Keep children within their communities: charity highlights urgent need for more foster families
Too often, due to a lack of foster carers, children are placed with foster families away from their local communities, and sibling groups are separated, the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, warns.
This issue is highlighted during Foster Care FortnightTM (9-22 May), the charity’s annual awareness raising campaign, as they call for more people to come forward to foster, to ensure that children in need of a foster home can be cared for locally.
Across the UK, around 9,265 more fostering families are needed, to make sure every child that can’t live with their own family gets the care they need and are well supported within their community. Foster carers who can support sibling groups are particularly needed, to ensure that children can be cared for together and don’t lose vital connections to their family.
Currently, there are over 70,000 children living with almost 56,000 foster families in the UK, and the number of children coming into care keeps rising. The reasons children become looked after vary widely. What they need from their community is local people to come forward to become foster families, to stand by their side and to be there for them no matter what.
Some foster families look after children on a short-term basis, but for many, fostering offers them a secure, permanent home. Foster carers provide support and care in a family setting and enable children to stay in their local community with everything that is familiar to them. This minimises further disruption to their lives by helping them stay in their school, close to their friends, and maintaining connections with family members.
Each child’s circumstances and needs are different, but every child has the right to have their needs met within their own community, and stay connected to those who are important to them.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, says: ‘We urgently need more foster carers to come forward to care for children within their local communities. Foster carers are the bedrock of children’s social care; they are vital in our society and our young people rely on their care, dedication, passion and skills to support them when they need it most.
‘If you have ever considered fostering, now is the time to get in touch with your local fostering service and find out more. The fostering community is open to people from all walks of life and backgrounds: you can become a foster carer no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation.
‘Community can be built around a variety of aspects of people’s lives, and it is important that different identities are represented within the fostering community.
Walt has been a single foster carer for over five years and looks after teenagers. He had considered fostering for a long time but was worried that he would struggle to get approved as a single man who is part of the LGBTQ+ community and at the time lived in rented accommodation.
‘I had the space to foster but was worried that my background would not allow me to do so. I am so glad I realised that that is not the case. If you have the right skills, the space and the passion to change a young person’s life, I recommend looking into it. The most valuable lessons I have learnt since becoming a foster carer is to be true to yourself and always be authentic. It is that authenticity that the young person connects with and helps them to see that who they are is good enough.
‘Becoming a foster carer is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made, but it was also one of the best ones. While I'm in this to make a difference to the child, it is also a learning opportunity for myself. The children I look after are my teachers. I learn from them as much as I can give them.
‘To witness a young person that is in your care show you that they trust you, that they open up and connect with you is the most rewarding feeling ever – and the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me.
‘Becoming part of the fostering community has taught me a lot and it is truly transformational, both for you and the children that come to live with you. It is so important that the fostering community is as diverse as the young people we are looking after, so please consider coming forward. It's the life experiences you bring with you that will help a child understand that happiness is a journey and that understanding your past will make the future brighter.'
You can find out more about Foster Care Fortnight here.