Former Tory education minister Robert Halfon has suggested that ‘unemployed parents deserve free childcare more than working families’ – especially foster carers, who are at present excluded from ‘the additional 15 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds’. This he describes as ‘indefensible’, since ‘foster carers raise some of society’s most vulnerable children, many of whom would benefit from high-quality childcare, which would help boost social development’.
Research suggests that would be the case only if foster parents were no more fit that the child’s natural parents to care for him or her.
Since there is little evidence to suggest that children put in daycare because their parents are working benefit from being left by them or find it easy to adjust, is it likely that a child from a troubled family, placed in foster care, would appreciate being farmed out, yet again, to daycare, or adapt better? Far from being ‘boosted’, wouldn’t his ‘social development’ take another severe knock?
Perhaps advocates of institutional childcare should admit that their chief objective is financial, in getting mothers – and that apparently now includes foster mothers – into paid work, where they can contribute to the state coffers. We could then discuss the relative merits of warehousing children at their most vulnerable stage in life and bringing them up within the human family – and which method actually deserves the description ‘quality childcare’.