How to give a child a good start in life
May 19 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Not enough people are putting themselves forward to be child foster carers. It may be they are worried about the commitment, or that they feel they don’t have the right qualities. ANDREW BALDWIN looks at what’s needed
‘Qualities like being optimistic, having good listening skills, being able to see things from a child’s point of view’
AT least 400 new foster carers must be recruited in Yorkshire and Humberside over the next year to provide stable homes for children in care, a charity has said.
The call for volunteers comes as foster care fortnight is under way. It is hoped the annual awareness campaign will show people the benefits of fostering and encourage more families to take in children who otherwise would remain in care homes.
Robert Tapsfield, the Fostering Network’s chief executive, said: “Without these much-needed new foster carers, too many fostered children will continue to be denied stability in their home and school life, which is key to success later on.
“While almost anyone can apply, foster carers need special qualities and some people will be more suited to it than others.
“This year’s campaign identifies the qualities needed to be a foster carer – qualities like being optimistic, having good listening skills, being able to see things from a child’s point of view and having a sense of humour – and encourages people to recognise these in themselves.”
There are many problems in encouraging people to foster. Families are often unwilling to take teenagers, for fear they could turn violent or engage in alcohol and substance abuse. Others fear that the level of commitment to get a child’s life back on track is too much for them.
As a result, local authorities often struggle to place children who have either been taken away from their parents or abandoned.
The shortfall of foster carers means that children are being placed a long distance from their families, are being moved from home to home and are being split up from their brothers and sisters.
The wider the pool of foster carers available, the more likely it is that a good match can be found.
A total of 5,000 new foster carers must be recruited across the UK during the next year alone.
With the slogan Fostering: Recognise the Qualities You’ve Got, the annual awareness campaign aims to encourage people to realise that they may be right to take up the role of carers.
More than 50,000 children live with 43,000 foster families in the UK on any one day, with many more moving in and out of foster homes over the year.
Sue Williams is operations manager at SWIIS Foster Care Leeds, whose office covers the Yorkshire region.
She says: “You can be single, a same-sex relationship couple, brother and sister. There’s no age limit so we are looking for people with experience of children.
“It is about matching and getting the right place, for the right child.”
Contact SWIIS Foster Care Leeds on 0113 2041085. To find out more generally about becoming a foster carer, visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or contact 0800 040 7675.