More foster carers required as numbers of children needing care rises by a third, says charity
Barnardo’s says the numbers of children referred to the charity’s fostering services across the UK shot up by 36% over 12 months.
Barnardo’s says the number of children referred to its services in the UK for foster care as of 31st July 2021 was 19,144 – up from 14,130 in the previous 12 months.
The charity says people who would consider caring for siblings is in need, as the number of sibling groups referred to its services in the UK over the same period rose by 31%.
In England the rise in the total number of children referred to Barnardo’s fostering services was 40%, in Wales it was 5%, in Northern Ireland it was 20%. In Scotland, however, there was a decrease of 17% in total referrals.
Lynn Perry MBE, Interim Co-CEO of Barnardo’s said the pandemic affected the number of children needing care but had the potential to change how people viewed fostering.
“The pandemic and lockdown measures have piled pressure onto struggling families with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health, contributing to family breakdown,” Perry said.
But in a new survey, carried out by YouGov for Barnardo’s, 14% of adults in Britain say they would consider fostering a child aged 18 or under in the next five years. However, that figure drops to just 6% when asked the same question about fostering siblings.
“Our survey shows that many people would consider fostering and we urge people to come forward to find out more about what being a foster carer involves - there’s no obligation,” Perry continued.
The survey also highlighted the importance for siblings to remain together – 70% of adults said it was important that they and their sibling were together when they grew up, with 60% of respondents who had a sibling saying it would have had a negative impact on them if they had been separated while growing up.
Barnardo’s says it is ‘vital’ to increase the numbers of foster carers to ensure that when a child needs a loving, stable, and safe family, the right carer is available to meet their needs and give them the care and stability they deserve – adding that they hope to hear from people from all backgrounds from around the UK, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and LGBT+ communities.
The appeal comes as part of Barnardo’s Fostering Focus Month, which kicks off this week backed by Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption Ambassador Lydia Bright, who grew up surrounded by children fostered by her mum, fellow Barnardo’s Ambassador Debbie Douglas.
“I have two sisters and a brother and can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had had to be separated as we grew up. We are so close and have always been there for each other – whether it’s been to play, laugh or cry together,” Lydia said.
Julie, a social worker from Birmingham explained why she became a foster carer.
“As a social worker I have been around children in the care system for many years. I was also in the care system as a child myself and fostering has been my opportunity to give back.
“I was so lucky to have been fostered with my brother when I was younger and I know how important it was to me that we stayed together.
“I wanted to foster siblings and not just for the short term where they come into my home and leave. I wanted to care long-term and raise them. I have two grown up children of my own and they know all about my experience of being ‘in care’ as a child and how one day it would be something that I too would be doing and they are fully supportive of that.
“I foster two fantastic brothers who had experienced a lot of trauma and challenges in their lives. At first, I focussed on working on our relationship and slowly building and earning their trust. They are now able to go to bed without having nightmares and are getting a good night’s sleep. They also eat well and have a varied diet and have developed hobbies and interests outside of school. They also have friends and enjoy socialising with other children.
“They know that living with me is their permanent home and they even have certificates to say this, and I know that they feel happy and secure. They take more pride in themselves and have a positive outlook and their social skills are much improved. They have also chosen to call me ‘mum’ which is lovely.”
Elsewhere last month, legislation came into force in Scotland giving local authorities a duty to ensure siblings are supported to stay together, where appropriate. The legal duty means local authorities must take steps to promote contact between ‘looked after’ children and young people and their brothers and sisters, as well as establish the views of the child’s brothers and sisters before making any decisions about their care. Authorities must ensure that, where it is safe for them to do so, brothers and/or sisters are able to live together or as near to each other as possible.
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