There are well over 72,000 looked after children in England alone. Take the whole of the UK into consideration and the figures rise even further. Foster care provides the backbone of care for these children.
The number of children in foster care is more concerning when we look at other official statistics. These numbers have been steadily increasing for the last decade. On the face of it, the number of approved foster places has been increasing, however, the number of places unavailable to foster children is increasing at a faster pace. The numbers just don’t match up. The number of children coming into care, needing foster care, is increasing faster than we can meet demand.
When we consider why foster care is essential for these children, we can gain a greater urgency over considering the impact.
Why Foster Care is Needed
Children come in to care for a wide variety of reasons. The reasons are as diverse as children themselves. However, the reason why foster care is needed generally fall into one of the following categories:
- Abuse: This is likely what most people think of when considering children in care. Children who have been victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse require protection and a safe home.
- Neglect: Children who have not had their basic needs met, such as food, clean living, or medical care.
- Parental health: When parents are unable to care for their children, either temporarily or long-term, due to their own ill health or disability.
- Imprisonment: Children of parents who are incarcerated come into the care system if there are no other suitable family members who can care for them.
- Death and bereavement: Despite efforts to find a suitable home within the family, the death of a close parent or relative can result in care being required for a child.
- Drug or alcohol abuse: If a child is not safe due to the exposure and risks of parental drug and alcohol use they will be brought in to the care system. This may be temporarily whilst the parent receives help to resolve their addiction.
- Complex needs and respite: Children with disabilities and complex needs may come into the care system on a permanent or short-term basis. This is to adequately meet their needs and provide respite for their birth family if they are unable to offer the care needed.
- Young offending, truancy and child’s choices: A court may determine that a child would be better placed in foster care than the family home.
These reasons explain why a child comes in to care, but they don’t explain why it is of paramount importance that the care is provided in the form of a foster placement.
All the categories of looked after children, which are outlined above, demonstrate a crisis. Foster care is predominantly needed to provide a safe and stable transition to longer-term care (which may also be a long-term foster placement).
Children coming from a family in crisis – whatever the cause– require care, kindness and a home environment to transition to a more stable future. They have all experienced loss of some form. Family-based foster care is, therefore, an incredibly effective way of providing for these vulnerable children and young people. The safe and nurturing environment available through foster care is simply not possible in other care arrangements.
Helping Vulnerable Children across the UK Access Foster Care
Some foster care placements are in particularly short supply. Carers for sibling groups, teenagers and children with disabilities or behavioural difficulties are desperately needed.
Foster carers considering providing homes for these groups need support, advice and training to meet the needs of these vulnerable children.
*This is a collaboratiove post*
Featured image source Africa Studio/Shutterstock