Rise in foster carer enquiries – but there is still a need for more to sign up

Fostering services in Sussex have seen a rise in queries during the pandemic.

Between March 16 and November 27 West Sussex County Council had 283 enquiries for new foster carers, which is an 18 per cent rise on the same period last year.

During the pandemic 17 new fostering households have been approved and are now successfully fostering a child or children.

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A further 24 assessments are currently underway as a result of enquiries made during COVID.

Picture: Unsplash

Scott Anderson and Mark Popkiewicz live in Crawley and foster sibling boys.

Their first placement came about a month after lockdown.

Mark said: “We were so nervous and excited it was untrue. Whilst approved for two children we had initially decided to break ourselves in gently with one, however the referral came in for two brothers who are now six and eight, on paper they seemed to be the perfect fit for our family and I’m pleased to say that from the moment they came to live with us everything has fallen into place and our new family unit was formed.”

Fostering is something that Mark and Scott had talked about on and off for years but never got round to doing it.

Scott and Mark

Mark said: “That was until I started teaching cookery at a couple of local youth clubs which made me realise there are a lot of children out there in need of help.

“One day an advert popped up on my Facebook highlighting the need for Foster Carers which then led me to registering my interest with West Sussex County Council.”

Scott and Mark were furloughed shortly after lockdown which worked in their favour as it meant both of them would be around to look after any child that came into their care and they would have their undivided attention.

“We went on the Skills to Foster Course last November so pre-pandemic, there is a lot to go through but we had a lot of help, advice and support from the social worker who was assigned to us. Literally we went to panel days before lockdown came into effect.”

Although there has been a rise in queries there has also been a big rise in the number of children coming into care, so the need for people to foster has never been higher.

The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity.

David Eggboro, communications manager at the Fostering Network, said: “While the total number of children looked after is higher than around the same time in 2018, referrals have dropped during the pandemic.

“However, with schools having been reopened and lockdown measures easing, the number of children coming into care is expected to rise. The full scope of the pandemic is not yet clear.

“This year has been challenging for everyone, not least the fostering community. However, foster carers have continued to achieve incredible things throughout this difficult time, despite being faced with new practical (e.g., regarding contact with birth families and social worker visits) and emotional challenges.

“To make sure that the needs of the looked after children population are matched, more people need to come forward to foster. This ensures that every child in care is placed with the right foster carer for them without having to move away from loved ones, friends and their wider support network.

“Besides recruiting more foster carers it is also crucial that current foster carers are better supported, recognised and valued for them to keep fostering.”

BSN Social Care (bsnsocialcare.co.uk) is the parent company for independent fostering agencies Nexus Fostering, Calon Cymru Fostering and Blue Sky Fostering, which has offices in Crawley and Eastbourne.

Sarah Rockett, recruitment director at BSN Social Care, said: “The impact of lockdown on vulnerable young people has been and will continue to be significant and far reaching.

“We have seen an increase already in the numbers of people making an online enquiry but always need more.

People often think they are not able to foster due to living in rented accommodation or being single or having a large dog.

“We here at Blue Sky fostering need people from all walks of lives and backgrounds to come forward and make an enquiry.”

Orange Grove Fostercare (orangegrovefostercare.co.uk), has seen a significant rise in the number of young people enquiring, with a 38 per cent increase in 25-34-year olds.

However, the agency saw the biggest rise in interest from those aged between 35-44, receiving 31 per cent more interest than in the previous period.

Orange Grove Fostercare’s Southern Counties fostering office is based in Burgess Hill, West Sussex. It supports foster carers and children across West Sussex, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove.

As many individuals face uncertainty around job security, some are looking to embark on a new career path leaving fostering open for consideration. Fostering is a lengthy process but requires no prior experience, allowing individuals to upskill and retrain in a new area that will be hugely beneficial to young people’s lives.

Fostering is a way of life, it is not an immediate solution for those who are out of work, it requires training, dedication, compassion and most of all patience. Choosing fostering as a potential career path can allow individuals to work in a field where they can help make life-changing impact on young people’s futures daily. With the need of fostering families increasing every year, those equipped with the right values are being asked to consider fostering.

James McGarriagle, registered manager at Orange Grove Fostercare, said: “With the recent figures from Ofsted revealing that, as of March 2019, there were 56,160 children in care and just 44,450 foster parents available, we’re thrilled to see a rise in the number of people applying.

“We know a lot of people are seeing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, especially with the increase of redundancies across the UK, so we’d like to remind people that fostering is a fully paid, professional role, and could be an ideal route for many to explore.”

For anyone considering fostering, Mark said: “Do it, there are so many children out there that need a home, if you have the room and can provide a stable and loving home to a child or several children, think of the good that you can do for that young person, be it short or long term, you can make a huge difference to a child’s life, it is hard work but it is so rewarding.”

Find out more and fill in an online enquiry at www.westsussex.gov.uk/fostering or call on 033 022 27775.

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