AT least 8,750 new foster families need to be found across the UK in the next 12 months to avoid a crisis in foster care in 2012, a leading charity has warned.
The new figures, published by the Fostering Network, show the scale of the challenge for fostering services as they struggle to provide the right foster homes for all the children who need them.
The number of children in care who need foster homes has risen for five years in a row, and is continuing to rise. There is also an ageing foster carer population and around 14 per cent of the workforce retire or leave every year.
Without these extra families, too many children will have to settle for second best. This might mean living with a foster carer who is a long way from the child’s home, school and family, or who does not have space for their brothers and sisters, or even living in residential care when fostering has been identified as the right option.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “These figures are alarming – we could be facing a real crisis when looking to provide the most appropriate care for children who cannot live with their own family.
“All children in care need a family they can grow up with who can love them, be ambitious for them and help them achieve their potential. For a growing number, foster care is the best option.
“By becoming a foster carer people can help the children they welcome into their homes to have the best possible opportunity of a positive future, do well at school and be successful in later life.
“Foster carers come from all walks of life, from teachers to factory workers and builders to nurses. If you want to work with children and have the right skills to foster, then you can help make a real difference to children in your area.”
An extra 7,100 foster carers are needed in England, 1,000 in Scotland, 550 in Wales and 100 in Northern Ireland.
To find out more about becoming a foster carer people should contact their local fostering service. They can also visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675.