Number of children missing from foster care rose by nearly a fifth last year, figures show

Ofsted statistics also show that the number of times children were recorded as missing from foster care increased by a third

The number of times children were recorded as going missing from foster care rose by almost a third last year, statistics from Ofsted have revealed.

In its annual report on foster care in England, published this week, Ofsted said children were recorded as going missing from foster care 17,175 times in 2014-15, a 29% increase on the previous year.

More than 5,000 children were recorded as missing in 2014-15, an increase of 19% from 2013-14.

“There were around a quarter of instances where the agency did not know why the child had gone missing; this was particularly the case for [local authorities],” the report said. Ofsted said the trend was likely to reflect improved reporting on missing children.

Sexual exploitation risk

Last year, 3% of all children and young people in placements were reported as being at risk of child sexual exploitation, and 1% were reported as subjected to it, the figures revealed.

Unplanned endings for children in foster care happened in 24 hours in one fifth of cases, the statistics showed. Almost half of children whose placement ended unexpectedly had them ended at the foster carer’s request, and in two fifths of cases these children were in independent fostering agencies.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said the statistics should be a “wakeup call for Government”.

“Foster carers are at the forefront of the fight to raise the outcomes of fostered children as well as protecting them from child sexual exploitation, and, as such, they need ongoing improved support and development so that they can continue to perform this vital protective role,” he said.

Investment required

As figures showed a reduction of fostering households, Williams said the government should invest in foster care “as heavily as they have invested in adoption”.

Between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015, 85,890 children and young people were in foster placements, a 2% increase on the previous year. Figures published earlier this year revealed the looked-after child population was at its highest level for 30 years in 2014-15.

“The Government recently invested £4.5 million in setting up regional adoption agencies during 2015/16, while in 2013 fostering received £750,000 over two years to recruit foster carers,” Williams said.

He added: “This huge disparity, while a rising number of children are entering the care system, cannot continue if we’re to create a fair and just society where every fostered child and young person has the opportunity to flourish that The Fostering Network believes that they deserve. We know that foster care works, and research shows that children and young people in foster care have better outcomes when compared to their peers on the edge of care.”

The number of children remaining in ‘Staying Put’ placements increased 2% last year, the figures showed, and Williams said it was “an investment that will pay off in abundance”.

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2 Responses to Number of children missing from foster care rose by nearly a fifth last year, figures show

  1. FosterCarer 1964 December 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I know it’s easy to blame the last person who cared for the child. I’ve needed to ask for children to move on (given 28 days notice… not that they looked for an alternative placement until the last day so matching a placement didn’t happen).. We were ignored so often that we started booking holidays to start at the end of the 28-day notice period just so we wouldn’t be ignored again. But we were still ignored. One child was given 16 weeks notice because we realised his behaviours and risk would need very careful placement and that would take time. He was eventually collected from our house by a Foster Carer who’s other Fostered Child had learning difficulties. They had been contacted the previous day and asked to take the child.
    Every Child who we’ve Fostered in the last 10 years has come to us without important information about risk or known facts being shared (the child we have now was the same)..
    There was no matching of child to Foster Carer (or our children/family). The placement was doomed to fail once the serious nature of the deliberately withheld behaviours and risks made themselves evident to my home, Children, Pets and to the other Looked After Child.
    It’s too easy to blame Foster Care. After 10-years and 14 Children, – I don’t blame Foster Care at all.