A fostering charity has claimed as many as 8,370 new foster families are needed across the UK this year to cope with demand.
The Fostering Network said there are currently over 63,000 children living with foster families in the UK, but announced that 6,900 new families were needed in England, 550 in Wales, 750 in Scotland and 170 in Northern Ireland.
While there are currently over 52,500 foster families in the UK, the charity reports that 13 per cent of carers either retired or simply left the service last year.
Those particularly in need of foster families are teenagers, siblings and children with disabilities. Last year, 1,520 siblings were separated, despite the initial aim of keeping them together.
The charity said that without an adequate number of foster families, children could find themselves being placed in care miles away from their friends, family and school. It said more than 7,000 were in foster placements more than 20 miles from their home last year.
Jackie Sanders is the Fostering Network’s director of public affairs. She said that while becoming a foster carer could be “an incredibly rewarding career and lifestyle choice”, it was also very challenging. This is especially true “when the match between foster family and child is not right”.
But Kim Perkins, manager (Wales) for the Foster Care Co-operative, said: “Children and young people in care have often had a very challenging start to their lives and Foster Carers really can make a difference by providing a safe and loving home.”
She added that the number of new foster families was necessary to have a better chance “to find the right home for each child, first time”.