Over 60% of foster carers say their foster children have had at least two previous placement moves, while more than a third have cared for children whose siblings were placed elsewhere.
The findings – revealed in a survey of 1,439 foster carers by the Fostering Network – once again highlights the national shortage of foster carers, which is creating instability for children in care and mounting pressure on the existing workforce. The charity estimates around 9,000 more foster carers are needed nationally.
While 61% of carers said they’d looked after children who had had two or more previous moves between foster homes, 43% had looked after a child who’d been moved four or more times and one in ten had even looked after children who had had 10 or more foster moves.
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The survey, which asked carers about their experiences of fostering over the last two years, found one in three (34%) carers had looked after children whose brothers and sisters were placed elsewhere because their local fostering service was unable to place them all together.
This shortage has also heaped pressure on foster carers, with nearly one in three (28%) saying they have felt under pressure to take in young people whose needs they could not meet.
More than a tenth of carers (12%) have felt pressure to take in more children than they can manage.
Clare Marshall, a care leaver, explained the impact frequent placement moves can have on vulnerable young people. “I lived in 42 different homes in five years as a very young child, but when I was eight I went to the foster carer who is now my mum to me.
“I’ve had stability since then but it’s also been extremely difficult to get over the trauma of my early years,” she said.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said the results were very worrying. “Children who come into care have usually had traumatic experiences in their lives and have often suffered abuse or neglect. They need a stable and loving home to help them turn their lives around. Fostering can offer them this, and there are tens of thousands of fantastic foster families right across the UK.”
He said the challenge is to find “the right foster carers with the right skills in the right place for each child”. “We need a wider pool of foster families to ensure this happens for all children, and that’s why we’re urging people to consider fostering this Foster Care Fortnight,” he added.
His warning comes at the start of the charity’s annual Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from today until 26 May.
Most foster carers cite problems with social workers