Child Care Officer's Experience
make no apology for raising once again the subject of Catholic foster parents. I simply express my hope that my experiences May stimulate some Catholics to offer their services.
I work as a Child Care Officer of the local authority in a large county borough. My colleagues and I, co-operating with other social agencies in the town, do all we can to prevent the separation of children from their parents, but this is.sometimes unavoidable Each Child Care Officer covers an "intake area" and supervises all children from this area admitted to the care of the local authority.
My "intake area" covers a part of the town with a very high incidence of Catholics, and in consequence almost half the children I supervise arc Catholics. About half the children I supervise are boarded out with foster-parents. These two groups are almost mutually exclusive.
We normally seek to place Catholic children in Catholic foster homes. However. where children come to us for a short time only we place them in whatever short stay foster home is available.
The only Catholic children I supervise who are boarded out came to us originally as short stay children and remained in their short stay foster homes when their stay became indefinite.
Apart from the fact that the foster parents are not Catholics the placements are excellent. The children receive a great deal of care and affection from their foster families, and are thoroughly happy and self confident. But if I had known their stay was going to be longer than a few weeks I would have been. unable to find Catholic foster parents and they would have been placed either in our Nursery or in one of our Family Group Homes.
I know this would have happened because it has happened to 7 of the 8 children whom I supervise in our Homes. Care in large groups by a number of adults is unsatisfactory for any length of time for very young children, and even for a rather older child I would regard it with very great disfavour.
For one of these children his urgent need of a foster home is obvious. Because of his rejection by adults in the past he now finds it difficult to make normal relationships with them-he cannot accept affection, yet is frequently naughty to gain attention. If he could be found a foster home now with accepting and tolerant foster parents I think he might be all right. If not, I fear he will be permanently damaged by his experiences. His brother and sister also need a foster home, and I would like to keep all three together. but I feel that his need of a foster home is so great as to justify the separation of the family.
I have discussed this child in detail, but I am just as worried about the future of the other six. I have advertised in the local and Catholic press for foster homes. but have met with little response. Inevitably many of the offers of homes have been withdrawn or have proved unsuitable for the particular child. I have thought of approaching the local priests. but past approaches have not proved ver, fruitful, partly because the ne' give their energies to the work of the local Catholic Child Welfare Society, which in this diocese caters only for illegdimate babies. but partly because the laity do not respond to the priests' appeals.
I do not know the reasons for the dearth of Catholic foster homes. I am writing thisletter because I hope it is due to lack of imagination rather than to apathy. Anyway, the dearth is there, and I am very strongly tempted to place these children in non-Catholic foster homes. where, provided that they attend a Catholic school and are encouraged to go to Church, their spiritual welfare will be quite as well provided for as it would be in one of our homes, which are run on undenominational lines.
Only-I am myself a Catholic, a convert from the Church of England, and rejoicing in my membership of the Catholic Church--I am bound to strive to prevent these children losing the fruits of their membership. I cannot do this without the help of Catholic foster parents.
I would therefore ask your readers to ponder the words of our Lord: "He who gives welcome to such a child as this in my name, gives welcome to me. And if anyone hurts the conscience of one of these little ones. that believe in roe, he had better have been drowned in the depths of the sea, with a mill-stone hung round his neck"---and then to call upon their local Children's Officer.