As I stated in my last blog, working with parents and families can be the most difficult part of some placements. We have worked with some extremely pleasant family members who add so much positivity to a placement, which makes the Looked After Child feel so much more settled in placement. In the situation where parents and families want to argue and contest every decision that’s made about the children then this can cause upset to the children and disruption to the placement. This is what we were experiencing with the placement of the four siblings, now reduced to three. The three remaining siblings were a lot calmer and a lot happier since they had stopped contact with their family. Although they, obviously missed their family I think they appreciated that life was a lot more relaxed without contact. We sat and discussed this with the children one evening. We asked them how they felt and they all said that they felt let down by their family for not supporting them while they were living away from home. There were a few tears but we assured them that Mum was going through a difficult time and that we were sure they would all be reunited once Mum was in a better place. This is a part of Foster Care that many people don’t understand, you are not just feeding and clothing the young people, you are helping them with emotions and their mental health. These young people had been through a lot in their young years and not a lot of it had been positive. Our role was to make sure that they had some positivity in their lives. So why is there a shortage of Foster Carers? There has been a shortage of Foster Carers for many years now and a lot of those who show an interest or are current Foster Carers tend to be over the age of fifty.
I actually thought, after Covid, that there would be an influx of people interested in the role, being able to work from home and not having to commute every day but, to my knowledge, this hasn’t happened. The number of foster carers in England has only increased by 4% since 2014, while the number of children in foster care has increased some 11%. As the number of children in care continues to grow, matching them with the right carers becomes increasingly difficult. This makes it more likely that very vulnerable children will face placement breakdowns and further disruption to their lives. The Ofsted figures from 2021 show that overall, there was a net increase of just 45 local authority carers and a net increase of 960 independent fostering agency carers across England from 1April 2020 – 31 March 2021. They also show that 18% of all foster carers are family and friends foster carers who are typically only approved to care for specific children. The Fostering Network identified a need for at least 7,300 new foster families in England this year, which means we are falling far short of being able to meet the needs of all children in care. All children and young people in need of foster care should be placed with a foster family who is able to understand what that child needs to thrive, build relationships, learn and develop while supporting them to navigate the challenges that often come from being in care. So is there a crisis in Fostering? Probably yes. With Foster placements increasing there needs to be Carers to cope with this and at the moment there aren’t.