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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon have just launched their new streaming service in the UK
music
News
Frankie Boyle
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - North West - Registered Charity

    £31800 - £35400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This registered charity's missi...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative - OTE £55,000

    £30000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Why not be in charge of your ow...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Operations Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Peac...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food