According to Coram BAAF, on the 31st of March 2017, there were 72,670 children in the care of local authorities in England.
Out of those, 53,420 children were living with foster carers. There are around 43,710 foster care families in England. ‘The Fostering Network’ predicts that fostering services will need to recruit an additional 5,900 foster carers in the next 12 months to keep up with demand.
Children come into care for lots of different reasons, and every child will have had a different experience prior to being fostered. However, what remains consistent is that all the children can no longer live with their birth parents. The reasons for this vary, but the most common causes are because either their one or both parents have a drug or alcohol addiction, there are cases of domestic violence within the home, the child is being sexually/physically/emotionally abused or neglected or one or both parents have serious physical/mental health problems which render them unable to care for the child. In many cases, there might be more than one factor leading to the removal of the child.
Many different children need fostering, for many different reasons. They are all so different but what they all have in common is the need to be cared for, respected, protected and encouraged.
When the decision is made that the parents can no longer look after a child, then the child is taken into care and it becomes the local authority’s responsibility to look after their welfare. Social workers work with birth families to ensure the house is a safe place for the child, with the goal of returning the child to the parents if possible. They also work with foster carers to set up a suitable arrangement where the child can live temporarily or on a long-term basis whilst in care.
Children from the age of 0 to 18 need fostering. However, many children are older, or in their teenage years, and need a lot of support from a foster care at this crucial point in their lives.
As a foster carer, you could provide a young person this support and encouragement, during this important stage of life, to help set them up for the future.
There is also new UK legislation which enables Looked After Children to remain with their foster family until the age of 21, or longer if they remain in full-time education.
Sometimes, groups of brothers and sisters need to go into care. Where possible, we like to keep siblings together so that they remain in a family unit and have the comfort of their siblings around them. By fostering a sibling group, you could make a real difference to the lives of brothers and sisters.
We see many children come into care with mild to severe disabilities, such as Downs Syndrome or Autism. These children require a special kind of carer, someone who is patient, loving and willing to put in time and effort so that a child with special needs can thrive. With the help of training and continued support of your social worker, you could help meet the needs of disabled children in care.
Children of all races, ethnicities and religion come into foster care. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you are the same ethnicity as the child, or that you share the same beliefs, as long as you are respectful and accommodating of the beliefs of the child. We are looking for carers to help children of black and ethnic minorities to thrive in their new environment.
It’s also the sad truth that many of the children that come into care have witnessed terrible things and may have been subjected to neglect or abuse from a young age. This can influence the way they express themselves or control their emotions. It takes a loving, patient and understanding foster carer to support the child through their difficulties and help them grow in life.
As an agency, we will continue to provide excellent training and support to our foster carers to help guide them through any difficulties they face when looking after a child with emotional or behavioural problems.
Parent and child placements are a specialist type of placement where (usually) a mother and her baby come to stay with a foster carer. The young mother might need extra help with looking after her baby either because there are concerns about drug or alcohol use, her ability to look after the child or because a mental health problem or disability might make parenting a baby difficult.