More than 7,000 new foster families are needed in the coming year to ensure that all children can be found the right foster home first time, according to leading fostering charity The Fostering Network at the start of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight (8-21 May). The need is particularly for families to offer homes to teenagers and groups of brothers and sisters.
The new figures, calculated by The Fostering Network, show that 7,180 families are needed across the UK (5,900 in England, 640 in Scotland, 440 in Wales, and 200 in Northern Ireland). In addition, the charity found that:
- 97 per cent fostering services have a particular need for foster carers for teenagers;
- 86 per cent fostering services have a particular need for foster carers for sibling groups.
Across the UK, 60 per cent of looked after children are teenagers and, in England alone, there are 455 groups of siblings who have been separated despite being assessed to live together.
The survey also revealed a growing need for more parent and child foster carers, with 57 per cent of fostering services identifying a need in this area. These foster carers look after young mothers or fathers who are experiencing difficulties and their babies, helping them to develop their parenting abilities and hopefully keeping the parent and child together in the longer term.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network said: ‘A child comes into care in need of a foster family every 20 minutes in the UK. Without more foster families coming forward during 2017, and especially people who could foster teenagers and siblings, some children will find themselves living a long way from their family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who might not have the right skills and experience to meet their specific needs.
More foster carers means that a fostering service can match the needs of each child more closely with the skills that each foster carer brings, allowing them to find the right home for each child, first time. That is why, this Foster Care Fortnight, we are calling for people to come forward to foster, particularly if they have the skills and experience to foster teenagers or sibling groups.
Matthew, a foster carer of teenagers for five years said: ‘Seeing a young person enjoy their life, will forever leave an impact on mine. I suspect most teenagers seem “difficult” at some point - that is what makes them teenagers - but there is a sense of achievement when you see a young person’s life being transformed after a difficult beginning.
‘I would encourage anyone thinking about fostering to come forward because there are so many more teenagers out there who need a secure home environment to help them stabilise their lives and move forward.’
People who have a spare room and think they have the relevant skills and experience to be able to look after fostered children, many of whom will have experienced trauma or neglect, can find out more at www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/couldyoufoster.