Rise in West Midlands children in local authority care
More children are being taken into care across the West Midlands, according to latest figures. Between 2008 and 2010 many councils saw rises of between 10 and 20%.
The increases include Sandwell with 15%, Shropshire 14% and both Coventry and Dudley at 13%.
Birmingham City Council has seen a slight decrease in numbers, but with 1,972 still had the most children in council care in December last year.
In Wolverhampton, there are 456 children in care, ranging from foster care to residential homes, placing huge demand on social services in the city.
The number was an increase of 24% on three years ago, according to the council’s own figures.
As a result, more resources are being put into child protection.
John Welsby, assistant director for children and family support at Wolverhampton City Council, pointed to the Baby P case as one factor in the change.
Peter Connelly’s death in Haringey in 2007 highlighted concerns nationally that at-risk children were being failed.
He added: “The other thing is the impact of the recession, putting families under more stress, more strain, unemployment.
“We have seen an increase for example in the numbers for teenagers coming into the care system through family breakdown.
“For the foreseeable years ahead, we are going to have high numbers of children in care.”
Other increases in the number of children being taken into local authority care include Walsall with 7%, Staffordshire 6% and Stoke 5%.
‘Charlotte’, who is 13 years old, was taken into foster care at the age of seven when her parents could not look after her.
She is now living with Mo Powell, a foster carer with 17 years’ experience.
Charlotte said she felt lucky that she now had the opportunity to succeed at school.
“Thinking about me when I was younger – I didn’t have much of an education.
“So if I think I become a primary school teacher, I can give them children an education, they’ll continue with [it] and enjoy school more.”
She also had a message for younger children in care.
“I’d just tell them to stay confident and to just believe in themselves and remember, whatever people say, you’re special in a way – some way.”
Wolverhampton, like many authorities in the West Midlands, is urgently looking for new foster carers to meet demand.
To speak candidly about an experience such as growing up in care can be intensely personal and traumatic, even in the comfort of a home.
To do it on television to a large audience takes a great deal of consideration – indeed bravery.
It was with that in mind that I went to interview Charlotte, a 13-year-old girl in foster care and Katie, an 18-year-old mum-to-be who has just left the care system.
They wanted to share their experiences of childhood in the hope someone, perhaps in their position, perhaps future parents, may begin to understand something of the rocky journey they have taken.
Social workers told me that each case of child protection is unique but all share one characteristic. Being in care, they said, is not the fault of the young person.