Gay, male or old? Your country's children need you: New report warns Britain is 'on course for a crisis' as 'myths' put off foster carers

 

Widespread ignorance and common myths about fostering children could lead to a "fostering crisis" in the UK, a leading charity warns.

Despite a growing number of children being eligible for fostering, a new study reveals that many Britons incorrectly believe that single people, gay people, the unemployed, older people, renters and men are unable to foster a child.

There are more than 62,000 children living with more than 50,000 foster families on any given day in Britain – accounting for about four-fifths of all the children in care. But with one in 10 people unsure about what fostering actually means or entails, the charity Action for Children warns that the UK's predicted shortfall of 9,000 foster carers is bound to increase.

A child or young person is fostered when they cannot live with their own family due to problems that can range from drug and alcohol abuse to ill health. More than 90,000 children are currently in care around the UK, a 13 per cent rise since 2008.

But despite the numbers of young people in need of foster carers, the charity found that "myths" were leaving Britons uncertain about who could qualify as a carer. Nearly half of the population believes that over 55s would not be approved as carers, according to the charity's nationwide survey. In reality, there is no maximum age at which you can foster children.

One in three people thought that living in rented accommodation would stop you from fostering – when all you need is permission from your landlord. A third of those surveyed incorrectly believed that if you are gay you could not foster, four in 10 people thought if you were single you could not foster a child, while many people did not realise that men could work as foster carers.

Two-thirds of respondents believed you had to remain in employment if you wanted to foster, while almost 40 per cent thought foster carers were volunteers. In reality, carers are trained and given financial support.

Londoners knew the least about fostering, according to the research, while people in the South-west knew the most.

Darren Johnson, Action for Children's operational director of fostering, adoption and permanency, told The Independent on Sunday: "With myths preventing people from coming forward, and the public not knowing the true extent of just how many children are currently in care, we are on course for a crisis. There's an urgent need to tackle these misconceptions – to move children into loving homes so that they have the stability they need."

Mr Johnson added: "With the UK's population at an all-time high, sadly the number of children coming into care will continue to rise, and so will the need for carers."

The actor Neil Morrissey knows what it is like to be taken into care at the age of 10. He was fostered seven years later, and said the love and support he received from his foster parents enabled him "to grow into a young adult" and prepared him "for going out into the world".

He said: "Through being fostered I was able to learn practical, day-to-day things such as doing the weekly shop. The support I received, along with the discipline, enabled me to realise my potential and to take responsibility for myself."

Action for Children is launching a campaign tomorrow to dispel myths and raise awareness about how to become a foster carer. A "fostering myth-busting academy" will be launched online.

Jackie Sanders from the Fostering Network, said: "It's important to explode myths about who can apply to foster; but it's just as important to outline the skills that foster carers need, and to be clear about where there are current gaps.

"Across the UK there is currently a particular need to find people who can care for sibling groups, disabled children and teenagers."

www.actionforchildren.org.uk

Case studies

The man myth: 'I thought there would be a lot of barriers, but this wasn't the case'

Father-of-two Steve Clarke, 52, from Newport, Wales, has been a foster carer for three years, looking after two children. He applied after learning his son's girlfriend had once been placed in care with four of her brothers.

"I have my own two grown-up children in their twenties; I had been working in banking for 21 years before running a fast-food restaurant. I wanted a new challenge. I thought being a man there would be a lot of barriers, but this wasn't the case. As soon as I picked up the phone, I felt reassured and welcomed and the application process began immediately. I am amazed at the development of each child. I would recommend fostering to anyone."

The gay myth: 'Seeing the transformation in a child is remarkable. Getting the stability, love and support is essential'

Tracy Davison and Jenny Godbold were one of the first same-sex couples in Scotland to foster a child after it was legalised four years ago. The couple, who live on the Isle of Skye, have since fostered one child. Tracy takes on the role of primary care-giver.

"When we were applying to become carers we were a little apprehensive, especially as it was very new in our community; there was no one else in the same situation. But we thought if we never try we will never know, so we decided to take this journey on together. We have been fostering for two and a half years and seeing the transformation in a child is remarkable. We have been able to ensure they take on responsibility and build up trust between us all. Getting the stability, love and support is essential in foster care."

The over-55 myth: 'It's not an easy job, but it certainly keeps you active!'

Maggie Webster, 66, a grandmother from Derbyshire, started fostering earlier this year. Despite fears her age would be a barrier, the new retiree wanted to share her home with children who needed care. She has since fostered three children.

"I was a little worried at first because of my age; I thought that there would be a number of barriers. However I was surprised and relieved when I made the first call to hear on the phone that I was absolutely eligible. Fostering is known to have a positive impact on the wider family, too. It's not an easy job but it certainly keeps you active! I feel useful and no longer retired. With my own children grown up I now have the time to give, and I will do it for as long as I can make a difference."

How any children does the UK think are in care: (Correct answer over 91,000)

What the UK thinks foster carers are

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
VIDEO
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull

Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.

Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
arts + ents Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen have taken part in a reading of Quentin Tarantino’s axed follow-up to Django Unchained.
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit