Urgent need for more foster carers to look after children in their local community
The UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, is urging people to come forward to foster so that more children can be cared for in their local community. Across the UK, 7,200 more fostering families are needed – this figure comes during Foster Care FortnightTM (15-28 May), the charity’s annual awareness raising campaign.
Currently, there are over 90,000 children in care in the UK and three quarters live with foster families. Too often these children – an estimated one in three in England and Wales – must leave their local authority area because a foster family cannot be found to look after them nearby.
The reality is more carers are needed to ensure that, when safe to do so, every child who can’t live with their own family is cared for within their community. On average, a child comes into care every 15 minutes – it is crucial they remain connected with the things that form their identity including their school, friends, hobbies and wider family.
Being a foster carer is more than just providing a nurturing family home for children – it is about having the skills to support their development and growth. Foster carers need to be good listeners and communicators. They need confidence to speak up on behalf of the children in their care, as well as resilience and patience. Above all they must have the desire and ability to offer stability and security to children and young people – many of whom have experienced trauma in their life.
Some foster families look after children on a short-term basis – for a few days or weeks. For many children, fostering offers them a secure and loving home for their whole childhood. There is a particular need for foster carers who can support sibling groups, to ensure that brothers and sisters can be cared for together and their relationships are nurtured.
Mervyn Erskine, chair of trustees at The Fostering Network says: ‘Fostering is at the heart of our communities and Foster Care Fortnight gives us the opportunity to say thank you to the tens of thousands of incredible people who are transforming lives in every community across the UK.
‘We can’t lose sight of the fact we urgently need more foster carers to come forward to care for children locally. When a child comes into care needing a foster home, it is essential they can live with a foster carer who can meet their individual needs, in the area they belong – ultimately, everything they need to be the absolute best version of themselves.
‘If you have ever considered fostering, now is the time to get in touch with your local fostering service and find out more about the support and training that they will offer you.
‘The fostering community is open to people from all walks of life and backgrounds – there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ foster carer. You can foster no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation. Deciding to foster is a huge step that will change your life, as well as the lives of the children you care for – Foster Care Fortnight is the ideal time to find out more.’
Kahina, from London, has been a foster carer since 2018. She and her husband care for a sibling group of four, alongside their three birth children. Kahina says: ‘I didn’t want to separate the siblings. At first only two of the children came here and two went to another foster carer, but I could see how close the children were to each other and I wanted to keep this.
‘There are memories which make me feel proud. A mum of one of the children I looked after hugged me and thanked me for looking after them. Another time one little boy did not stop crying the whole night and I stayed with him the entire time. The next day he followed me around wherever I went, and we saw a complete change in him over the next three months.’
‘To anyone thinking about fostering, I would say there are lots of children that need our help. When you open your doors for them, you would be doing something good for the children and for you as well – you will be proud of yourself.’
If you believe you have the skills to foster, then visit www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/could-you-foster to find out more and to contact your local fostering service. Training and support are available for all foster carers from their fostering service as well as through The Fostering Network.
Everyone can support and get involved in the fostering community.
To find out how visit www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/fcf