skip to Main Content
Looking to read the latest articles? Please click here
What Does Family Mean For You?

What does family mean for you?

An inclusive view of families appreciates ‘some children, sometimes, for some reasons need something more and different.

Gavin Williamson asked in his speech to the Centre for Social Justice, ‘What does family mean for you?’[1]

In his opening remarks he observes that ‘families are almost always the best support mechanisms any of us have to fall back on’. Almost always. There are a group of children for whom meeting their needs requires something different than a family can provide. Some call it residential care, some call it group living.

If as he says we have ‘lost the confidence to talk about family in a positive way and the positive contribution families make’ then even more so we have lost it regarding children’s residential care/group living.

NCERCC takes the view that residential group living is able to be just as much a family as any other and there are thousands of created families nationwide.

It has nothing to do with ‘statism’ or ‘government intervention’

Meeting needs requires a diversity of opportunities, ‘the most appropriate placement’. Some of these opportunities are family, kith and kin, some fostering, some adoption, some residential.

What we must beware is preventing any child getting access to the response to their need, some specialist care is needed some time in some children’s lives. Sometimes is has been delayed by hierarchical use of placement options leaving the necessary residential solution being the ‘last resort.’ Children often arrive a residential setting in mid teens after years of other options not meeting their needs.

If we include residential care in our family thinking then we can see as Williamson expressed, ‘families have many of the answers and we must give families, in all their shapes and sizes, the chance to thrive.’

Where we differ is in the end of that sentence where Williamson says ‘without the need for state intervention’. For some children state support, acting as their corporate parent, is key to accessing what they need.

Williamson started his talk asking, ‘What does family mean to you?

NCERCC discussed this in its document Reconsidering family and group care: contributing to the Care Review also being a Cultural review – NCERCC

NCERCC agrees that ‘being part of a stable, loving family is one of the best mechanisms for boosting life chances’. However for some children at some time for some reasons more than family is needed. Residential care provides that ‘safety net and love’ that a family for this child has yet to provide well-enough. Children’s homes too give children ‘a house to call home, support, and love, transforming their lives in a remarkable way’.

NCERCC agrees that, ‘Whatever shape, size, or type of family you find yourself in, it needs to be supported, parents need to be empowered, and children must be given every opportunity to grow up in a happy and healthy home’. And, for NCERCC, that includes, the created family of group living. Residential child care workers are parents too.

NCERCC agrees that ‘support is often too fragmented just when it is most needed’, like for child with tens of placements in. NCERCC agrees ‘we should be doing everything in our power to support parents in carrying out the most important job they will ever have’. This means supporting our residential child care workers with recognition of professional status, professional development, and appropriate pay levels that match their role and responsibility. Residential child care workers care for some of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

NCERCC has expanded these remarks to be inclusive of all children and all responses, we do not accept the separation of residential care from all others: ‘Supporting families in all their creations demonstrates the way public services should work – with services joining up to ensure that more children get access to early, coordinated support to help them overcome their problems before they escalate with access to specialist settings when they are needed’.

NCERCC does so answering the question ‘What family is for you?’ in the same way as Williamson does, ‘family means being there for loved ones no matter what is happening in life’ and we do so on the basis of an inclusive idea of what families are.