Fostering agencies are finding it more and more difficult to find suitable carers for children in need of temporary homes.
Children who are in foster care can range from being as young as new-borns to young adults and they come into the system for a variety of reasons, some of which include neglect, death and the financial instability of their parents.
Although it is always the hope of the foster care agencies that children will eventually be reunited with their birth parents or be adopted, until the situation improves, they are in need of a stable environment which can be provided for them by foster carers.
“Carers have an altruistic motivation to provide love and support for these children. They want to make them a part of their family,” stated James Foyle, who works towards the recruitment and retention of carers for The Fostering Network, which is an organisation that campaigns for improvements in the foster care system.
According to The Fostering Network, there are over 30,000 children that are in need of temporary homes each year and the number is rising due to economic difficulties.
In the UK, potential carers are put through training, an application process and are also seen by an assessment panel before they are matched up with a child.
The entire process can take between three to nine months to complete, which is a hurdle that has made it difficult to find new carers, especially since there is an increase in the amount of carers who are retiring or leaving the system each year.
“There are plans to speed up the process, but we really need to be sure that the right people are becoming carers,” said Foyle.
Although it is rare for carers to take advantage of the foster care system and several help children on a voluntary basis, some people are in it for the money and there have been cases of abuse. This is why it is essential to make the process a bit lengthy and tough so that those who are in it for the wrong reasons can be weeded out. It is also important for potential carers to realise just how much of a commitment it is to foster a child, or multiple children.
Carers are expected to view their foster children as an extension of their own families, rather than a part of their job.
However, most foster carers do need some financial support from the foster care system, in order to continue caring for the children.
There has been a recent controversy over pay for carers who are related to the children that they care for, which may deter family members from fostering in the future. It has been found that they are given less than unrelated foster carers because there are more demands placed on those who are unrelated, according to Tower Hamlets Council. The council recently lost a case against a woman who had been paid less than an unrelated carer would have been, while taking care of three of her brother’s children, however this policy still remains.
Another problem with recruitment is that children in foster care can be very vulnerable, and may have certain needs that must be met while in a foster home. Not all carers are prepared for this, which has also led to the decrease in the pool of potential carers. Luckily, organisations such as The Fostering Network and BAAF, British Association for Adoption and Fostering, work with carers to provide support through publications, advice and training.
“We try to teach carers how children’s needs can be met. We work to focus on the child or children so that there is a good outcome,” stated Jacqui Lawrence, who is a fostering development consultant for BAAF.
According to Lawrence, the foster care system recently celebrated a “partial victory” just a few weeks ago, in regards to the bedroom tax. When the tax was first brought up, foster carers believed that they would have to pay more to house some of the UK’s most vulnerable children in their spare bedrooms. Thankfully, the government made a u-turn on that tax which exempted foster care families; however it was recently revealed that only one spare bedroom will be exempted.
This will still cause problems within the system because families are allowed to foster up to three children at a time and only siblings of the same gender are able to share a room. This may lead to siblings being split up between foster homes and even less recruitment of carers.
“The bedroom tax originally affected 5,000 carers in the UK. Although the number of people with multiple rooms as opposed to just one spare room will be less than this, that does not mean that we have stopped campaigning,” stated Lawrence.
BAAF is working towards increasing recruitment and support for carers in the foster care system, as well as improving child placements. The organisation will also be having a conference on sibling groups within the next few months.
Both organisations will continue to fight for the rights of both foster carers and children, and are also striving to increase recruitment through educating people in the UK about the foster care system.
“It is important for people to know that carers can come from diverse backgrounds, especially since the children themselves come from diverse backgrounds. As long as they have the right skills to be a foster parent, they are able to apply,” stated James Foyle.
Although there have been improvements made in the foster care system, there is still a long way to go. Every child deserves to have a stable home environment to grow up in, and foster carers are the ones to provide this. The Fostering Network hopes that its campaigns will bring in close to 9,000 new foster carers for the next year.