Published on
07 September 2021

Barnardo’s is urgently calling for more people to consider becoming a foster carer after the numbers of children referred to the charity’s fostering services across the UK shot up by 36% over 12 months.

In the 12 months to 31st July 2021, the number of children referred to Barnardo’s services in the UK for foster care was 19,144 - up from 14,130 in the previous 12 months.  

Barnardo’s is particularly looking for people who would consider caring for siblings, as the number of sibling groups referred to its services in the UK over the same period rose by 31%. 

Barnardo's is looking for more foster carers to ensure that when a child needs a loving, stable and safe family, there are local carers available. 

A new YouGov survey for Barnardo’s encouragingly shows that 14% of adults in Great Britain would consider fostering a child aged 18 or under in the next five years*. However, that figure drops to just 6% when asked the same question about fostering siblings**. 

The survey** also shows how vital it is for siblings to remain together – 70% of adults said it was important that they and their sibling were together when they grew up, with 60% of respondents who had a sibling saying it would have had a negative impact on them if they had been separated while growing up. 

In England the rise in the total number of children referred to Barnardo’s fostering services was 40%, in Wales it was 5%, in Northern Ireland it was 20%. In Scotland, however, there was a decrease of 17% in total referrals. 

Barnardo’s hopes to hear from people from all backgrounds from around the UK, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and LGBT+ communities. 

It is vital to increase the numbers of foster carers to ensure that when a child needs a loving, stable and safe family, the right carer is available to meet their needs and give them the care and stability they deserve. 

The charity particularly hopes to hear from people willing to foster siblings, as they can offer each other support and it can help reduce feelings of isolation. 

The appeal comes as part of Barnardo’s Fostering Focus Month, which kicks off this week backed by Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption Ambassador Lydia Bright, who grew up surrounded by children fostered by her mum, fellow Barnardo’s Ambassador Debbie Douglas. Lydia said: “I have two sisters and a brother and can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had had to be separated as we grew up. We are so close and have always been there for each other - whether it’s been to play, laugh or cry together.  

“I can truly say that fostering has been a wonderful experience and I hope many families across the UK will consider finding out more from Barnardo’s about how they can foster children, in particular siblings so they can stay together at a vulnerable time in their lives.” 

Lynn Perry MBE, Co-CEO (interim), Barnardo’s  said:  “The pandemic and lockdown measures have piled pressure onto struggling families with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health, contributing to family breakdown. Our survey shows that many people would consider fostering and we urge people to come forward to find out more about what being a foster carer involves - there’s no obligation.  

You could give a home to a vulnerable child when they need it most. Your love and support can allow brothers and sisters to stay together and make a huge difference to their life – and to yours. We welcome passionate individuals from all walks of life. If you are over 21, have a spare room, are a UK resident and have the time and commitment to support a child - you could be the special person they need. 

Barnardo’s has 100 years of experience in fostering. Experts provide all the training needed and provide support 24/7. Foster carers will also get financial support, including a carer’s allowance to help make a positive difference to a child’s life. 

Case study – Julie from Birmingham 

“As a social worker I have been around children in the care system for many years. I was also in the care system as a child myself and fostering has been my opportunity to give back. 

“I was so lucky to have been fostered with my brother when I was younger and I know how important it was to me that we stayed together. 

“I wanted to foster siblings and not just for the short term where they come into my home and leave. I wanted to care long-term and raise them. I have two grown up children of my own and they know all about my experience of being ‘in care’ as a child and how one day it would be something that I too would be doing and they are fully supportive of that.   

“I foster two fantastic brothers who had experienced a lot of trauma and challenges in their lives. At first, I focussed on working on our relationship and slowly building and earning their trust. They are now able to go to bed without having nightmares and are getting a good night’s sleep. They also eat well and have a varied diet and have developed hobbies and interests outside of school. They also have friends and enjoy socialising with other children. 

 “They know that living with me is their permanent home and they even have certificates to say this, and I know that they feel happy and secure. They take more pride in themselves and have a positive outlook and their social skills are much improved. They have also chosen to call me ‘mum’ which is lovely.” 

Notes to editors  

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.   

**Total sample size was 2196 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 18th August 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 

 *Total sample size was 2039 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 19th July 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).