Foster parents in Bristol are joining forces today to call for more people to come forward and look after a growing number of children in the city needing care.
There are currently 687 children in care in Bristol – a 7% increase in the last five years – but another 40 families are needed to cope with demand, particularly to look after teenagers.
Some 45 new foster families have been recruited in Bristol in the last year, while a child comes into care and needs a foster family every 22 minutes across the UK.
Increased court requests for mother and baby placements, where a mother and baby live with a specialist foster carer for up to three months, is also placing pressure on recruitment. In 2010/11 there were six parent and baby placements rising to 13 in 2011/12.
In Bristol, with more children coming into care and carers retiring, Foster Care Fortnight starting today will see social workers and carers attending local Asda stores to talk to shoppers about the rewards of fostering a vulnerable child. The city council will also be launching a consultation on a new charter for Bristol’s carers.
Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Clare Campion-Smith, said: “A wider pool of foster carers with the right skills and qualities makes it much more likely that the right homes can be found for children immediately, giving them the best chance of a happy childhood and a successful future.
“In Bristol we have 310 in-house carers and have successfully built on this team in the last year, but as more children come to us and established carers retire we urgently need people in the city to consider fostering as a new career. Over the coming year, we need to recruit at least 40 more carers and particularly need more people looking to care for teenagers.”
Bristol foster carer Hannah Lind has agreed to write a blog during this fortnight to talk about the issues she faced. Her parents also fostered children, so she was aware of the challenges.
“Fostering started to become a reality for me when I moved from Devon to Bristol with my husband and two children, aged six and three. I knew two children of my own was enough for me, and felt this could be the ideal time to offer a child a foster home,” she said.
“When I told my mother that I was seriously considering offering a foster placement she burst into tears, a mixture of happiness that we felt able to offer a child a secure, loving home and concern about the impact it might have on our family, knowing from experience how challenging fostering can be.”
The council is looking to recruit foster carers to look after children aged up to 18 in a number of areas:
- Short term care
- Long term care
- Emergency care (where carers are available to take a child or young person at short notice, day or night)
- Respite care (where carers provide breaks for children, either with the same family on a regular basis, or for other foster carers)
- Short break carers (who can offer weekend and short breaks to disabled children to help give their families a rest).
People can apply to become a foster carer whether they are married, single, gay, straight, a homeowner, renting, employed, or unemployed. Bristol City Council offers a basic allowance of up to £222 per week to care for each child being looked after, plus full training and support, including a social worker and an out-of-hours service.
Foster Care Fortnight is run nationally by the Fostering Network – for more details visit www.22minutes.org.uk