Children moved too much due to lack of foster carers

Children are being moved too many times between foster families because of the need for more foster carers across the UK, the Fostering Network has warned with the publication of new survey results.

The survey found that in the last two years, three in five foster carers (61 per cent) have cared for children who have previously had two or more moves between homes. Two in five (43 per cent) have looked after at least one child who has been moved four or more times, while one in 10 (11 per cent) have cared for children who have had 10 or more moves before coming to live with them.

When a child needs a foster family, it is the local authority’s job to find the best possible home for them. The shortage of foster carers means that local authorities are struggling to achieve this.

As a result, children are being moved too far away from their families, are being unnecessarily split up from brothers and sisters and are being forced to move school. Others live with a foster carer who has space but may not have the experience and skills to meet their specific needs. This can put such a strain on relationships that they break down, resulting in these multiple, damaging moves.

The right foster carer can offer the stability a child needs to flourish. They can support children both academically and in their extra-curricular activities and often, when appropriate, they provide a home close to a child’s existing school and familiar surroundings. The right foster carer will have the space and dedication to ensure that they can continue to provide this care throughout a child’s time in care.

Care leaver Clare Marshall, who experienced a huge number of moves before settling with a long-term foster carer, said: “I lived in 42 different homes in five years as a very young child, but when I was eight years old I went to the foster carer who is now my mum to me. I’ve had stability since then but it’s also been extremely difficult to get over the trauma of my early years.

“The support of my foster family helped me believe in myself and follow the path I wanted to take. My proudest moment was definitely getting into university. Especially as when I was at school it was so difficult for me as I felt so different.

“I’ve been told not many young people in foster care go onto further education so it was a huge achievement for me to get my place at university. I’ve now set up my own business and am about to get married – I’m living proof that a stable foster family can make all the difference in the world.”

The survey also found that in the last two years:

• One in three (34 per cent) foster carers have looked after children whose brothers and sisters were placed elsewhere because the fostering service couldn’t find a place to keep them all together.

• Almost one in three (28 per cent) of foster carers have felt under pressure to take children (mainly teenagers) who they felt they were not trained or supported to look after.

• One in 10 foster carers (12 per cent) have felt under pressure to take in another child (mainly teenagers) when they felt they had no more capacity.

• Two in five foster carers (39 per cent) have looked after children temporarily because the fostering service couldn’t find a suitable long-term home.

The Fostering Network’s warning comes during this year’s Foster Care Fortnight (13-26 May), the charity’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and highlight the need for more foster carers.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “Some of the results from this survey are very worrying. Children who come into care have usually had traumatic experiences in their lives and have often suffered abuse or neglect. They need a stable and loving home to help them turn their lives around.

“Fostering can offer them this, and there are tens of thousands of fantastic foster families right across the UK. But the challenge for fostering services is to find the right foster carers with the right skills in the right place for each child. We need a wider pool of foster families to ensure that this happens for all children, and that’s why we’re urging people to consider fostering this Foster Care Fortnight.”

The Fostering Network estimates that a further 9,000 foster families are needed across the UK in the next 12 months alone, with a particular need for foster carers for teenagers, sibling groups and disabled children. Anyone wanting to find out more about fostering can visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or contact their local fostering service.