In response to the announcement that a record number of children are living in the care system in England, Jackie Sanders, director of public affairs at The Fostering Network, said:
"With record numbers of children in care in England, the role of foster carers in providing homes for children who can't live with their birth families is more important than ever.
"There has been some concern raised about the drop in adoption orders. Adoption and long-term fostering are both valid permanency options for children, as are SGOs, living with wider family members and residential care. The first priority when choosing a permanency option should not be legal status, but rather the welfare and wellbeing of each child, and finding the right home and family for them. That is why The Fostering Network is keen to have less of a focus on the fact that adoption orders are dropping, and to make the story the fact that children are having more opportunities than ever to find the right placement to meet their individual needs.
"While adoption will be right for some children, we do not want children who rightly remain with foster families, in residential care or with members of their wider family to consider themselves second class children because their circumstance means that they should not, or cannot, be adopted. There should be no stigma surrounding being in care, and no hierarchy of placement options.
"We are encouraged to see that 48 per cent of young people are staying put with their foster carers three months after their 18th birthday, but the real statistics – how many stay when they’re 19, 20, or access further or higher education - will come in time. We campaigned for a change in legislation to allow this to happen and will continue to push the Government to provide adequate resources so that local authorities can provide as many young people as possible with the opportunity to stay with their foster carers if they so wish, while at the same time ensuring that these foster carers aren't being forced to fund this out of their own pockets.
"Looking forward, we know that the ongoing challenge will be for fostering services to recruit and retain the skilled and effective foster carers who can meet the needs of these children, particulary teenagers, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied refugees."
If you believe you have the skills to be one of the 8,370 new foster carers needed in 2015, please visit couldyoufoster.org.uk to find out more, and to contact your local fostering service.