Responding to the Children’s Commissioner for England’s annual Stability Index which shows a care system changing over recent years as more and more older children and teenagers with complex needs enter care, Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘It will come as no surprise to anyone involved in the fostering sector that there is an increase in the number of teenagers in care and the complexity of the needs of these young people, and we agree with the Children Commissioner’s assessment that the system is “playing catch up”. Over the last few years we, along with fostering services up and down the UK, have been highlighting the need for people with the right skills and experience to come forward to foster. The figures released today emphasise the immediacy of that need. Even more importantly we urge the Government to invest in the children’s social care system in order to offer the right practical and financial support for existing foster carers who are looking after these young people with increasingly complex needs and traumatic backgrounds.
‘Our recent State of the Nation survey revealed that in the last 24 months 50 per cent of foster carers have supported a child who has either caused violence in their home, self-harmed, gone missing from the home or been involved with the police. In contrast, a YouGov survey in January 2019 of 1,000 parents of children under 18 across the UK gave a corresponding figure of only 11 per cent. It is essential therefore that the training and support that foster carers receive is tailored to their needs and the needs of the children in their care.
‘Three-quarters of looked after children are in foster care, which we know has the potential to transform the lives of children and young people, and the basis of that potential is stability. The Care Inquiry found that relationships are the golden thread that run throughout the child care system, so where a young person has a stable, nurturing foster home they are much more likely to flourish; and we must remember that the vast majority of children in foster care – tens of thousands of children - have this experience. However, the figures produced as part of the Children’s Commissioner’s Stability Index show that too many children and especially teenagers are experiencing instability as a result of a move of home or school, or a change in social worker. This is of great concern and simply isn’t good enough. Everyone with a responsibility for fostering must work to improve the situation as a matter of urgency, and ensure that foster carers are properly valued, trained and supported in order that children and young people receive the security, stability and support that fostering can offer.’