Rise in number of children referred for fostering prompts urgent call for more carers

The number of children referred to a charity’s fostering services has risen by more than a third in a year, leading to an appeal for more foster carers.

Barnardo’s is urgently calling for more people to consider becoming a foster carer after the number of children referred to the charity’s services across the UK increased by 36% over 12 months to July, from 14,130 to 19,144.

In England the rise in the number of children referred to Barnardo’s fostering services was 40%, in Wales 5%, in Northern Ireland 20% – but in Scotland there was a decrease of 17%.

The number of sibling groups referred to the charity’s services in the UK over the same period rose by 31%.

However, siblings have less chance of being fostered together, a YouGov survey suggested.

Only 6% of adults in Great Britain would consider fostering siblings, compared with 14% who would consider fostering a child aged 18 or under in the next five years.

The survey also showed how vital it is for siblings to remain together, with 70% of adults saying it was important they and their sibling were together when they grew up, and 60% of respondents who had a sibling agreeing it would have had a negative impact on them if they had been separated while growing up.

Lynn Perry of Barnardo’s said the need for carers is higher due to the pandemic’s effect on families.

“The pandemic and lockdown measures have piled pressure on to struggling families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health contributing to family breakdown,” she said.

“You could give a home to a vulnerable child when they need it most. Your love and support can allow brothers and sisters to stay together and make a huge difference to their life – and to yours.”

Barnardo’s said it hoped to hear from people from all backgrounds around the UK, including BAME and LGBT communities.

Social worker Julie, from Birmingham, grew up in the care system and said it was important for her to foster siblings as she was able to grow up with her brother.

“I was so lucky to have been fostered with my brother when I was younger and I know how important it was to me that we stayed together,” she said.

“I wanted to foster siblings and not just for the short term where they come into my home and leave. I wanted to care long-term and raise them.

“I have two grown up children of my own and they know all about my experience of being ‘in care’ as a child and how one day it would be something that I too would be doing and they are fully supportive of that.”

At the moment Julie fosters “two fantastic brothers” who have worked through a lot of trauma but are now a lot more adjusted and healthier.

She said: “I foster two fantastic brothers who had experienced a lot of trauma and challenges in their lives. At first, I focused on working on our relationship and slowly building and earning their trust.

“They are now able to go to bed without having nightmares and are getting a good night’s sleep. They also eat well and have a varied diet and have developed hobbies and interests outside of school. They also have friends and enjoy socialising with other children.

“They have also chosen to call me mum, which is lovely.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Foster carers make a lifelong difference to the lives of vulnerable children, and we encourage more people to come forward so there are enough carers available to provide safe, loving homes for these children.

“Local authorities are responsible for all children in care in their area, including those in foster care. We have made significant additional funding available in response to changing pressures on children’s services and during the pandemic we have made it easier for councils and fostering agencies to identify, assess and approve new foster carers to prevent delays in providing support to these children.”

YouGov questioned 2,196 adults between August 17-18 on whether they would consider fostering, and 2,039 adults between July 16-19 on the importance of siblings remaining together.

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