Foster care happened informally in the UK for decades but it wasn’t until the 1920s that fostering, along with adoption, was formalized. Today, the foster care landscape looks very different with the current picture a response to the changes in society that we have witnessed of late. But, is the foster care system in crisis? What needs to happen to improve it and to meet the demands placed on it?
More Children in Foster Care
The number of children taken in to care has risen in recent years. In March 2017, there were over 72,000 children in care, an increase of over 2,230 children from the same time the previous year. It is significantly higher than the children in care at the same time in 2015.
The reasons why children are taken into care are complex. As well as individual needs and circumstances, studies have found that the cuts to frontline family support services have meant that support for families at crisis point is lacking. The need for budget hacks to help families be more frugal is important.
Some local authorities also noted that children were only taken into care when the home environment placed them at ‘imminent risk’. What this means is that services and support were not in place beforehand with children coming into care because there were limited or ‘no other options’.
What This Means For Foster Parents
Foster parents are more important and needed than ever. But it isn’t necessarily a gloomy picture;
Over half of the current foster parents who took part in a survey said that they would continue to foster for as long as they felt able. For the remaining 47%, the majority said they were in it ‘for the long haul’ and were prepared to offer their services to vulnerable children for 10 years or more. This dedication is a common trait amongst foster families and carers.
There is a shortage of foster families – in England, the shortage is bigger than that in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. With annual events such as Foster Carer Fortnight, agencies are positive they will close this gap.
The perception of the foster care system is not always positive, fuelled in the main by misunderstandings of what fostering is and who can foster. With the annual Foster Care Fortnight and other outlets, more people are beginning to understand the true nature of foster care and the positive impact it has on children.
Religion and faith have been seen as ‘issues’, again partly fuelled by media headlines that are untrue. Every fostering agency and local authority attempts to make the best match for a foster child with every placement is planned, supported and managed.
The successes within the foster care system are in the majority, with foster carers continuing to make a positive difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable children. It takes a village to raise a child, and our foster carers are doing just that.
Foster Care Associates are a leading fostering agency who are ready to welcome new foster carers.