City Foster Care Crisis As Waiting List Grows

A drive to recruit more foster carers is struggling to keep up with the growing number of local children who need to be taken into care. More than ever are being taken away from their parents in Edinburgh because of drink, drugs and mental health problems.

The council has recruited 23 more foster families and found homes for 20 more children since this time last year. At the same time the waiting list for foster care has risen steadily and more children are being diverted into adoption and residential care.

Aware they are fighting a losing battle, council chiefs are set to hire a communications officer, on up to £32,640-a-year, whose brief would be to attract more foster carers over the next 12 months.

Kirstie Maclean, service manager in family-based care at the city council, said: “We’re investing more money in social care this year. We’re going to employ more social workers and someone who will have responsibility for publicising and networking, and all issues to do with attracting people to fostering.

“More needs to be done to get the message out. We think there are more people out there who we can attract to fostering, that’s our belief. If that proves to be wrong we will have to go back to the drawing board. We need to make sure that once they have been attracted to the post they are approved quickly and thoroughly.”

There are currently 159 children waiting for a foster place, including 72 in need of full-time care and 87 who would be taken off their parents to give them a break as they are struggling to cope.

That is up slightly on the 155, including 65 needing full-time care and 90 needing respite care, on the list last year. There are now 372 children in Capital foster homes, up from 352 a year ago, and a further 36 in care, waiting to be adopted, up from 27.

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, who is expected to be confirmed as children and families leader next week, made a personal appeal to would-be foster parents. “I think getting more foster carers to come forward is the right way to go,” she said.

“There has been a misconception in the past about foster parents – there is a lot of support in place for them, they are not just cast out on the waters with a child who needs a lot of attention. There is also financial help. However, we have to be very careful we don’t start cutting corners in a desperate attempt to plug the gap. We have to be assured the people we get are responsible and loving foster carers.”