Thursday, 20 January 2011

Corporate Parenting - or how to dump poor kids on life's scrapheap

Yesterday, while idling away some of my precious time on twitter, I chanced upon the comments emanating from Kirklees – where the full council meeting was in process. And the assembled councillors were receiving a presentation on ‘corporate parenting’ – including no doubt an outline of the duties and responsibilities placed on local authorities in looking after children place in their care. The idea of corporate parenting is that we – the councillors collectively – take on the role and duties that go with parenting a child.

And what a success we are making of the job!

Figures recently published in the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile report, show 71% of children in custody have either been involved with social services, or in care, before entering custody, while 75% of children in custody have lived with someone other than a parent at some time in their life.

Every child in care is capable of success in learning and in life, yet in 2008 just 14% of these children achieved 5 A* - C grade GCSEs, the level which is increasingly seen as the basic threshold for employability.

What a brilliant job we’re doing as parents.

And this is further compounded by anecdotal evidence that children in care are being given no obvious moral foundation to their life – in fact we struggle even to keep them home! Here’s part of the report from a recent sexual exploitation case in Derby:

A number of agencies were involved in helping the two girls, but did not work together to build a comprehensive picture of them. One girl was looked after by Derby city council from April 2009 and the other from October 2008. But as their behaviour spiralled out of control, staff did not realise there were signs of abuse and dealt with them as "rebellious adolescents".

I could go on with this – citing example after example of how the care system fails children – either by allowing them almost complete free rein or else by providing no input to helping the children do better at school.  During discussions with health workers recently, I was told that some care workers even refuse to give girls contraceptive advice - which might explain this:

Looked-after young people are at greater risk of teenage pregnancy and are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant than other teenagers.

While I appreciate that the care system inevitably picks up the more abused and vulnerable children, I do wonder whether we need to re-examine the way in which we actually deliver the ‘care’. For there can be no doubt that, no matter how many presentations us councillors receive about corporate parenting, the real ‘parenting’ problem lies with those delivering the care. And – as councillors – we have very little say over the way that care is provided other than issues of funding, management and trouble-shooting.

Yet ‘corporate parenting’ tells us we are responsible. Perhaps we might start to insist on a little parenting rather than the value- and judgment-free approach that is failing these poor children at the moment? And perhaps we’ll stop talking about ‘corporate parenting’ as if it has any reality and begin to realise that the young people are being failed by the system we have at present.


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