8600 foster carers still urgently needed
Today, almost 63,000 children are living with over 52,500 foster families across the UK. However, figures from the Fostering Network show at least 8,600 new foster families are still needed; not only to replace the 12 % who leave each year, but to ensure that children who come into foster care find foster carers who are right for them.
Particular need for teenagers, siblings and children with disabilites
Foster homes are particularly needed for children with disabilities, sibling groups and teenagers who have been emotionally or physically abused. Breakdown in previous foster relationships often leads to the need for a new foster placement – however poor behaviour often destroys their chance of getting the help they really need. Resilience foster care is about giving children and young people their last chance at a normal family life.
Without enough foster families willing to offer homes to these groups, many children will end up living miles away from family, school and friends, some will be split up from brothers and sisters or be placed with a foster carer who does not have the ideal skills and experience to meet their specific needs.
Over 4000 foster relationships breakdown each year
Fostering can be a challenging job, and when the relationship between foster child and carer breaks down, it becomes even more difficult. In England alone there are over 4,000 unplanned endings of fostering placements each year and one in three children in care live in two or more homes across the 12 months. A wider pool of foster carers would mean that fostering services could find the right foster home for each child, first time.
Traditionally local authorities have recruited from among their most experienced foster carers, who have the right skills and training to take on troubled children, but there is a problem with this model. “Resilience” foster placements last between two and eight years and a family is only allowed to take on one child during that period, due to the extreme behaviour exhibited by some of these vulnerable children. Meanwhile, about 12% of foster carers leave the service or retire every year.
Staffordshire county council believe that the solution to this problem is to cast your nets wider and look to sectors where people have developed the skills needed to support children and teenagers who display extremely challenging behaviour.
Staffordshire Councy Council’s new ‘resilience fostering’ recruitment campaign targets people such as police officers, prison officers, residential care home workers or the voluntary sector who have this type of experience and can diffuse emotionally charged situations and support the children in their care.
For example; police officers have significant experience of dealing with and calming difficult situations, particularly working with children and young people. They also retire after 30 years’ service so they have the time, skills, experience and energy to dedicate to a second career as a foster carer.
Fostering enriches your life
One couple who featured in Staffordshire County Council’s recent foster recruitment campaign is Tom Wardle, a former police officer, and his wife Anne, who is a former health visitor. They believe their lives have been enriched by fostering. “Anne and I began fostering to make a difference…During my time as a policeman I’ve seen the difficulties that children can find themselves in… They’ve had life experiences that mean they need intense nurturing.” He continues “Fostering doesn’t bring about immediate gratification; however you do observe small changes in behaviour and attitudes, that allows you to understand that you are making a difference.”
With an additional 7,000 foster families needed in England, 200 in Northern Ireland, 850 in Scotland and 550 in Wales during 2014 alone, maybe this approach could benefit children and young people in care and help give them the future they deserve.