By Bradley Stead
Across the UK there are 83,000 children in care. 80% of those children live with almost 55,000 foster families. However, the number of children coming into care rose by 3% between 2018-2019, whereas the number of approved foster families only rose by 1% over the same period.
This means that more and more children are left living in care. The Fostering Network estimates that the fostering service needs to recruit a further 7,220 families in the next 12 months so that these children are brought up in loving and safe homes.
National and Local
In Kirklees, due to shortages in families, children are having to be moved to other towns. There are stories of some social workers out until 11 at night travelling across county lines to ensure a child’s safety. It is a noble and heroic act to protect, raise and care for a child, who for whatever reason can’t be raised by their own parents, and provide them with a safe and loving home. More carers are needed, and they need to be quality carers who always put the needs and safety of the child first.
Children who are in foster care have often suffered abuse or neglect from their parents, or whose parents have simply been unable to care for them. More often than not, young people in care have more difficult and complex needs than the average young person. These are mainly young people who have come from regulated children homes or had a break down from foster parents. They are vulnerable and going into semi-independent provision is not only emotional but challenging and also can bring high anxiety
The issues and challenges facing foster carer can be best described as a systemic breakdown of services. A lack of financial support for families means it is very difficult to fully provide the care and needs of the child.
What can be done?
There needs to be more support for leaders as well as the retention of staff. There are also campaigns from Kirklees Council to encourage more people into becoming a foster carer. This process, although necessary, is intrusive and many potential foster carers drop out before the full review is completed.
There needs to be a revised government strategy to help and solve this crisis. Those that work in foster care are doing everything they can to give these children a chance of a safe and happy upbringing. The simple fact is that there aren’t enough families to foster these children, and systemic issues within the sector make foster carers jobs much more difficult.
It is a national crisis as well as a local one. Foster carers and social workers are doing their part and should be held in the same high esteem as a Police Officer or Fire Fighter. They are transforming lives, dealing with vulnerable children who need care and the safety of a home. Until these systemic issues are resolved it is up to the rest of society to try and help solve this foster care crisis.