AT LEAST 8,600 new foster families are needed across the UK during 2014 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for the record numbers of fostered children, according to figures out today from the Fostering Network.
Tonight, almost 63,000 children will be living with over 52,500 foster families across the UK. More foster families are needed not only to replace the 12 per cent who leave each year, but to ensure that children who come into foster care find foster carers who are right for them, have the skills and qualities they need, and are available now.
More foster families are particularly needed to provide homes for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups. Around 38,000 of the young people in care in England are aged 10 or older, and over 2,000 children with disabilities are currently in care because their parents couldn’t fully support their needs at home. Last year around 450 fostered sibling groups in England were separated, where the aim was for them to live together.
Without enough foster families willing and able to offer homes to these groups, some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who does not have the ideal skills and experience to meet their specific needs.
Research by the Fostering Network in 2013 found that in the previous two years one in three foster carers had felt under pressure to take children – usually teenagers – who they were not trained or supported to look after. One in 10 had felt under pressure to take in a child, again usually a teenager, when they felt they had no more capacity. Two in five had looked after children temporarily because the fostering service could not find a suitable long-term home.
Fostering can be a challenging job, and when the match between foster family and child is not ideal, it becomes even more difficult. Too many fostering relationships break down as a result; in England alone there are over 4,000 unplanned endings of fostering placements each year and one in three children in care live in two or more homes across the 12 months. A wider pool of foster carers makes it more likely that fostering services can find the right foster home for each child, first time.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “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 vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.
“Fostering services last year found over 7,200 new foster families in England alone, but recruitment remains an ongoing challenge. Fostering services across the UK need to attract a diverse range of foster carers who can meet the needs of children in care and who can offer as much choice as possible so that they can find the right home for each child, first time.
“We urgently need people who believe that they 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.”
An additional 7,000 foster families are needed in England, 200 in Northern Ireland, 850 in Scotland and 550 in Wales during 2014.
To find out more about becoming a foster carer contact the National Fostering Agency on 0845 200 40 40 or visit www.nfa.co.uk.