Vulnerable teenagers are suffering because of a national shortage of suitable foster families, according to a survey by the Fostering Network.
The survey of 128 fostering services across the UK, published to coincide with the start of Foster Care Fortnight, found 98% are struggling to find foster families for teenagers and 80% need more foster carers for 11 to 15-year-olds than any other age group.
More than half (52%) said the situation faced by teenagers had worsened since last year, while 44% said it was just as bad.
The Fostering Network’s figures show it is particularly difficult to find families for teenagers, with local authorities prioritising babies and young children when foster families become available. Teenagers are often placed with foster carers who live far from their local communities or in residential care when families can’t be found.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said the situation was of “real concern”. “Teenagers are missing out at a stage in their lives when a good foster family could make all the difference. Foster care provides a stable, safe and caring home for children going through a tough time,” Tapsfield said.
Social workers have already raised concern, in a Community Care survey that teenagers are already missing out on child protection services because of spending cuts.
Louise Groves, a foster carer who specialises in looking after teenagers, said there was too much focus on the stereotype of teenagers being hard work, “but in my experience they are fun and fascinating individuals”.
“You just need to be patient, have good communication skills, don’t give up easily and enjoy the company of young people.” she added.
Although recent recruitment campaigns by councils have led to a significant increase in potential foster carers coming forward, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), there is still an estimated national shortage of 10,000 foster carers. Government figures revealed an extra 3,700 children needed a foster family in 2010 compared with 2009.
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