that will be shed.
Knowing the emotional reaction you will face.
Knowing the burden lies on you to explain this all to a traumatised little person.
No matter how emotionally resilient you are or how many times you’ve had to do it, it is all so hard to cope with.
Most workers I know will lie in bed all night dwelling over what has happened, wondering if it was the right thing to do and hoping that the children will come through it all unscathed.
Then there’s the court work to schedule, judges and barristers to face, assessments to complete, strict deadlines to meet, contacts to supervise, reviews to plan and out of area visits to arrange.
Nobody would wish this work on themselves by intentionally taking children into care.
Nobody would seek to harm children by falsely removing them from their parents.
Nobody gets paid to take children away.