Younger foster carers needed to avoid recruitment crisis, charity warns

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Media release

MORE YOUNGER PEOPLE need to be encouraged to foster in order to avoid a recruitment crisis, the Fostering Network is warning today, with the publication of survey results showing that almost one in three foster carers are now approaching an age where they may consider retiring.

The survey of 2,600 foster carers found that 30 per cent were aged 55 or above, with another 45 per cent between 45 and 54. In contrast, only 4 per cent were aged 20 to 34.

The results come hot on the heels of an opinion poll carried out by the Fostering Network, which found that only 22 per cent of people aged 18-25 think they would be accepted as foster carers were they to apply within the next two years.

Commenting on the results, chief executive of the Fostering Network Robert Tapsfield said: “Older foster carers bring life experience and skills from other work to fostering, and do an amazing job in providing homes for thousands of fostered children. People even apply to foster when they are in their 50s and beyond, and we encourage applications at any age as long as people are fit and healthy.

“But these figures are worrying because they suggest that many foster carers may think about retiring over the next 10 to 15 years, at a time when we already need more people to come forward, particularly to offer homes to teenagers, children with disabilities and groups of brothers and sisters.

“It’s vital that we reach out to more younger people, in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, and are clear that what is important is not age, but rather the skills and qualities to look after fostered children. Younger foster carers will also be in a great position to offer homes to the many children who need to live with a foster family for the long term, often until the age of 21.”

There are currently 52,500 foster families looking after 63,000 children across the UK every day. The Fostering Network estimates that a further 8,600 families are needed this year alone, particularly to look after teenagers and children with disabilities, as well as providing homes to groups of brothers and sisters.

Unless the right foster carers can be found, children too often have to live a long way from family, friends and school, are moved from home to home, and are split up from their brothers and sisters. Finding the right foster carer can lead to stability and a positive experience of childhood.

Foster Care Fortnight, the Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and encourage more people to consider becoming foster carers. To find out more about fostering and becoming a foster carer, see www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or contact your local fostering service.

ENDS
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For media enquiries contact the Fostering Network press office on media@fostering.net  or 020 7620 6425

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Notes to editors

1. The survey, carried out by the Fostering Network, found that the age breakdown of 2,600 foster carers was:
20-24 years - 0.2%    
25-34 years - 4.1%
35-44 years - 20.8%
45-54 years - 44.5%
55-64 years - 26.5%
65-74 years - 3.8%
75 years and over - 0.2%

2. The opinion poll figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,818 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28 April and 1 May 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

3. A previous separate survey by the Fostering Network of 1,400 foster carers found that the average age of foster carers at approval was 42 years, ranging from 21 to 68.

4. Foster Care Fortnight (12-25 May) is the Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to help fostering services attract and recruit new foster carers.

5. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in fostering, and exists to make life better for fostered children and the families that look after them.