Fostering: time to care

As Foster Care Fortnight gets underway, Ellie Jones highlights a shortage of carers

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Have you ever fancied doing something that supports vulnerable children but you weren’t sure what, or how? During Foster Care Fortnight, there are plenty of ways to support children in care, who are some of the most vulnerable in our society. You can find out about foster care and spread the word, fundraise for the Fostering Network or become a foster carer yourself. Now is the time to care and here’s why.

Across the UK there is a chronic shortage of 10,000 foster carers. This makes it difficult to match children with the right foster families and many get bounced around the care system, suffering even more disruption in their lives.

Many fostering services say they are struggling to cope

More than 57,000 children in the UK will be living with 45,000 foster families today, and for many of these children this will be their first positive experience of family life. Since 2007 the number of children needing foster homes in the UK has risen by more than 6,000, putting the system under huge pressure. Many fostering services say they are struggling to cope and urgently need more people to come forward to foster.

To make matters worse, children’s services budgets and support for foster carers and the children they look after are being cut in many local authorities. There is a real danger that children in care, already disadvantaged and vulnerable, will lose out.
Given these pressures, now more than ever before we need people to get behind fostering and support children in care. The Fostering Network – the UK charity working to improve foster care – runs the annual campaign Foster Care Fortnight on 16-29 May. This year, under the strapline Fostering: Time To Care, the campaign will be a rallying cry to ask people to take action.

Good foster carers can make a real difference to the lives of children in care. They are highly skilled and use their own personal qualities to deal with the challenges of looking after someone else’s child. They also receive training and support from their fostering service to help them further develop their expertise.

Foster carer Louise Groves, 33, says: “Having fostered over 40 children in the last five years I am aware of the range of needs of young people in care. Mostly they need to feel safe and secure, but ultimately they need to be loved.

“If you have thought about fostering, now is the perfect time.”

“What many may consider to be a ‘normal’ childhood experience, such as a bedtime story read in a nurturing and caring manner, can become the most precious memories you give these children.

“At a time when there is much uncertainty it is important to value the skills and qualities we have and to think about how we can use them to help others. If you have thought about fostering or are considering applying, now really is the perfect time.

“As a foster carer you are part of a professional team that can make a real difference to children’s lives. In my opinion there is no greater role.”

Research by the Fostering Network shows that 65 per cent of foster carers in the UK are in their fifties, sixties or seventies.
While there is rightly no upper age limit on fostering, these figures suggest that a huge proportion of the workforce might choose to retire over the next 10 to 15 years.

This would make an already worrying situation far worse; unless recruitment of new foster carers is stepped up sharply it could leave the system struggling to cope and even more disruption and instability for children.

This will change if more people come forward to be trained as skilled foster carers who can help to create a better future for society’s most vulnerable children. Now is the time to care.

To find out more about becoming a foster carer contact your local fostering service, call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675 or visit Or to find out what else you can do to support children in care see www.fostering.

Ellie Jones is media and communications assistant with the Fostering Network

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