More children could end up in unsuitable homes across Wales if more foster carers aren’t urgently recruited

MORE children will end up in unsuitable homes across Wales if 400 more foster families aren’t urgently recruited, according to new figures released today.


The data is revealed by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network in conjunction with Foster Wales, the national network of local authority fostering services in Wales.


Across Wales there’s currently a shortage of 400 foster families– a figure which comes during Foster Care Fortnight (13 – 26 May), the charity’s annual awareness raising campaign. The numbers lay bare the recruitment crisis currently facing the fostering community as the number of children in care in Wales has reached 7,210, while there are only 3,800 foster families.


Urgent action needs to be taken to recruit more foster carers while ensuring existing carers feel sufficiently supported to continue to foster. A lack of support, feeling undervalued and not respected by social work teams and inadequate financial support are some of the key reasons why foster carers tell us have decided to stop fostering.


The tide needs to turn, otherwise more children will end up in homes that do not meet their needs, putting their wellbeing at risk. There are too many children living in residential care, despite requiring foster care. They are also being moved miles away from home and being separated from siblings as there aren’t enough local foster carers.


Every child should benefit from the loving, stable, nurturing home of a local foster family when they need one. When children are separated from important networks of family or friends, it impacts negatively on their attachment, sense of security and relationships – which often results in further unplanned moves. It disrupts their education and negatively impacts their mental health.


Residential children’s homes can be the right place for a child or young person, however sometimes they are placed in one as a last resort, because there isn’t a foster carer to look after them. It’s universally recognised that children thrive in a family environment with primary care givers who can give them a sense of belonging and stability. Residential care can offer some of this, but not all.


Over the past year the Welsh Government has acknowledged the crisis facing foster care and increased investment in retention and recruitment of foster carers through Foster Wales. A commitment to scoping a national register for foster carers has been made through the response to the radical reform inquiry, however more must be done to retain and value current foster carers. Focus needs to be turned towards ensuring existing foster carers feel supported, respected and sufficiently renumerated to continue fostering.


Nicky has been fostering with her husband since April 2015 and they have fostered 43 young people during that time, providing a mix of emergency and longer-term care.


Nicky said: “Me and my husband are proud to be foster carers. We have loved supporting young people and seeing them grow into amazing young adults. However, it’s clear that more foster carers are needed to ensure all children and young people receive the right home for their needs.


“We’re all too aware that children end up in homes outside of their local area or temporary accommodation, with a rota of different foster carers, if an emergency foster home isn’t available when needed. We’ve seen first-hand the transformational impact a stable, loving home can have on children and young people and it’s vital all children in need of foster care experience this.”


Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Sarah Thomas, said: “Foster Care Fortnight is an opportunity to celebrate the fostering community and to highlight what needs to change in the future.


“Recruitment is just one part of the solution. We need more highly skilled, locally based foster carers, to prevent children from living in environments that don’t meet their needs. But we also need to ensure we keep the amazing foster carers we do have. Children need stable, loving homes, close to their local community so they can maintain relationships with their families and communities, which will help them thrive.


“We’re calling on all governments to produce a comprehensive and fully funded recruitment and retention strategy to address the crisis in foster care so all children can have their needs met.”


Minister for Social Care, Dawn Bowden, said: “We want every child to have the chance to grow up as part of a loving family. Recruiting more foster carers is crucial so we can ensure children are cared for by foster carers who have the right skills to meet their needs.


“We are committed to supporting Foster Wales, which has set out to recruit an additional 800 foster families by 2026. Children in foster care are among the most vulnerable people in our society, and we are committed to providing them all with the best possible futures.”


Anyone can learn about fostering and decide whether it’s suitable for them – there’s no typical foster carer and people from all walks of life can foster, no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation.


If you are considering fostering or would simply like to learn more about what it involves, then this Foster Care Fortnight we encourage you to contact your local fostering service to find out more.”


If you would like to find out more about fostering, then visit Who can foster? | The Fostering Network.


You can find out more about Foster Care Fortnight and how to get involved here – Foster Care Fortnight 2024 | The Fostering Network

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