Urgent need for foster carers
With 90,000 children in care across the UK and the number still continuing to rise, new foster carers are urgently needed to look after these vulnerable young people. The most vulnerable are those requiring emergency placements.
Young people may need emergency placements for various reasons. They may be at risk of serious harm from abuse, neglect or sexual exploitation. Or it may be that someone has come from a long–term placement that has broken down.
Reading the situation
These children and young people have often had very difficult experiences and may have witnessed things no child should see. As a result they can struggle to understand their feelings and often display very challenging behaviour or become withdrawn. It takes insight and resilience to know how to respond to their needs, says Brenda Farrell, deputy head for fostering and adoption at Barnardo’s.
It is difficult to read what they want; for a younger child, there will be an enormous sense of loss; they’ll feel very insecure,” she says. “Maybe older children have been trying to hold their family together and they’ll be angry about losing control. They need reassurance, information, security and stability.
“They need to know their carer will be there in the morning for them – and that they understand that trashing the bedroom is just anger about their loss, or fear of what’s about to happen.”
Joanne, who currently cares for a 14-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy at her home in Lancashire understands this. She says “When a distressed child arrives, you need to calm the situation. Asking them is the big thing,” she says. “Some want a cuddle, others want to be left alone.”
What they all have in common, however, is an urgent need for a loving, secure, home environment. Yet most people want young children or babies, not teenagers. As Joanne highlights, “People want the little ones, but nobody wants the teenagers. We take emergency placements, because we feel they’re most in need.”
Who can foster?
Fostering is a very challenging career and brings with it many obstacles. One girl stayed with Joanne’s family for three years but due to her severe mental health problems they could no longer keep her safe. But despite the obstacles, there are endless rewards – seeing a young person taking small steps towards a big future is a special gift and incredibly rewarding.
And anyone could take on this rewarding and exciting career! You do not need specific qualifications or superhuman powers! While some foster carers have often worked in some kind of care before, it is not necessary. Once approved for fostering, Barnardo’s provides extensive ongoing training and support. “It’s a team approach,” says Farrell.
Supporting the unsupported
Barnardo’s believes in every child and young person in care; regardless of their circumstances. Every child has their own story and their own specific needs. It is our job to support them, stand up for them and bring out the best in each and every child. We use the knowledge gained from our direct work with children to campaign for better childcare policy and to champion the rights of every child.
To find out more about Barnardo’s services, and how you can help us support the unsupported through volunteering or donations, visit: barnardos.org.uk