In praise of Foster Parents

“Every year” says Paul, “David sends me a birthday card. It says Thank you for teaching me everything I know. ” Paul is a Foster Parent, one of that amazing army of unsung heroes and heroines who often make the difference between survival and total collapse for so many thousands of abused, neglected or abandoned children. David was his first foster placement. It was many years ago, when Paul was busy as a successful businessman in the food supply business,and raising a highly successful family of his own. Since then, Paul and his wife Jane have fostered many and are still doing it today, well into their seventies.

The trouble with LSS-and like certain Prime Ministers, we humbly admit it-is that there are too many molecules, too many econometric theories and too many cocktails in here. We don’t bring you enough human interest stories. Too easy to sink into a pit of esoteric academicism, ignoring the heroic work of carers, fosterers, police officers, and all the others who are the real glue holding our society together. Time to learn from them. And this was our principal lesson.

About fifty years ago, certain supercilious biologists were fond of preaching that utter selfishness and egoism were the only worthwhile guides for human behaviour. It was all, in our genes, they told us, with all the otiose certainty of first year undergraduates who imagine a university place is a guarantee of private virtue and public wisdom. Qualities such as altruism, sharing and solidarity were the delusions of weak minds, destined for evolutionary extinction. A way of thinking quickly picked up by newspapers such as the Daily Mail, ever eager for sticks with which to beat Trade Unions, Social Democrats and anyone else who tried to stand in the way of a dog-eat-dog free for all.

We won’t tell you of the satisfaction which Paul and Jane obtain from each successful placement. Or that each successful case which they handle turns in to a healthy productive citizen, ready to work to pay taxes for the rest of us in our dotage. Or that every child saved from the streets saves someone from getting mugged, drugged, slugged or harmed in some way. We’ll leave you instead with the words of John Donne, that amazing 17th century mystic, who wrote

No man is an island, entire of itself: Every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s, or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

names have been changed for confidentiality

#john donne #fostering #altruism


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