Foster carer numbers reveal stark challenge facing foster care system
Ofsted have today released their annual fostering in England statistics, highlighting that many vulnerable children are currently missing out on the care and support they need due to a lack of foster carers.
We know that one of the biggest challenges facing the fostering sector currently is how to secure the future recruitment and retention of enough, high-quality foster carers. As we emerge from a global pandemic, ensuring there are sufficient numbers of skilled and knowledgeable foster carers is even more pressing.
The Ofsted figures 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.
Kevin Williams, CEO of The Fostering Network, states: ‘We all know that creating stable and loving environments for children in care is vital. Ensuring there are sufficient foster families, through both recruitment and retention strategies, should also be vital as this is key to securing good matching and stability.’
The Fostering Network supports its fostering services members with their recruitment and retention activity through initiatives such as Foster Care Fortnight, but more needs to be done at a national level to help services attract and keep carers to ensure no child has to miss out on a stable, loving home. With the release of the State of the Nation report due next month, The Fostering Network will be highlighting in more detail the challenge the sector is facing around sufficiency and calling for change across a range of factors which feed into this.