Fostering ‘crisis’ as two-thirds of carers reach retirement

The national shortage of foster carers is set to worsen dramatically as two-thirds of the workforce approach retirement age, a leading charity has warned.

A report by Fostering Network finds that a huge number of foster carers are aged 50 and over. Just 6% are in their 30s and “virtually none” are in their 20s, indicating that greater effort is needed to find younger recruits. The average age of foster carers has risen from 46 to 53 among women and from 47 to 54 among men since 2000.

Recruitment review

The charity is urging fostering services to review their recruitment strategies and to assess the impact of forthcoming retirements. It is also calling on the government to introduce regulation and funding to ensure foster carers are given adequate financial support.

There is currently a shortage of 100,000 foster families in the UK, and the charity warned that a further rise could leave the system struggling to cope.

‘Untapped pool’

Robert Tapsfield (right), chief executive of Fostering Network, said the findings were “extremely worrying” and called on fostering services to step up recruitment.

“For the sake of the tens of thousands of children who need the support and care of a foster family each year, it’s crucial that more people come forward. In order to avert the impending crisis, it’s important that we attract people of all ages. Older people can bring experience and skills from previous jobs, but it’s essential we also appeal to the untapped pool of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are particularly well placed to offer long-term care to younger children,” he added.

Foster Care Fortnight

The report, The Age of Foster Care, is being published to highlight Foster Care Fortnight, the charity’s annual awareness campaign.

Marking the start of the fortnight, children’s charity Barnardo’s called on the government to speed up the adoption process.

Martin Narey, Barnardo’s chief executive said:“We are struggling with the legal system, bureaucracy, and attitude. There is an urgent need for courts and social workers to arrive more speedily at the decision to adopt a child and then to ensure that adoption follows swiftly. And while, in the aftermath of Baby P, applications for care have increased we need to watch for a return to a climate which vilifies social workers when they remove a child.”

Channel 4 is also marking Foster Care Fortnight with a series of programmes on children in the care system awaiting adoption, beginning tonight.

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More information

The Age of Foster Care

Foster Care Fortnight

Channel 4: Britain’s forgotten children season

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