Rise in demand hits foster care services
Two out of five foster carers (42%) are looking after children outside their area of expertise as providers struggle to meet increasing demand for services, research has found.
Research by the Fostering Network also found 82% of local authorities saw a rise in the number of children coming into care and needing foster homes in 2009-10.
Government figures showed a 5% rise in the number of children coming into care in 2008-9, but the next set of official figures – expected to reflect the increase – are yet to be published.
The research – which surveyed 60 fostering services and 307 foster carers – also found that 58% of councils reported found it more difficult than usual to place children.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the charity, said the “unprecedented rise” in children coming into foster care had “clearly pushed back” the progress being made in recruiting more foster carers and finding children suitable families.
“In some areas there are simply no spare beds. Children are being sent further away from their schools and friends, and sometimes to foster carers who don’t have the skills and experience to deal with the child’s specific needs. Some local authorities are saying that it is the worst it has ever been.”
He added that fostering services “urgently need more people with the right skills and qualities to come forward to foster, and they need them now, so children don’t lose out.”
The findings come at the beginning of Foster Care Fortnight. Running from 17 to 30 May, it aims to highlight the ongoing shortage of 10,000 foster families across the UK.