Charity Warns Of Foster Care Shortage

More than 5,000 extra foster carers need to be recruited in the UK this year to stop children being shunted from home to home and split from their siblings, a charity warned today.

Fostering Network said local government figures show there is a shortfall across the country, with London and the north-west particularly hard pressed.

The lack of carers means children can be placed a long distance from their parents’ home, siblings may have to be split up, and youngsters may be moved from home to home.

“A boy may be split from his brother and have to stay with three or four different families in a year because there isn’t a carer who can take them for the whole period,” said spokeswoman Jackie Sanders.

“If you have a wider pool of foster carers you are more likely to be able to offer them stability and a better outcome.”

One in eight were moved three or more times in 2007, according to the Department for Children Schools and Families. And moving home can mean they have to change schools.

The more carers available, the better the chance of finding a place which matches the child’s culture and language and is near their parents’ home, their school and their friends.

Fostering Network said more than 50,000 children live with 43,000 foster families in the UK. But they estimate 5,250 new carers are needed in the next year.

There are 760 needed in the north-west; 670 in London; 500 in eastern England and 450 in Scotland, the charity said.

The figures were released to coincide with the charity’s annual awareness campaign, Foster Care Fortnight, which begins today.

Robert Tapsfield, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Without these much-needed new foster carers, too many fostered children will continue to be denied stability in their home and school life, which is key to success later on.

“While almost anyone can apply, foster carers need special qualities and some people will be more suited to it than others.

“This year’s campaign identifies the qualities needed to be a foster carer – qualities like being optimistic, having good listening skills, being able to see things from a child’s point of view and having a sense of humour – and encourages people to recognise these in themselves.”

For the survey, local authorities, and health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland, were asked their recruitment target for the next 12 months. The figure of 5,250 was calculated on the basis of responses from 179 (86%).

· Find out more about fostering here or call 0800 040 7675.