Hundreds of foster families needed
At least 550 new foster families are needed across the South West region during 2015 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for record numbers of fostered children, according to figures released today from The Fostering Network.
Each day sees over 63,000 children living with over 52,500 foster families in homes across the UK. With a rising number of children coming into care, and around 13 per cent of foster carers retiring or leaving the service last year, there is a need to not only recruit more foster carers but also better utilise the current pool of foster carers. More foster families are particularly needed to provide homes for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups.
- 4,120 children lived in foster care in the South West;
- 39,600 of the young people in care in England were aged 10 or older;
- 5,595 children with disabilities were living with foster carers;
- 1,520 siblings from 535 fostered sibling groups in England were separated, where the aim was for them to live together;
- 7,190 children who were fostered were placed over 20 miles from their home.
Without enough foster families willing and able to offer homes to these groups, some children will find themselves living a long way from family, friends and their school.
It could also lead to them being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who does not have the right skills and experience to meet their specific needs. These pressures can lead to relationships breaking down, and children having to make regular moves between homes.
Some young people will also be living in residential care when fostering has been identified as the best option for them.
Jackie Sanders, director of public affairs at The Fostering Network, said: “Fostering can be an incredibly rewarding career and lifestyle choice for those who do come forward, opening their hearts and homes to children and young people who need security and stability.
“Fostering is also a challenging job, and when the match between foster family and child is not right, it becomes even more difficult. A wider pool of foster carers enables fostering services to be able to match the needs of each child more closely with the skills that each foster carer brings, and to find the right home for each child, first time.
“However, as well as recruiting new foster carers, fostering services must look at the foster carers who are currently available to them in their local area. Where existing foster carers have space in their homes, it may be possible to retrain and support them to look after different ages of children with a variety of different needs.
"Children and young people come into care for a wide range of reasons, but all come needing professional, dedicated and compassionate support. Foster carers are remarkable people who open their homes to some of society’s most disadvantaged children and young people. Fostering services approved over 7,175 new foster families in England alone in 2013/14, but recruitment remains an ongoing challenge to replace those who leave and to meet the needs of the children coming into care.
“We urgently need people who have the right skills and qualities to foster to come forward and make a long lasting positive difference to the life of a child. In particular, foster carers are needed to provide homes for teenagers and children with disabilities, and to help sibling groups stay together.”
During 2015 an additional 6,900 foster families are needed in England, 170 in Northern Ireland, 750 in Scotland and 550 in Wales. A regional breakdown for England is below.
Details of fostering services and more information about fostering and becoming a foster carer are available from couldyoufoster.org.uk.