The number of children needing foster care has risen by 44% during the coronavirus pandemic while the number of people looking to become foster parents plummeted by nearly half compared to the same period last year, according to the UK’s leading children’s charity.
From March 1st - April 23rd 2020, there were 2,349 referrals to Barnardo’s fostering services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a figure which shot up from 1,629 for the same period in 2019. Meanwhile the number of enquiries from people looking to become foster parents for the charity fell from 302 to 161 - a dramatic 47% drop.
Barnardo’s says this has created a ‘state of emergency’ as children who may have experienced abuse and neglect wait for places with loving foster families. Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.
The UK’s leading children’s charity believes that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown. Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the crisis continues.
At the same time Barnardo’s believes that the change in circumstances experienced by many because of COVID-19 and uncertainty about the future has resulted in a drop in enquiries being made to the charity from people looking to foster.
Barnardo’s is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to get in touch and consider fostering a child. Barnardo’s welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, including single people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
The charity also wants to make it clear that foster carers will be supported every step of the way by Barnardo’s, and will also be eligible for financial support including carers’ allowance.
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, go to https://www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 07712402312 or 0800 0277 280.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“The Coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable families the hardest, with many reaching crisis point. This has created a state of emergency, as more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family, while fewer adults are coming forward as potential foster carers.
“Barnardo’s has over 100 years’ experience bringing vulnerable children together with loving foster families, who provide the vital love and support children need to thrive. If you become a foster carer with Barnardo’s we will support you every step of the way with training and a dedicated social worker. You’ll also receive financial support, including a carer’s allowance.
“Today, there are hundreds of children who have been referred to Barnardo’s and are waiting to be placed with a foster family. If you’re over 21, have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child in need, please do consider getting in touch today.”
Nichol Garcia is 50 and has been a full-time foster carer for the past nine years. She lives in Nottingham with her teenage son and three foster children.
Nichol says: “I felt I had space in my heart and life for more children, and after talking to my family and most importantly, my son, I got in touch with Barnardo’s and have not regretted it since. I’ve done so many different things in my life, but foster caring is by far the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Over the past nine years, Nichol and her son have fostered 11 young people, mainly teenagers but also younger children, most of whom have stayed with them for long periods of time.
“I was worried I would feel upset when the children left, as I invest so much into each child, but we keep in touch with all of them as they are a part of our family now and we sometimes meet up too. I am a part of their history and they are a part of mine.”
Nichol acknowledges that fostering has its share of challenges too.
She says: “Sometimes children may have had difficult experiences and need additional support such as therapy to help them make sense of what they’ve been through, and it’s important for foster carers to support them with this. I really fight for all of my foster children and young people to get them what they deserve.”
Nichol believes that the constant support and ongoing training offered by Barnardo’s has enabled her to deal with any difficult periods.
“My social worker from Barnardo’s is like a professional friend,” Nichol says. “I meet with her regularly, but if I ever need any advice or support, day or night, there is always someone there to give me everything I need. There is always lots of different training on offer too, and I go on several courses each year.
“Before you are approved to foster, Barnardo’s does some really intense training to ensure potential foster carers are fully aware of what they may experience. They don’t just have the child’s best interests at heart, but also the foster carer’s too.”
Nichol’s advice to anyone who is considering fostering is this: “If you go into foster caring for the wrong reasons, you won’t last long. It’s not always easy, but it is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. For those who already have their own children and may be worried about whether fostering is the right decision for them, in my experience, by keeping my child involved every step of the way, he loves it just as much as I do and we wouldn’t have it any other way now.
“Some of my favourite times are when we all sit outside together chatting around the log burner and I feel really lucky to have them all and love seeing them so happy.”
Notes to Editors
Data shows the number of fostering referrals and enquiries to Barnardo’s from people looking to become foster carers from March 1 - April 23 in 2019 and 2020 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only.
Last year around 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.
We work to change the lives of vulnerable children in the UK and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.
Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out how you can get involved. Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605
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