Sunday 23 April 2017

Three words - Languishing in Care

So, I'm minding my own business enjoying a little light reading when three words jump off the page and slap me out of my holiday stupor.

"languish in care'

I was shocked at my own visceral response to a few words, I was livid and sickened by such staid, lazy and harmful rhetoric. 

Languish in care? 

I thought of my friends painting the flat of the young woman they'd fostered two years earlier. She'd left their 'foster placement', her choice, after trashing their kitchen. Two years later they still invite her to family parties, to stay over at Christmas and support her in all kinds of ways including painting her first flat. 

Languish in care?

I think of the family that I support who give every waking moment and many through the night to the teenager girl they foster with Cerabral Palsy, how every member of their family works to include them in to their family life.

Languish in care?

My mind goes to the family that cares for the two sisters under 13 months old, feeding every two hours, supporting daily contact and refusing respite though exhausted because it's not in the girl's best interests. The foster carers that tonight will get an unexpected call to take a child, no details, no answers just a child in desperate need. Foster carers that advocate and support and put up with an unending stream of professionals through their front door. To describe the children that they care for as 'languishing in care' is just plain insulting. 

Of course you can fill up my comments section with examples to counter this, of this and that and I can assure you that I'm under no illusion that foster care and foster carers have their faults. If you want I can list them and give you some examples. But to talk about 'languishing in care' is lazy and reprehensible and when we accept such twaddle why are we surprised that we read headlines like 'foster care in crisis' claiming we need 9000 carers and what seems like every roundabout in my town being 'sponsored' by the LA's Fostering Team.

Children who fall into the care system are there for a reason that is almost universally negative. We place unfair measures on foster care, by definition  and thankfully it's reactive and to consider the outcomes in terms of GCSE results at 16 is a blunt tool. The experience of those children are the very worst that our society has to offer and to compare their 'outcomes' at 18 to those of the general population is plain stupid. If you come into foster care at 15 years old then sit your GCSE's then foster care still takes the rap for your results, good or bad,  feeding the politicians who talk about outcomes.  

I'm happy to debate the failings of the system but to describe children as 'languishing in care' is downright insulting and lazy. 

Anyway, I'm on my holidays and feel much better for getting that off my chest. Let's see if I can finish this book. 

With all that in mind I'm interested in the recently announced  National Fostering Stocktake - Call for Evidence. Lets see if we can't make it all better. 


  1. Agree entirely..To languish would assume pleasure in some way...This is clearly the wrong use of words and whoever wrote it has a naive view of the world.Thry likely think the word makes the care system appear a blessing to a child in need ?

    1. Whichever way you read it it is pretty poor.

  2. Ah – one of my least favourite phrases! It’s a lazy and often insulting turn of phrase. I only ever really see the word used in relation to things such as foster care and orphanages (and I read a lot). I put it up there with phrases such as bitter adoptee as being completely meaningless – an easy go-to for people who either haven’t really thought about it or don’t actually want to.

    In my experience, it’s also often used to set a horrifying scene which can then be used in order to push something else, rather than intended to be an accurate description of care with all its complexities. Thus if you set up the problem – children languishing in care – then you can offer a solution. Usually the solution isn’t about improving the care system but getting children out of it, such as through adoption. So instead of running national foster carer recruitment campaigns and helping to retain good foster carers, the care system in and of itself is made out to be so rubbish that children, whatever the cost, have to be rescued from it - when for some children, a permanent, loving foster family may be what they need.

    I was thriving in care before I met my adoptive parents. The fact that my adoptive parents assumed I was ‘languishing’ before they met me caused an awful lot of problems. Luckily I managed to disavow them of this notion that they saved me from a horrible life in care when I was in my late 20s. I had not been languishing but thriving.

    One of the most upsetting things I came across (accidentally) was a Christmas Card written by someone to my adoptive parents a few years ago. My parents had obviously written something to them before about me. They’d replied that it was nice to know that there was life after the care system. This upset me because I HAD had had a life in the care system – and a good one at that! (Or, at least I did in my final family). I think that for this person the perception had come from the general public discourse about care. This sort of language, even when well-meaning, can inadvertently cause problems: if it had been recognised that I’d had a life whilst IN the care system, my post adoption life would have been SO much easier.


    1. Your perspective is spot on, the languishing narrative makes adopters feel like saviours, which they're not, and allows them to be disparaging over some of the experiences that they see. It's a hackneyed phrase that we need to challenge whenever and whenever we see it used incorrectly. Thanks for taking the time to comment.