170 new fostering families are needed across Northern Ireland during 2016 to ensure the provision of stable, secure and loving homes for children in foster care, according to figures published by The Fostering Network.
In addition to the 170 foster families needed in Northern Ireland, there is a need for 7,600 foster families in England, 500 in Wales, and 800 in Scotland. This means that over 9,000 fostering families are needed right across the UK in 2016, to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children
In particular there is an ongoing and urgent need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and sibling groups. Many foster carers who choose to foster these groups, who are traditionally thought of as ‘hard to place’, comment on how rewarding the experience is and how well their fostering service has supported them to develop and evolve their current skillset in order to give a home to children who could not live with their birth family.
Despite the call for more foster families, all children who need a foster family have one. However, without more foster families coming forward during 2016 some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who does not have the right skills and experience to meet their specific needs. There is then a significant risk that a child’s placement will breakdown, further disrupting an already traumatic childhood.
Figures show that two in five (40 per cent) fostered teenagers are already living with their third foster family since coming into care, and one in 20 (five per cent) teenagers are living with their tenth family in foster care*. With a rising number of children coming into care, and around 12 per cent of foster carers retiring or leaving fostering last year, there is a need to not only recruit more foster carers, but also better utilise the current pool of foster carers to best meet the needs of the children and young people in foster care.
Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: “Foster carers perform an invaluable duty on behalf of the state, one that really serves the whole community in Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that all children have a chance to live with a foster family who meets their needs.
“The work of foster families contributes not only to society now, but in the decades that will come as the young people who live in their care grow into independence and in turn become positive adults who give back to society. Foster families give children the opportunity of the childhood that they deserve, a childhood that otherwise they may not have had.
“By recruiting more fostering families, we can provide the wide choice of potential foster family needed so that each child has the best opportunity of being matched with a foster carer who can meet their needs at the first time of asking. Prospective foster carers will receive training and support from their fostering service, but before they even start the process they need a range of skills and qualities including patience, the ability to listen, being a team player and advocating on behalf of a child, a sense of humour and much more besides.
“We would encourage everyone who is keen to learn more about fostering to visit couldyoufoster.org.uk, find their local fostering service, and contact them to find out whether they can foster.”
If you think you have what it takes to become a foster carer, visit couldyoufoster.org.uk today.