There is nothing quite as fascinating as human behaviour, with all its foibles, inconsistencies and variety.
We go through enormously complex selection procedures, for example, when we are arranging the adoption of children, presumably because we consider parenting a very important task that has to be done properly, and so we need to select adoptive parents with care. But if so, why are we not selective similarly with other parents? Why is it deemed unthinkable to take action to prevent people unsuited to be parents from having children? We hasten to point out that we are not advocating compulsory sterilisation, simply pointing out the unremarked inconsistencies in our approach to parenting.
On this month’s theme of foster care, have you noticed society’s inconsistency in the way it thinks about rewards for those in caring positions and certain other groups? Top people in industry, banking and commerce have been awarding themselves increases above inflation for decades, and success in these fields is measured by the massiveness of their salaries. They are, of course, nearly all men. Some people see the fat cats as simply greedy in appropriating so much money for themselves, but society as a whole seems to look up to billionaires as models to be envied and emulated.
But if so, why is there such suspicion about foster carers – and others in caring professions – if they seek reasonable rewards for the complex and demanding work which they do? At their best, they help children and young people who have suffered appalling abuse and poor parenting to overcome their experiences and become settled mature adults. This is an incredible achievement, which in financial terms may save the community millions of pounds by helping the children to avoid a lifetime of mental ill-health, crime and anti-social behaviour – let alone averting the life-long suffering of the children, and of their potential victims if they offend.
Yet, somehow the commitment of foster carers is considered suspect if they make money out of their work, as if their altruism should be their only reward. There are professionals who do not suffer this discrimination. Doctors can earn considerable sums, and there is an expectation that a really high-earning consultant in private practice must be brilliant. Top lawyers may also earn huge sums. Did you ever hear of a single foster carer who was highly rewarded? Caring is, of course, a profession in which women outnumber men.
Clearly we do not want foster carers to do the work just for the money and without any real care for the child. But equally who would want to be treated by a doctor who was only concerned about the cash and not the patient? And if the fat cats of industry, banking and commerce are only interested in their bonuses and not in the welfare of the community as a whole (of which their work is a part), isn’t it time that they reconsidered their morals?
For the present, though, we are considering the rewards received by foster carers. We think that they should receive at least a decent working wage on top of their costs, and that those working with children with complex needs, foster carers should be rewarded as top professionals. And if we pay them properly, let’s not be snide in questioning their motivation.
A final point: there is no shortage of people applying for top business posts, but there is a desperate shortage of foster carers. Shouldn’t market forces be upping the rewards for foster carers?